Bristol

Bristol hospital radio celebrates 60 years of broadcasting

Bristol Hospital Broadcasting Service
Image caption Bristol Hospital Broadcasting Service plays 24 hours a day from the Bristol Royal Infirmary

Bristol's hospital radio is celebrating its 60th anniversary - and is now thought to be the longest continuously broadcasting station of its kind in the world.

"It's all about the patients. Going out on the wards and meeting the patients in person," said John Rogers, who currently presents the Friday evening show and helps to broadcast 200 record requests every week.

"We wouldn't survive without the volunteers. There are about 30 to 40 of us, all unpaid."

The station, which has been on air for nearly all of the Queen's reign, has covered everything from wrestling matches to classical concerts.

Bristol Hospital Broadcasting Service (BHBS) began with coverage of Bristol Rovers' match against Shrewsbury Town on 23 August 1952.

Met his wife

The registered charity is run by volunteers and broadcasts from the Bristol Royal Infirmary 24 hours a day.

It transmits to 10 hospitals to approximately 8,000 beds.

In 1952 it broadcast to six hospitals in the city, but reached a total of 25 hospitals at its peak in the 1960s.

Image caption Some 30 to 40 volunteers help to keep the Bristol Hospital Broadcasting Service on air

Many of the Queen's visits to the city have been covered by the station, including one which gave it its first scoop in 1956.

On 13 April that year, the monarch visited Bristol on her way to open the Chew Valley Reservoir.

The BBC, who were covering the event, would not be able to broadcast the footage until it went on air at 18:30, so offered the live commentary to BHBS.

"With Laurie Lucena perched high on the old Co-op building at Narrow Quay to link the BBC commentary, the live BHBS broadcast scooped the national media," said BHBS chairman Iain Elliott.

The service also provides commentary on all Bristol Rovers and Bristol City home games along with rugby commentary from the Memorial Stadium, the home of Bristol Football Club.

All classical concerts from the Colston Hall and shows from the Bristol Hippodrome are relayed to the hospitals along with recordings from St George's Concert Hall on Brandon Hill.

'Through the morgue'

BBC Radio Bristol's Trevor Fry started his career with BHBS and once presented a show called Fry In Tonight. He said the service was a "lifeline".

"The letters we used to get from people, just saying how much they appreciated what we did," he said.

"Otherwise they'd have nothing. It took the boredom away. Hospital radio did all of that and more, a million times over, and still does."

Image caption BBC Radio Bristol's Trevor Fry presented a show while working at hospital radio in the late 1960s

The station gave Mr Fry more than just music - he also met his wife there when she was his technical operator.

"We also have to say thank you to hospital radio not only for the experience but also for the love," he added.

BBC Points West presenter Sally Challoner also started her broadcasting career by volunteering at the hospital radio station but has a different recollection.

"My abiding memory of it is that at the end of the shift we'd have to walk out through the morgue to get out of the hospital because all the other entrances were shut," she said.

"It was a bit spooky but great fun."

Patients can listen to a two-hour special programme to celebrate the station reaching its milestone on 23 August at 20:00 BST.

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