This Bus Terminates Here….

I have been driving a London Red Bus for almost two years come September. However, I’m not making it to my two year anniversary… because I am chaining jobs (again), but staying within transport!

I’m actually off to work for London Underground, not as a a driver (yet!) but as station staff, I stumbled across the vacancy on the TfL Linkedin page and thought “why not!”.

Like most jobs i’ve applied for, I had some scepticism as TfL jobs, like many high profile companies, notoriously have thousands of applicants, so it’s a long and competitive process. I applied a few months ago with a small bit of resentment when I got news I was being put on rota for the 174, in the same week I was doing spread-over (split hours) shifts. I remained optimistic, because I have the possibility of progressing and trying for operations roles fulfilling another boyhood dream of playing with a real size train set!

So I applied, a few months back and made it through the various assessments, interviews and finally the medical… and i’m off to play with the railway!

To be honest, I’m not sure if the time was right, there where a few things that interested me with the bus operations such as iBus & Service Control, plus learning a few more routes such plus the rail replacements runs…

When I was rostered for the 174, I  started highlighting problems to our management so they can take our concerns up the chain of command and get the route running right.
Now I have an opportuntiy not be missed to work for the ‘the Tube’ / TfL – Who knows if I would have got another chance?
I admit I have some sadness leaving the Buses, the team at RM made the job worthwhile, It’s left me with a feeling of ambivalance over the whole thing, which is a shame as part of me really wants to celebrate that i’m changing jobs.

I start training in a week, so I can let the excitement develop!

No more ‘This Bus Terminates Here‘. Instead; ‘Mind The Gap‘!

 

Refitting Studios

There is never a dull moment in volunteering, this is quite true at Bedrock, Since our merger with The Jumbo Sound, we’ve had a lot on our plate. I’ve had a team of Trustees to oversee different aspects of the merger  – But the bit I’ve gotten myself most involved in is the studio rebuilds!

It’s fair to say I’ve made quite a few changes over the 10 years I’ve been at Bedrock.
Mostly involving the way the studio operates. With temporary studios, ‘that’ll do’ fixes and the last one ‘functional & practical until the next one’… and now the current one.

Not only is it my favourite studio build I have been involved with – It’s also the best looking!
Of-course I’ve not done it alone, I’ve had Lee working with me on the projects. The studio at Queen’s in Romford is a small rectangle. That’s got awful acoustics, and in all honesty is a bit all over the place, oddly placed plug sockets. A window into the office and a door that doesn’t have an automatic closer (which can be very annoying…).

But this is the Third and FINAL! (take note Lee) studio build for the studio at Queen’s.
It’s got everything I envisaged. It looks professional. It looks tidy & most of all I’m proud of it.

So what’s this new Romford studio box got? 

  • Sonifex S2 mixer (acquired through the Goodmayes (Jumbo) merger);
    This actually created the first problem, the woodwork at Goodmayes was actually too big for the Romford studio. It left very little space to manoeuvre, and the only orintation the desk would go, resulting in the presenter lookin at the window and no room for co-hosts. Which resulted in us buying…
  • A Bespoke Studio Desk.
    Sonifex have a range of furniture for S2 mixer that’s modular, which looked nice, but resulted in limiting the space again, Lee and I looked around and found Broadcast Warehouse also done furniture, but again the suggested ones would limit our space down.
    Sitting in the studio one afternoon, I got the the idea of a droplet shape, resulting in the presenter not directly facing the wall or window, but rather towards the door, with the mixer modules angled appropriately to maximise space.  So we drew the idea out on a whiteboard (because my best ideas are scribbled on these). so Lee measured up, resulting in a Bespoke desk for Romford! – Unique to our studio only!
  • 4 Microphones.
    Another request of mine was to introduce a 4th Mic if we had room, some of our team shows resulted in 2 – 4 people being in the studio at once, and often resulted in two people sharing.
    We’re using B-1 Behringers in the studio (I actually own one of these personally, and I quite enjoy the warmth the mic has)
  • Extra PC’s
    So the presenters in our studio have their Myriad Playout PC, that was actually rebuilt with a rack-able PC case. They also have an ‘Internet PC’ for emails, research, spotify etc…
    We decided to include a second ‘Internet PC’ for the co-hosts to use, as the one for the presenter was extremely far away from the co-hosts. both these actually plug into the desk… but only the presenters one is able to record.
  • Mic Live Light
    Okay this one is cheating a little bit – We already have a Mic Live LED light in the window in our office, Plus we have info-screens with cue lights on… so why the extra one?
    Well we decided this was more of a luxury extra, but would also be in eye-shot of everyone, In the studio or the office. when it’s on… don’t enter! (But you always get someone who does.)
  • Speaker Poles
    This was an afterthought. We realised that with the new position the speakers needed to come down from the walls and be repositioned to be central to the presenter – now in an ideal world I’d love to cealing mount the speakers but that would breach the lease. So we opted for speaker stands, it rises them off the desk & keeps the stationary
QH Studio
Mixers and PC’s just in… more work still to do!

