Volunteering to be the man behind the music

"Hi, I’m Ally, I’m registered severely sight impaired, and I use the Henshaws Housing Service. More importantly though, I love music and love to take on new challenges, and I recently found the perfect opportunity to combine the two.

I came to Henshaws College in 2000, and I’ve stayed with Henshaws ever since. When it was time to graduate, Henshaws were renovating a house for people with disabilities, and I was lucky enough to be able to move in with my friends. I absolutely love my home!

I last featured on the blog in 2016, when I shared my latest achievement; travelling on my own all the way from Harrogate to Scotland and back again! Since then I’ve not stopped, and my latest challenge has involved my love of music, working with Harrogate Hospital Radio.

When I realised I’d outgrown my day provision, I started looking for something else to do. I thought it would be nice to volunteer for something I would enjoy. Sadly, charity shop work was the only thing I was offered, as people seemed daunted by my sight loss. I looked at what I really enjoy, and with my love of music, my support worker thought Harrogate Hospital Radio would be great, and the perfect role for me. We made a few calls and didn’t get anywhere, but we didn’t give up. We went to the Chaplin in the hospital with a letter asking for help, and eventually got in touch with Fiona, the Volunteer Co-ordinator.

Fiona was a very pleasant person to meet, and said I was very knowledgeable. My support worker helped to arrange a meeting, and we had an interview chat. We talked about the music I liked (right across the board), the hours I could work, and request day (I’m open to everything apart from rap). She said she could possibly get me a volunteer job as an evening show request collector, which I was very happy about.

If it wasn’t for the grit and determination of Sue, my support worker, I wouldn’t be doing this now however. Sue was on the phone and email, and she continued until we got somewhere.

Before I knew it, I was being trained up as a collector for requests. I went round with a few presenters – they showed me how to approach and treat the patients, and what to say. Sue had to go through the training too, so she can support me. Part of the induction was finding my way round the hospital (a breeze after years of travel training with Henshaws), and I also had to have a DBS check. The induction included moving and handling, what to discuss and not, and infection control. It was quite intense. There’s dress rules you have to follow – you have to take off jewellery, tie your hair back if it’s long, and wear short sleeves, or roll them up. You have to follow infection control guidelines too.

We started just before Christmas on a Friday, and added a Monday too because they were so busy! I always check in with the nurses station first. We have pads and paper, and had to learn how to record requests. That’s where my support worker comes in. I do the talking and she does the writing. We record a patients name (the surname is optional), and we ask them if they would like a message e.g. to thank the nurses who are looking after you. I try to get 10 requests. The show airs 8pm – 10pm and is repeated again 8am – 10am.

I want the readers to understand this isn’t just a job; I’m part of a team. I’m going on holiday soon and I had to let them know so they can find another request collector for whilst I’m away.

Record Request Collectors are our most pivotal role at the station"

Harrogate Hospital Radio

I thoroughly enjoy this job. I don’t feel I’m leaving my house to do a chore. Request collectors like myself are very important to the team; if we didn’t collect requests the show wouldn’t be able to go on air that night. It’s a proper job and I’m hoping that this will lead to maybe being a presenter on the station. I have done guest presenting on Mark Fields Music Saturday Zone. He let me choose most of the show, and I included the Proclaimers, and “You Raise Me Up” by Alfie Bow.  I really enjoyed presenting and seeing the other side, and I may get to do it once a month. If I’ve done it once I can do it again!”

Breaking news: Ally has been on the radio several times in the past fortnight, and looks set to be a regular presenter!"

Laura and Michelle

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Sarah is the Marketing Manager with responsibility for Community Services across Greater Manchester, and the Knowledge Village.