There’s no business like show business for hospital radio volunteers

Mid Downs Radio show at The Hub
Mid Downs Radio show at The Hub

Besides their own cries and the coos of parents and nurses, there is another distinctive sound that babies at the Princess Royal Hospital hear when they are born.

For staff on the delivery suite play a charity based radio station whose very professional broadcasts have been providing a distraction for mums in labour and their anxious birthing partners for years.

Mid Downs Radio show at The Hub

Mid Downs Radio show at The Hub

As current chairman Cathy Barnett said: “We’re probably the first sounds babies born at the PRH hear!”

Mid Downs Radio has been broadcasting to patients first in Cuckfield, then Haywards Heath, and subsequently also those at Hurstwood Park Neurological Centre, for 35 years, offering a link to the outside world. Cathy and more than 50 unpaid volunteers, including 27 presenters, run the station which started in the Post Room at Cuckfield Hospital and now boast two professionally-equipped studios at the PRH.

Volunteers present their own shows throughout the day and evening, collecting requests from patients, staff and visitors and a vital part of the station’s work is to broadcast helpful, and often important information about the hospital, NHS, Health and Social Care and Public Services as well as hourly news bulletins. It provides its own technical support and operates an outside broadcast unit which is hired out at local events as part of MDR’s fundraising efforts.

Fund-raising is no easy task either as the 24-hour, 365 days a year operation costs around £6,000 annually to run. In the past grants have been given by Haywards Heath and Burgess Hill town councils and from the National Lottery. Among regular sponsors are the Princess Royal and Hurstwood Park Leagues of Friends, and MDR members through their subscriptions. But continuous fundraising is a necessity and always requires new ideas.

Last week Mid Downs Radio excelled itself with the ‘first’ of a stage show put on over two nights at The Hub at Central Sussex College. Entitled “There’s No Business Like Show Business” it was the brainchild of director Poppa Roy and starred MDR members as well as others who took part in public auditions.

The evening was a brilliant success with popular songs from all the best-loved musical shows including Les Miserables, My Fair Lady, South Pacific, Cabaret, The Sound of Music, Mama Mia, Oklahoma, Sister Act, Billy Elliot, Jesus Christ Superstar and Monty Python. Children and adults sang and danced with great enthusiasm and the lighting, music and stage effects were to professional standards, helping to clear more than £2,000 for the radio station’s coffers.

Cathy Barnett thanked all the many people who gave up their time to help, including the advertisers and many sponsors, especially P & S Gallagher Funeral Directors who paid for the hire of The Hub and Sainsbury’s Haywards Heath who helped with the bar.

Cathy said Mid Downs Radio was the most popular station listened to on the Hospedia bedside systems (on 1350AM medium wave) and broadcasts to visitors and out-patients as well through speakers it has installed in the waiting areas and restaurant.

Cathy said: “I think that, in a way, we are like the lifeline to the outside world for in-patients as well as other people including out-patients who are having to spend a lot of time in the hospital waiting around.

“I know from my own experience that it’s boring in hospital – it’s a long series of examinations and medication and often pain and having information broadcast about what is happening outside is a distraction and a help for people who need ways of passing the time.”

The radio’s committee has to constantly keep on top of the need for up-to-date and functioning equipment so the demand for fund-raising and financial support is never far away. Currently members have their mind set on raising funds and trying to access grants to enable them to buy two broadcast mixer desks, one for each of the station’s two studios.

More information about Mid Downs Radio is on its website at or through the studio on 01444 441350. Alternatively, you can email Cathy Barnett at or write to the Princess Royal Hospital, Lewes Road, Haywards Heath, RH16 4EX.

The cast of There’s No Business Like Show Business was: Cylvian Flynn, Paul Dixon, Sharon Wright, Clara Hurtado, Dave Hammond, Julia Mewes, Penny Hoyle, Poppa Roy, Sol Mead, Pippa, Terry Pearse, Suzanne Hargrave, Luci Bear, Ollie Spackman, Sarah and James Furnell, Ines Hurtado Wright, Holly Stonely.

More than 50 volunteers are involved and the station costs around £6,000 to stay on air, providing a lifeline for patients.

For more information go to the website or call the hospital on 01444 441350.