I started helping out at HHTV back in the 1980's. Since then lots has changed by I've always stayed and am the longest serving member. A very small group of volunteers help to keep the station On-Air every week.

What we do

Studio Gallery

Just a handful of us run the studio. We try to provide a service every Sunday Afternoon and Wednesday evenings - but sometimes the Wednesday night gets neglected if we can get the people to staff the transmission. We would dearly love more volunteers to help but sadly there is a lot of work to do and very little glamour most of the year.

Our standard schedule consists of a mix of short programmes linked by a presenter (normally In-Vision). We make almost all of the programmes ourselves; and the technical standards we set ourselves are very high. We seem to specialise on films about slightly unusual characters with equally unusual hobbies. We also have a selection of musical items - mainly classical, as a while ago we had a contact at the Royal College of music. Finally, we do several gardening programmes as a couple of our members have professional connection's here as well.

Several times each year we do live Outside Broadcasts from the hospital. The annual hospital Fun Run is the biggest event by far and takes months of planning. The Carol concert at Christmas is a smaller affair but still a lot of work as it all has to be rigged the afternoon of the concert, so it's always an enormous rush. Find out more by going to their web site...

HOW HHTV GOT STARTED

HHTV Studio

Simon Gough was the person who did all the hard work of setting up what is now Harefield Hospital Television. At the time he was running the hospital radio station but had a strong interest in amateur television. Around 1981 he acquired a couple of Marconi Mk VII four-tube broadcast cameras. For anyone that that doesn't know these cameras they were huge! With the lens on the front they were about five feet long and so heavy that two men would struggle to lift one. They also needed to be attached to another four large boxes of electronics before you could get any pictures out of them.

The cameras were stored at Harefield but they not really used, as they needed a great deal of extra equipment to deploy them for making programmes. The hospital radio team decided that a more permanent home was needed for them and it was decided that an attempt would be made to acquire an Outside Broadcast Van for this purpose.

After much hunting the Central Electricity Generating Board informed us that they were disposing of their OB. van. As luck would have it, it was built and fitted by Marconi and was complete with four Mk VII camera channels.

After many phone calls and letters, hospital radio Harefield was informed that the CEGB were to donate the unit to the hospital and, in June of 1984 a group travelled to Birmingham to collect the unit.

We did our first programme with the van on Sunday September 16th 1984 and covered the annual Fun Run in aid of the heart transplant trust.

Many weeks of preparation went into the show and at the end of the day we had almost three hours of recorded material ready for editing, as in those days we had no way of connecting to the TV sets in the hospital.

The item was written using information published in CQTV 128 by Simon Gough.

Refurbishing the studio

AN EXAMPLE IMAGE

There being such a small team of volunteers at Harefield means that it takes a long time to get things done. The new studio refurbishment is no exception. The building work we are all so involved in at the moment came about from a meeting back in May of 1995. At that meeting we decided that we needed more space to produce programmes and that our studio area didn't need to be as big. We had to ask ourselves what we really wanted from the limited space available.

The first of a series of plans was drawn up over the following weeks for how we wanted to convert the studio. The building its self could hardly be described as ideal. Situated a hundred meters or so from the hospital, it's a single storey prefabricated concrete building. It was originally built in the 1960's as the pavilion for a hospital bowling green. At the same time it had to double as a social club for hospital staff. We had been given the building by the hospital when they no longer had need of it. The bowls' club moved out of the hospital into the village and a more suitable social club built in another part of the grounds.

We had taken over the building in a derelict state, about twelve years ago. Water had brought the ceiling down in places and vandals had broken the windows. The first conversion was done back then to make it suitable for us. Inside the building consisted of a ladies and a gents toilet, a store room and a bar, which opened onto the large public area. Over time these were altered to our new requirements. The Gents toilet was turned into a store room, leaving the ladies loo to become unisex. All the windows were bricked up for security. The bar became the office, the open area the studio floor and the store room the edit suite and gallery. The gallery was shoe horned into the edit suite a few years ago when we stopped using a full size, but very elderly, outside broadcast vehicle that had been donated to us. This van had a full production gallery, sound control room and vision control area. So squeezing all this into one room had proved a near impossible task, hence the need to expand our production area.

Several months after the first meeting we had all agreed on what we needed for the future and how we would fit it into the space. In the end we settled on a very small studio with as larger gallery as could possibly manage. This came about because we don't need a studio for much more than "head and shoulders" television and we weren't planning on doing drama in it. The gallery on the other hand could also be used for more post production work; captioning, dubbing, commentary recording, graphics and would double as an edit suite.

We have an office so small that it's full with two people working, so it was planned that an office would be constructed to accommodate four people with easy access to computer and phone. The space vacated by the office would be turned into a three machine video tape editing suite and the current gallery turned back into a simple edit suite. This left only the loo and the ex-gents, which by now had become a tape library, that wouldn't need converting.

