It was a great pleasure – and surprise – to receive the ‘Heroes of Hertfordshire’ award from The Lord Lieutenant as a result of maintaining our service without a break during the Covid-19 pandemic, despite having to close down our recording studio and production area in March.
When the virus first struck, our initial concern was that, by sending a memory stick in a postal wallet via Royal Mail into the homes of our vulnerable listeners, we would be putting them – and our volunteers – at risk of infection.
Our friends at Radio Verulam offered us an hour of radio time so that we could broadcast a cut-down version of our weekly programme. We set up a partnering scheme, with volunteers contacting individual listeners on a weekly or even more regular basis – a scheme which has continued throughout and been much enjoyed by listeners and volunteers.
The first task was to find out if all listeners could tune in to the Radio Verulam FM frequency. All except six could, so for them we bought and delivered Roberts FM/DAB radios, pre-set to 92.6 FM and with gaffer tape preventing accidental retuning!
From Day One, our producers had set up remote recording and editing facilities in their own homes. They gradually built up a team of remote readers, who recorded news stories and other items at home and then transferred them via internet to the producers. Other regular contributors also switched to remote recording.
For 16 weeks, we reached all our listeners in this way, while still uploading a longer version to our website and to the BWFB app ‘Talking Newspaper”. During those weeks, we worked out a new production process, with cleaning and other protective measures in place and with three volunteers developing remote multi-copying facilities in their homes.
By the end of July, we were ready to revert to the usual weekly copying and posting of our programmes under strict hygiene conditions. During this period, three of our listeners discovered that they could access the uploaded programmes through their computers and so no longer required the postal service.
It was a huge learning experience for all involved and means that we are ready to face whatever challenges come our way next!