One of the country’s oldest hospital radio stations will mark its 70th birthday with a special day of programmes on Friday 9 April.
Radio Clatterbridge began broadcasting in 1951 when members of Port Sunlight Boys Club hit upon the idea of taking a record player onto the wards to play music to entertain patients. Initially, it had a mixed reception: those closest to the speaker complained it was too loud, while those at the far end of the ward couldn’t hear the music.
But the hospital authorities were convinced the idea had merit and agreed to fund a studio and a transmission system connected to each bed. It proved so popular that in 1955 a service was launched for Cleaver Hospital in Heswall, which was connected via a telephone landline.
The station famously recorded the first radio interview with The Beatles in 1962, at Hulme Hall in Port Sunlight. Founder member Monty Lister – who sadly passed away in 2019 – also recorded conversations with huge chart stars including Sir Cliff Richard, Bill Haley and Gracie Fields, as well as one of the last interviews with Eddie Cochran before his untimely death in a plane crash.
Extracts from some of the interviews will be broadcast as part of the birthday celebrations, along with other archive audio and the most popular requests from the last seven decades, which ranges from Abba, Queen and Status Quo through to Michael Buble, Tina Turner and Robbie Williams.
Today, Radio Clatterbridge is run by a group of around 25 volunteers, with some members having clocked up almost half a century of service. Hundreds of requests are played every year from a fully computerised studio, with patients and staff at the heart of the output.
Radio Clatterbridge Chair, Steve Evans, said, “We’re really proud to have been serving the Clatterbridge Health Park for 70 years, in particular over the past year when the NHS has played such a vital role in the battle against Covid-19.
“The pandemic means we can’t have studio visitors or a big get-together for members past and present, but we will be marking the occasion by playing the most requested songs from over the years along with vintage interviews and telephone conversations with members past and present.
#”Sadly, some of the individuals who played a pivotal role in making the station the success it is today have passed away in recent years, including founder member Monty Lister and our patron Sir Ken Dodd. Fortunately, our extensive audio archive means their memories and recollections will live on forever.
“Despite the passage of time, our prime aim of providing music therapy for patients remains the same. We know from the feedback we get from listeners that there is still a place in 2021 for a hyper-local radio service providing requests, relevant information and entertainment.”
Radio Clatterbridge moved to its current studio complex in 2001 and became a round-the-clock service in 2003. In 2011, it began broadcasting on 1386AM, enabling staff and patients at Wirral Hospice St John’s, Claire House Children’s Hospice and Elderholme Nursing Home to hear it for the first time.
A streaming service was launched in 2017, allowing listeners to tune in on mobile devices and online at www.radioclatterbridge.co.uk.
KEY MOMENTS IN RADIO CLATTERBRIDGE HISTORY
1951 – Port Sunlight Boys Club take a gramophone record player on to the wards to play music to patients, and a studio is built a short time later.
1955 – The service is extended to Cleaver Hospital in Heswall.
1957 – Bill Haley is interviewed at The Adelphi Hotel in Liverpool.
1959 – Cliff Richard is interviewed and spends the afternoon at presenter Monty Lister’s house, listening to records.
1962 – The first radio interview with The Beatles takes place, at Hulme Hall in Port Sunlight.
1966 – Gerry Marsden is interviewed after request collectors spot him in the maternity ward following the birth of his daughter.
1977 – The station is broadcasting 48 hours a week, in the evening and at weekends.
1981 – A telephone unit is installed enabling the station to put callers on the air.
2001 – Move to a new studio complex on the station’s 50th anniversary.
2003 – Round-the-clock programming begins.
2011 – Radio Clatterbridge secures an AM licence and begins broadcasting to the Health Park on 1386AM2017 – A streaming service is launched, enabling the station to be heard online and on mobile devices .
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