So, at this time all we needed was about £75,000 and we could have started work the next day and had the project finished in a couple of months. The problem was we were somewhat short of the budget. Well, to be more precise we were about £74,500 short of the figure. We are totally dependant on donations and subs from our members so we either had a 40 year wait to get the money or we would have tackle the problem in another way.

We finally made the decision that we would have to do almost all of the work ourselves and we would have to acquire most of the equipment for free. This was going to take some time so we would have to stay on the air with our regular programmes to patients meaning most of the money we raised would go on programme making. As a team we are better at making television than we are at making money. We're all too soft, wanting money to help the hospital rather than us. The failure to get enough money to start the project began to depress everyone. A failed lottery bid, a mail shot to local businesses that raised just enough money to cover the stamps. While our finances looked more grim every month, we were more successful when it came to acquiring the equipment.

Over the years we have made ourselves known to most of the broadcasters and facilities houses around the country. We seem to have an uncanny knack for going to a company to ask if they have an 'old so and so' that they no longer need. Only to find out that they had one until about a month ago, when they had put it in the bin! Just occasionally however, we did get lucky and get something that would suit the project. We had several bits of good luck after we had spent some of our money and brought some old cameras from the BBC. We didn't know it at the time but the contact we made then was going to turn out to change our fortune. All of a sudden a contact at Ravensbourne college heard we had got hold of the cameras and was offering us their old vision mixer. The BBC came back with the offer of some old video tape machines. Almost before we knew it The London Studios heard we were in the market for kit and came up with a sound desk. As each of these major items of equipment arrived, it meant minor redesigns to the overall plan to incorporate them in the project.

This went on until the late part of 1996 when quite unexpectedly our contact at the BBC called us. They were closing a whole area and would be getting rid of some equipment in a couple of month's time if we were interested. During our first tour of the old Network Control area at Television Centre, we were shown lots of equipment that "may be available if the BBC can't use or sell it." It seemed that we might be able to get quite a lot of basic hardware, video amplifiers, switches and monitors. Every thing then very quiet for weeks and weeks, we heard rumours that scrap merchants would get it all, we began to think that we would lose everything. Then came the telephone call. "The area has got to be clear in two weeks from now. Can you get a van this weekend? There may be a lot more for you if you want it!"

The next couple of weeks were the most hectic ever for us all. A couple of Harefield members work for the BBC and they got keys to the area, so we could have access out of hours. Each night as our members finished work, they turned up at TV Centre as visitors but they carried the strangest baggage with them. Overalls, wire cutters, hack saws and spanners came into the building every night. We worked all evening removing equipment we had been given. It seemed that every day we were being given more and more as other departments in the Beeb said they couldn't get them out in time. One day it would be distribution amplifiers and bay frames the next. Then came the big bits, the monitor stack from BBC 1, the network mixer from BBC 2 and the whole control desk from 'Pres. B'. We couldn't move in our studio as we shifted van load after van load to Harefield. Equipment covered every inch of the floor and the piles were getting higher each day. The final evening six of us got what we could, having to leave other gems because we just didn't have the time to get them out. At five in the morning we gave up. We had everything we could carry and the Asbestos removers would arrive within a few hours to seal off the area. For some of us there was just time to get home for a wash and an hour in bed before work in the morning.

We hadn't realised before but we now had a major problem. We had enough equipment not only to start the project but almost to complete it. At the same time it was all taking up so much space that we couldn't start anything.

The clear up process took a couple of months. We had to beg, borrow and steal storage space in the hospital. Items that wouldn't be damaged ware stored outside. Then we started risking things that could be damaged outside. Praying that the plastic sacks and Tarpaulins would protect them. Only later would we find out how much damage would be done by the rain. The old outside broadcast van became a temporary store room and the far end of the studio area was stacked out from floor to ceiling. The aim all the time to clear enough space to start the building work, while at the same time keep transmitting regular programmes to the hospital.

Finally in September we were ready. Our first problem, our biggest broadcast of the year, the Harefield 'Fun Run' happens in September. Amongst all our packing we had to find and extricate enough equipment to stage the broadcast. It was another couple of weeks before we had put it all away again and were ready for the builders.

We had managed to get a couple of profession brick layers to do the main part of the building work, the dividing wall. This done it was over to us. The roof timbers came first and the ceiling should have followed them a couple of weeks later. However, after some strong wind and heavy rain we took a good look at some of the things stored outside. Several bits were being damaged by the wet. We had no option but to bring those bits inside, to prevent further damage. This slowed the work down as we had to work around piles of furniture. This Christmas, 1997, we had a blitz on the project and got half the ceiling completed and the production gallery ready for decorating.

A lot of water has past under the bridge since then. The project is probably about eighty percent complete. All the hardware is in place - much of this has been replaced and updated since the original installation - thanks as much to our slow progress as the pace of change in broadcast technology these days. We still need to complete a large amount of the wiring but from time to time we have put most of it to work for "Hospital Fun Run's" and other special events. We can at least see the light at the end of the tunnel even if it is just a distant speck. Then I can get on with the real task of making programmes, which after all what it is all for.