Apart from some of these extra toys, we also repainted the whole room white. Plus a featured green wall, that will have a massive white Bedrock logo on it soon.

The only real problem we’ve encountered is the acoustics, since we dumped all the old panels (that had seen better days) we’ve not really focused on what’s going to replace them.  Foam ‘Egg Box’ panels seem a reasonable idea, but we know people will start to pick at the texture and it will make a mess – I’m opting for flat bevelled edge squares, but the challenge will be trying to mount them onto the walls…

 

What about Goodmayes? 

Well they are getting a new fancy studio too (It’s due to be put together soon (May 2016)).

This studio is receiving the equipment that came out of Queen’s but it’s perfect as the Goodmayes studio is being used less than the Romford one.

  • Sonifex S0
    It’s a fantastic compact mixer & a great workhorse of a desk. – there’s one still sitting at Queen’s in the office production area.
  • New Desk.
    The old one was water damaged, but as mentioned above was too big to fit into Queen’s, we tried to offer it out to other stations. sadly no takers so it’s gone to the local recycling centre.
    The new desk is a fairly standard rectangle but has plenty of room for the mixer and gear.
  • No Mic Live Light.
    Now That’s a Lie! – There are two info screens at Goodmayes that have a Mic Live cue light on them, we debated keeping the old ones, but didn’t like the amount of wires required, so the screens where given the job.
  • PCs?
    Yes, it’s got a Myriad Playout PC, an Internet enabled PC. Plus some other engineering bits.
  • Speaker Poles!
    The old Goodmayes studio had the speakers wall mounted behind the presenter, but again this involved running wires all round the room and we’re avoiding running masses of wire.
    So like Queen’s, speakers are being screwed onto the desk on poles! much neater!Goodmayes was painted up a few months back, plus had some new carpet tiles laid, it’ll also get Logo’d up. Oh and it does have a small green ‘feature wall’… just because we really like green!

The most rewarding bit so far is how ‘impressed’ they are with our studio builds.
Hopefully the programmes that are broadcast from them are just as impressive, we’ve given presenters facilitates – let’s hope they are used. (Fingers crossed)

 

Merges & Acquisitions

I always find that volunteering at Bedrock has presented a range of new challenges, and the last few months have given us a new one…. A merger! Bedrock has expanded, and it’s all gone rather smoothly.

I’ll be honest and say a lot of the work was done by delegation, having the correct people talking to one-another. That is how any organisation should work really. The right people, sorting the right items.
So as of April 2016, Goodmayes Hospital Radio (Jumbo Sound) is now Bedrock.

We’ve got the next project to come may bank holiday – refurbishment of the studios.
(Yes Queen’s gets another refit – This one is FOR GOOD!)

Read the press release (posted on bedrockradio.org.uk);

Bedrock Radio to provide service for Goodmayes Hospital and wider health community.

Bedrock, the health & hospital radio service is to take over broadcasting from The Jumbo Sound (Goodmayes Hospital Radio Association (GHR))
The Jumbo Sound had recently celebrated it’s 40th anniversary in 2015 and soon after suffered major equipment damage, caused by a burst radiator flooding their studio forcing the station off-air. For several years volunteer numbers dropped as did income. As insurers evaluated the cost of damage, The Jumbo Sound (GHR) voted to merge into neighbouring station Bedrock, Queen’s Hospital, Romford.

