Davey Downes Mater Hospital Radio

Davey Downes Mater Hospital Radio

Davey Downes is Chairman NI Hospital Broadcasting Association and looks after Mater Hospital Radio.


Who are you and where do you carry out your volunteering role?

Hi, I’m Davey and I look after Mater Hospital Radio. It was one of first hospital radio stations in Northern Ireland and we celebrate 36 years on air this October. Around 10 years ago we moved into our current studio, where we broadcast from every week.

Why and when did you become a volunteer?

I’d been a DJ for some years playing discos at youth clubs, weddings and football clubs. I got the bug to get into radio back in 1981 and I’ve been here ever since.

What does your volunteer role entail?

We’re only a small team of six volunteers so basically I am in charge of everything, from programming and training, as well as talking to patients and taking requests.

We’re on-air every Thursday and Friday from 7:30-11:00pm, broadcasting through the HSTV sets at each of the beds. We operate in teams and will usually broadcast three shows each evening. When a presenter arrives at the studio, we’ll expect them to have done some prep for their programme. Shows will typically be a mix of music, conversation and, sometimes, interviews.

Do you enjoy your volunteer role?  What is the most rewarding thing about your volunteering role?

Interacting with patients is the most rewarding part of the work. Some never get a visitor and seem to enjoy the company when we go on the wards. Hearing a song they have requested really cheers them up and makes them feel special. It feels good to know I can make that happen. We have been asked for some really obscure stuff over the years but you’d be amazed what we have in our library.

What has volunteering taught you about yourself or working with other people?

It’s taught me the importance of making time for what’s important and being committed to a role. There’s also a real sense of togetherness with some of the other volunteers. On a personal level, I’ve learnt organisational and interpersonal skills as well as patience and humility – skills that I was able to bring to my day job before I retired.

Do you feel valued as a volunteer?

Patients are critical and central to everything we do. Hospital Radio definitely enhances the wellbeing of patients and helps in their recovery. We’re all very proud of the role that we play.

What would you say to anyone interested in becoming a volunteer with Belfast Trust?

Hospital Radio has been a stepping-stone for many people looking to get into commercial radio. But they need to remember, it’s interacting with the patients that comes first. We don’t have celebrity presenters here -it’s the patients that are the celebrities. It’s good to have a genuine interest in radio.

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