Radio Witham was formed in 1977 as a means of relaying the Sunday service from the hospital chapel to all the patients. This continued to be a mainstay of the station's programming until the late 1990s, when the chapel ceased to hold weekly services. However, Radio Witham continued to broadcast recordings of local church services until 2011.
The station moved into its portacabin studios, located between the chapel and kitchens, in 1985. The portacabin was fitted out with two studios, and a fairly large record library that contained over 9000 7 inch singles, 5000 LPs, and nearly 1000 CDs. The record collection was continually growing, and keeping the inventory index was a very time consuming job. The studios were maintained by the late Keith Langdale-Brown, a former BBC engineer, who often modified the equipment to suit our particular requirements.
During the 1990s, the station had grown to over 30 members, broadcasting 55 hours of live programmes each week, 7 days a week, 52 weeks a year. Programmes included several request shows, and a weekly patient interview programme where we heard some fascinating stories told by the ever interesting patients that pass through Grantham hospital. We also broadcast local news, entertainment, sport, and specialist music. There was special show for the children's ward, with patient interviews and requests, which kick-started the careers of several broadcasters, who now work in the industry professionally. In addition to the regular programming, we also produced specially programming for the annual Grantham carnival, including broadcasting an open air concert by the RAF wind band.
Not only did we produce a wide range of programming, many of our programmes won awards at the Hospital Broadcast Association's annual awards ceremony, beating competition from all over the UK. Among our award winning programmes was a three part documentary, introduced by Richard Todd OBE, about life in Grantham between 1900 and 2000.
In order to produce our award winning programmes, we introduced computer technology to our production studio, allowing us to edit interviews easily. However, we didn't use computers to play music until several years later, so we heavily relied on the records and CDs in our library.
To see in the new millennium, we broadcast throughout the night on December 31st 1999, in a 16 hour marathon. The programme included live interviews from parties being held all over the Grantham area using our outside broadcast equipment, and reports from as far afield as Beacon Hill in Bottesford, and the Green Man in Ropsley. The programme also covering "ringing in the new year" with the sound of the church bells from Barrowby at midday on 1st January 2000.
After the beginning of 2000, the station decided that it was time to re-fit the larger studio with new equipment to bring it up to current standards. Up until then, we were still using broadcast cartridges to play jingles, although we'd largely retired our reels of quarter inch tape (editing with a razor blade and sticky tape) in favour of digital MiniDiscs. So we dismantled the studio, and started what turned out to be a mamoth rebuild.
In the meantime, we were reduced to broadcasting from just one studio, leaving us without a second production studio. Previously, we would have recorded the material for a programme with our report's kit, and then pieced it together in the production studio while live programmes were being broadcast from the larger studio.
Several years later, after a lot of fund raising, we had a new studio with state of the art equipment. We recruited new presenters, and started to broadcast our own computer generated programming 24 hours a day.
We continued to produce and broadcast award winning programming. In 2008 we won an award for a documentary programme about Grantham's parish church, which featured an audio tour of the chained library, and interviews with many of the people that look after the church, including the steeple keeper.
Then, in 2010, our partacabin's roof started to leak. Despite several attempts to have the roof repaired, we began to dread wet weather, and buckets were left in the record library to catch the drips. By 2012, the situation was becoming serious, and the only option left was to re-locate the station.
In early 2013, the hospital had managed to find us a room in the main hospital building. They did some building work to divide the room into a studio and an office, and in May 2013 we started moving in.
Gradually, we moved out of the partacabin. In November 2013 our connection to Hospedia, who provide the bedside radios for patients, was moved to our new facility. We temporarily connected the old studio to the new studio while engineering work continued. The last live programme from the old studio was broadcast on the evening of Wednesday 18th December 2013. The following weekend, the old studio was dismantled, and a week of intensive moving followed. Live programmes started again, from our new studio, on 1st January 2014, even though all the engineering work wasn't complete.
The new studio was formally opened by the Mayor of Grantham, Cllr Ian Selby, on Saturday 19th April 2014. We gave tours of the new studio facilities, and from 10am until 8pm, we broadcast a special series of programmes to mark the occasion, playing requests from patients, staff, and guests.