The merger will see Bedrock Radio provide programmes to the Goodmayes area as early as April 2016.Mathew Watson, Chairman, Bedrock commented: “I appreciate the team at GHR/The Jumbo Sound made a very difficult decision to merge. We welcome their volunteers to Bedrock and look forward to sharing ideas, meanwhile we are working tirelessly to repair the studios to reintroduce live & local programmes to Goodmayes Hospital & it’s health community’

Jumbo Sound LogoGoodmayes Hospital Radio Association was founded in 1977, in 2006 the station adopted ‘The Jumbo Sound’ as it’s on-air name to modernise the station and attract new volunteers. The studios are still located in the old Goodmayes hospital building, but provide a full broadcasting service to patients receiving treatment under North East London Foundation Trust (NELFT).

Marj Young, Chair of Jumbo Sound: “Our studio equipment was becoming unreliable, and our membership numbers dwindled making it difficult to fill our programme schedule and raise funds. I would personally like to thank everyone involved with Goodmayes Hospital Radio from the 70s through to the remaining members who have struggled to keep the station running, we have every confidence that Bedrock can take the station forward successfully.”

Lee Howe, Engineer for Both Bedrock & Jumbo Sound said, “There is a lot of work ahead to re-build a studio at Goodmayes, but the merge with Bedrock will see an increase in programmes. Utilising the latest technologies available, we will be able to provide shows that are either presented specifically to each hospital, or shared between both”

Bedrock formed in 2002 as a merge between Oldchruch & Harold Wood Hospital Radio’s in preparation for the opening of Queen’s Hospital (2006), Bedrock is built upon a 52 year heritage from it’s founding stations. The station calls itself a ‘health and hospital’ station focusing on both in-patient entertainment while keeping outpatients, staff & local community informed of heath related matters.

We are Bedrock Radio, Your Healthy Music Mix.
Merger

“Professional Driver”

credit: wikipedia / GeographBot

credit: wikipedia / GeographBotAfter 7 weeks of training, passing numerous tests, I’ve finally succeeded in obtaining my PCV (Public Carriage Vehicle), Category D licence. Alongside this I’ve also obtained my Drivers certificate of Professional Competence (CPC). So what’s next for me?

I’ve been signed over to my garage, I’m route learning plus now on the job learning how to work with passengers, plus correctly completing my paperwork.

It’s been said numerous times to me now “You’re a professional driver”… I’m actually a professional something (On paper with the CPC!), I feel somewhat a little smug now, but I know there’s much more to learn. I’ve put in hard work to get this far, and I’ll continue to do just that, do my job and learn while doing it!

 

I’ve patted myself on the back, and now to do some ‘real’ bus work!

 

Alight here for a new career.

I’m changing career….

Well sort of, I’m a man of many hats, and soon to doth another cap to my collection!

So, I’ve been in professional radio for a few years now, built up a nice afternoon show, with some fantastic loyal listeners. but the only problem with working in professional radio is the pay. Essentially your only paid for the work you do, and when your doing a few hours a day, that doesn’t add up to much, with both Time & Decades. it’s below a ‘liveable’ wage.

So I’m taking a rather bold move, I’ve applied to Stagecoach London, to become a Bus Driver.

The future Image sourced from: TFL forum

Seriously… I admit it’s quite a change, well it’s a totally different industry, but one that’s calling out for people to join it, the pay seems good for a person of my age. I’ve undergone a series of assessments, interviews and medicals. Now I just have to apply myself to passing a theory, practical and CPC tests to become qualified. The motivation is the pay and a different environment are appealing.

So next time you get on a bus… it could be me saying hello!

The radio dream isn’t over! I’m still keeping my finger in the proverbial pie, with cover shifts and production work. Plus the charity stuff! It’s just a decision, based on a realisation that I want and need to be able to move on and progress along the highway of life.

So here’s to driving a double decker bus…

 

 

Bedrock Two is coming!

