Although Hospital Radio Colchester was officially formed in December 1963, the catalyst for the service started many years before that when in early in 1957 a few members of the Colchester United supporters club decided to start broadcasting commentaries of Colchester United`s home games from Layer Road.
In the early 60`s the idea of supplementing the commentary with patient `s requests at half time was developed and resulted in a small group of enthusiasts from the supporters club, Colchester Community Fund and King Coel`s Kittens getting together with the goal of developing a dedicated Hospital Radio service.
So in December 1963 with a small amount of equipment set up in the supporter`s clubroom at Layer Road, Colchester`s Hospital Broadcasting Service was born. Dick Joyce of Anglia Television officially launched the service which broadcast to patients in Colchester and Black Notley Hospitals.
In 1965 the station moved to slightly bigger accommodation above the 125 High Street in Colchester town centre. With the boom in pirate radio, and the likelihood of licensed local radio stations, the service changed its name and became 'Radio Colchester', providing programmes six days a week.
For the next 8 years the service thrived, and at its peak was broadcasting to nine hospitals - six in Colchester - and three in Braintree. As well as patient requests the service broadcast regular 'live' outside broadcasts from locations such as Castle Park and the Tattoo, the cricket ground, The Moot Hall, Repertory Theatre (and in more recent years, the Mercury Theatre).
With an increase in rent for the town centre premises the service moved to Crouch Street in 1975 and set up home in the old dressing rooms at the former Odeon Cinema, the building having been converted into a 3-screen cinema. It was at this point the station became known as Hospital Radio Colchester.
Over the next couple of decades many of the hospitals in Colchester closed and our service to Black Notley hospital stopped meaning that by the early 90`s we were broadcasting to just two hospitals, Essex County and the then new Colchester General Hospital in Turner Road.
With the addition of another screen at the Odeon cinema the service moved again in August 1990, and took up temporary accommodation once again at the football ground in Layer Road whilst more permanent accommodation was found.
Following a local appeal new premises were offered at the newly refurbished Wilson Marriage Centre, formerly the old Wilson Marriage School in Barrack Street. With help from local business we built our studios and moved to our new home in March 1991, with our studios located in the old music room.
We remained at the Wilson Marriage centre for 17 years during which time we continued to develop and extend our service to patients, including starting to broadcast 24 hours a day.
As a result of the new patient entertainment system that was introduced to bedsides at Colchester General Hospital in 2003 we upgraded our transmission equipment to broadcast in a much higher quality than we had been able to before. The system also enabled patients to phone our studio directly from their bedside phones for requests.
Also in 2003 we celebrated our 40th Birthday, with the highlight being a reception at Colchester Town Hall hosted by the Mayor of Colchester and attended by current and past members, including our founder Chairman, Keith Southern who travelled from New Zealand to join us.
In 2008 it was time to move again and we were very fortunate to be offered accommodation on-site at the Colchester General Hospital, fulfilling a long term goal to have our studio `s located on the main hospital site. Following a period of more than 15 months, during which time we broadcast from a make shift studio whilst a small team of volunteers carried out a complete refurbishment of the building, our South Lodge studios were officially opened on 8th December 2008.
The new studios were opened by Denise Hagel, the then Director of Nursing & Patient Experience at the Hospital Trust and Heather Wragg, who not only worked at the hospital but also grew up living in the building between 1948 and 1974 when her father was telephonist porter at Turner Village. South Lodge is one of the two original gate houses that stood at the entrance to the old Turner Village Hospital.
The move to our current premises has made it much easier to be involved in the hospital community with all the benefits that we can bring to you our listeners. 2013 was a very special year for Hospital Radio Colchester as we celebrated our 50th anniversary. Our hope is that with our dedicated team of individuals and fantastic facilities we will continue to evolve and will still be around in another 50 years.