Almost forty years on and Abergavenny's community radio station is still on song

Thursday 29th March 2018 8:28 am
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John Price in the revamped studio ()

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IMAGINE this, you’ve been going on and on relentlessly since the late 70s, without even a pause for breath. Whilst this may be an easy task for our editor, it would undoubtedly seem like no mean feat for anybody else, except for NH Sound.

Abergavenny’s local hospital radio station, based in Nevill Hall Hospital, have been broadcasting continuously to patients, staff and citizens in the surrounding community, since 1979.

Originally formed as Pen-y-Fal Hospital Radio Society based at the old Pen-y-Fal Hospital, the station has barely kept still, and their lively selection of music, news and entertainment broadcasts around the clock 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

My own experience with the station began in Spring 2011. I was a fresh faced, pubescent teen with a mouth like the Severn, but with no avenue to exert it. That’s when I first found NH Sound.

Over the next six-and-a-half years, I interviewed local dignitaries, upcoming bands and theatre companies whilst trying my hand at the drive time show, prime time weekend programming and the charts show too. One stand out moment for me came when I interviewed a dignitary who let me try on their ceremonial chain during the interview. Thus, Abergavenny’s answer to 50 Cent was born. The experiences I had are incredibly diverse, and I consider it to be a pleasure having been a part of this tight-knit organisation of passionate volunteers.

John Price, a trustee, events organiser and sports presenter at NH Sound, tells me how the dedicated community spirit is still beating strong, “We’re a not for profit organisation. All the money that comes in goes straight out on running the place. Nobody here is paid anything, they’re all volunteers.

“We’ve got over 25 presenters, and we want to grow, we want visibility, we want people to know that we’re here” he said.

The station has had to overcome several obstacles in recent years. The rise of tablet usage and digital streaming services like Netflix have meant that patients no longer require the use of the hospital media units in the same way that they used to.

Thankfully, things seem to be looking up. An ambitious plan is currently in place to bring their lively sound permanently back to the wards of Nevill Hall, “There’s 360 beds in the hospital. We’d like to see a unit next to each bed. We’d then like to see it tuned to specifically to NH Sound, and a facility where if they wanted to, patients could contact the studio” John said.

When I paid a visit to the studio, it was in the middle of a refitting project. The paint hardly even dry on the walls of studio one. Complete with a new mixing desk, microphones and a redecoration, it’s clear that NH Sound have both eyes firmly fixed on the future.

Asked whether there’s a need to move with the times, John Price firmly agreed, “We’ve got to. We like to think we’re moving into the 21st Century now. Technology and attitude wise. Very forward thinking”. Already hot in this pursuit of modernity, an official app has been released, which can be downloaded for free on both the iTunes App Store and the Play Store.

However, not content with merely broadcasting, NH Sound have a strong history of hosting outdoor events, such as this year’s Ironman challenge and the IYE Festival in Baily Park.

Further plans are in place, with an application for the 2018 Greenman Festival under consideration, along with a 60s Night for the lady members of Monmouthshire Golf Club and several quiz nights too. Aspiring egg heads are in luck, as the next of these is just a few weeks away on April 11 at the Bridge Inn Llanfoist, with tickets available from the studio.

With lighting rigs, lasers, speakers and an equipment store that would put Glastonbury to shame, the station can tackle any event, as John Price tells me, “We can do weddings, festivals, you name it, we can do it.

“We have got the facilities to make your event special” he said.

Local councillor Martin Hickman, has been a long-time volunteer. Over the past ten years, the former mayor has held many positions including station manager, trustee and his favourite role, presenter of the 60s show.

When asked for comment, he stressed the valuable role that the hospital radio has for residents of the town, “I believe that we give a very worthwhile service, not only to the patients and staff in Nevill Hall, but to the community of Abergavenny. I know that many are people on their own. Loneliness is awful and very much on the increase, so I think that we are really helping some in our community with our service”.

Despite their local focus, NH Sound have garnered international appeal according to Mr Hickman: “I know that I have friends and relatives who tune in from all parts of our world, from Essex, Cornwall, Manchester, Dole in France, Toronto in Canada and I even have a very good mate who listens in Australia”.

Among their numerous supporters, Nick Ramsay AM has been a passionate advocate of the station in recent years. So much so, they even provided the music for his wedding reception.

Speaking to the Chronicle, he said, “I think that NH Sound is fantastic for Abergavenny and Monmouthshire. It’s a great way of getting people involved with community matters, and I think the team work very hard”. When asked if he’d consider getting behind the desk and present his own show, Mr Ramsay said “If they’ll have me! I’ve appeared as a guest numerous times and it’s great fun,”.

There’s a lot of hard work ahead; in five years, the station hope to switch to FM frequency, and ultimately DAB. However, NH Sound are undeniably driven and ambitious enough to continue to thrive in the future, and their inclusive, community-based ethos epitomises everything that’s good about local grass roots organisations.

The station are always looking for new volunteers and anyone interested in joining their ever-growing ranks should contact the team on 01873 858633. Listeners can tune in on 1287am, via the mobile app or the website at nhsound.co.uk.

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