This August another one of my crazy ideas has become a reality – we’re setting ‘Bedrock Two’

So this rather ambition project I have had in mind for a couple of years. Following some research at it being done at two other stations and hearing a relative form of success. We’ve agreed funding, invested in equipment. It’s finally happening!

What is Bedrock Two?
Is is a second station to run alongside the current hospital radio service, it’s going to be a oldies or ‘gold’ format.

The station will initially play classics hits from the 40s – early 80s, with most songs coming from the 50s, 60s and 70s.
with a strong feature of Motown (Soul) and Rock & Roll. The service will also play Classical music and become home to our Audiobooks. It’s intended that news will be provided hourly, with local and hospital information given on the half hour.

Presenters will be volunteers of Bedrock, with occasional external syndicated programmes that will compliment the service, the occasional suitable programmes will be shared between both Bedrock stations. The service will be primary autonomous in service, however it will have the ability to broadcast live if required.

It’s undecided if the on-air branding would be ‘Bedrock Gold’ There is currently no slogan. It’s possible that the station would carry the ‘Timeless Classics’ motif from the main station, for big selling or iconic songs. On-Air imaging will need to be created, ideally with an ‘oldies’ feel. It’s possible a strong clear male voice over could be the ideal voice over for the station.
(finer details to be sorted, after the music is loaded)

 

The new service has the potential to work very well, just by the demographic of Havering alone.
According to the 2011 Census:

Havering has the highest proportion of adult social care users aged 65+ compared to all London boroughs. Three quarters (74.2%) of Havering adult social care clients were aged 65 or older in 2010/11.

It provides an alternative service suited towards the older listener, who may not want to hear more current chart music as part of their regular programming. I believe this service has potential to be listened externally by the local areas catering towards the social inclusion of patients receiving care in the community (providing they have access to an internet connection).

Thoughts: Hospital Radio Conference 2015

Your always learning… that’s a true fact.

I attended my first Hospital Broadcasting Association (HBA) Conference & AGM earlier this year, in Newcastle.
It was an experience, with the opportunity to visit another studio, see the trade show and hear what the HBA is doing.
Myself and Lee (Bedrock Engineer) decided to take a chance and attended – As a little extra, we also took a portable studio along to record our programmes (our hotel had free, stable wifi) so we made it sound like were broadcasting live! – Impressive for us!

Before we event went to the conference. I’ve been looking at Hospital Radio in general and seeing a mass transition into streaming online, with some stations applying for community radio licences from OFCOM, and even a couple of station applying for the DAB trials.

Even at Bedrock we launched an online service as part of a further plan to expand to King George Hospital and reach outpatients. I still believe it could expand further than this, possibility a community licence, but with the focus of ‘health and wellbeing’ the Trust we work with should utilise us as a Communication tool, local health related charities too, in return they should encourage listening to the station, in a nutshell, hospital radio, becomes community health radio. 

One of the first seminars we attend was on the future of Hospital radio, exploring it’s changing landscape.
As mentioned earlier, I had the vision that a form of ‘Community Heath’ broadcasting, it turns out I wasn’t alone. The panel of stations from England, Wales, Scotland, and a Hospital station that had flipped to Community.
There where a few trains of thought, but for me the ones that stood out where:

  • ‘Hospital Radio’ as it stands sounds dated and limiting – Flip to Health Radio
  • Update your image & branding – drop the ‘hospital’ terms or specific hospital names.
  • Broaden your area – get speakers in your trust sites, use internet (Where possible go community*)
  • Provide engaging content that informs and entertains.

Even with a community (external) target, the focus would still be primary in-hosptial, with requests & patient interaction, promoting hospital services. So the end of the first seminar it was food for thought, but started to confirm my ideas I had in mind to progress our stations.

The trade show provided an opportunity to see what we could do next with the studios.
Lee and I took the opportunity to have a chat with PSquared about Myriad, as we had a few questions and problems.
It was great to see they bought along a Sonifex S2 mixer as they offer studio packages. I’ve always been fond of the S2 mixer, but they require a £6000 investment, plus we would need to buy new desks to fit them. My plan would be to upgrade to one in a few years, should things develop at Bedrock.

At this point, we had missed the start times of the next seminars, but luckily we spotted Graham, who was the regional representative for the south east of the HBA (We had attended some local HBA meetings) We had a coffee and a chat about where the HBA was actually going. I’ve been debating for a few years about pulling Bedrock out of the HBA. We’ve not had any dealings with the HBA head office, except for paying annual fees’ (that seem to increase), we spoke about if there was a purpose for the organisation, who seem to forever re-structure, but only ever appear to offer a conference and awards show. – It was nice to see Graham wanted to see the HBA change as much as I did.

Over lunch we furthered into talking about our stations, Lee had recently started helping out Jumbo Sound who where in dire need of engineering help and had got them in a position to be back ‘on-air’, Both Bedrock & Chelmsford had launched web streams last year as the stations both hit a 50 year anniversary.

So onto the AGM and conference, which i’d describe more of a membership grilling. It seem’d apparently that the chat with Graham earlier was echoed throughout various member stations. What where the HBA doing?
They announced a new-strcutrue plan, that would require volunteers to step up to help at national level, This wasn’t met with enthusiasm, it was clear volunteers at individual stations where fighting their own battles to stay afloat.

The plan it’s self, although longwinded, follow a suitable business model that have a board of Trustees that managed the charity and a board of directors that run the day to day of the HBA. However. the was a big catch, the Chief Executive post was one requiring a lot of travel to visit stations and representatives. but would remain unpaid (well except expenditure). In fact that was the downfall to the whole organisation. It’s run by unpaid volunteers.
–  A national charity representing Hospital Radio, don’t  pay member of staff. They just paid expenditures

It was suggested that maybe the Chief Executive post become a paid role, due to it’s intensive work,
Lastly a new website was unveiled, although had teething problems, it was a fresher(?!) look for the organisation.
Despite all this restructure and renewal I still struggle to see it’s viability. Many questions where fired around the room, but I had to ask “In today’s charity sector, with the stations individually fighting to stay open, could you justify if the HBA is viable”…. needless to say I didn’t much of a response, just ‘Yes, it is’… At this point I began to feel quite annoyed, partly as my question wasn’t answered fully, but in the other sense it answered itself. No. it’s not viable.
It needs dismantling and rebuilding.

If the stations are moving away from ‘hospital’ to ‘health’ then maybe the HBA needs to be more active in it’s support.
now this isn’t a HBA bashing post, no, I would like to see it become viable in my eyes. It has many avenues to do so.
but just hasn’t (maybe as the posts are unpaid?). If it was me, I’d have a dedicated studio built and produce interviews and other content for the stations, like a sort of youtube space for radio – stations could use the space for a small fee.
syndicated shows could be hosted from a central sever – rather than having dozens of links. Finally News, why not have a news service that maybe provides interviews with health ministers, or key health people,  (Maybe a partnership with IRN) to provide bulletins, but have the service provide news as mp3 downloads. (many softwares will update automatically) – Then you may have a fit for purpose – viable – national organisation.

 

After the whole weekend, Me and Lee know we’re going the correct direction, but work needs to be done at individual level to make any sort of widening listening base work, but it may require a total overhaul of the charitable guidelines.
and a general high level of standards

 

Maybe hospital radio isn’t the training ground it once was. It need to be tough enough to keep viable for the next 50 years… ‘local Health Radio’ appears to be a strong move. but how long for?

 

Lee & Mat Broadcast their shows from their Hotel during HBA conference weekend

 

 

*On a sidenote, I’ve visited and listened to a handful of community stations, monitoring outputs to see how ‘community’ based they are, compared to a hospital station, on many occasions the hospital stations i’ve dipped into where providing just as much, or more relevant local information that some of these ‘community’ outlets offered. 
I think that Hospital Radio stations (Well the good ones) should be given first refusal to any community licensing, as they often produce really good local information, with some even doing sports coverage too, additionally most of them have been operation or have a legacy of at least 50 years making them a good established ground to be offered a first refusal when the licences come up