Radio Sunderland for Hospitals celebrates 70 years and launches appeal for volunteers

Watch more of our videos on Shots! 
and live on Freeview channel 276
Visit Shots! now
Dedicated volunteers have been helping keep patients' spirits up for more than 70 years.

Time spent in hospital can be a lonely, frightening time, but a Sunderland charity has been helping to provide some much-needed escapism for seven decades.

Radio Sunderland for Hospitals has been broadcasting for 71 yearsRadio Sunderland for Hospitals has been broadcasting for 71 years
Radio Sunderland for Hospitals has been broadcasting for 71 years | echo

Last year saw the 70th anniversary of Radio Sunderland for Hospitals, which was founded as the Commentators Association in 1953 to broadcast the home games from Roker Park, before moving to the old Havelock Hospital in Hylton Lane Estate, becoming Sunderland Hospital Broadcasts, and later evolving into Radio Sunderland.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Over the years, the free broadcast service has seen and adapted through many changes from playing 78s through to being fully digital, having to find new homes as hospitals closed and were demolished and the pandemic.

Radio Sunderland for Hospitals chair Bill Bowes with volunteers Yvonne Dyer, right, and Pauline Phillips, left.

Radio Sunderland for Hospitals chair Bill Bowes with volunteers Yvonne Dyer, right, and Pauline Phillips, left.
Radio Sunderland for Hospitals chair Bill Bowes with volunteers Yvonne Dyer, right, and Pauline Phillips, left. | sn

Yet, throughout it all, they've broadcasted seven days a week, 365 days a year to countless patients over the years.

Now based at the Children's Centre in Durham Road, the registered charity still broadcasts the all important home games to bed side media units at Sunderland Royal Hospital, but they also deliver a broad range of programmes including its popular Ward Call request show.

As part of the latter, volunteers do ward visits to collect patients' requests.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Chairman Bill Bowes is the longest-running volunteer, clocking up 52 years on air.

Radio Sunderland for Hospitals chairman Bill Bowes has been broadcasting for 52 years.Radio Sunderland for Hospitals chairman Bill Bowes has been broadcasting for 52 years.
Radio Sunderland for Hospitals chairman Bill Bowes has been broadcasting for 52 years. | Sunderland Echo

A radio enthusiast, he started at the charity in his 20s and soon found he could combine his love of radio with providing a rewarding service for patients.

"I often say public and commercial radio is like wallpaper radio. People have it on in the background when they're driving and if their favourite song comes on their ears prick up," he said.

"But in hospital, people put their headphones on to block out and listen. With Ward Call, we can speak directly to them, and tell their story."

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Over the years, he's been joined by many volunteers and the current group spans many age ranges from a teenager to broadcasters in their 70s.

The station is based at the Children's Centre in Durham RoadThe station is based at the Children's Centre in Durham Road
The station is based at the Children's Centre in Durham Road | echo

Volunteer Pauline Phillips is a familiar face on the wards, visiting to collect patients' requests.

"It's definitely a form of therapy," she said. "People will often tell us things that they might not want to tell their families.

"Their families can also listen at home online so it means patients can request songs for their family - providing a connection when they're in hospital."

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

For older patients, music has the power to take them back to their younger years.

Upbeat music is one of the most-popular requests from the likes of ABBA and Queen and, despite being in hospital, it seems many patients have not lost their sense of humour with other popular track requests being: Release Me, I Want to Break Free and We've Gotta Get Out of This Place.

Volunteering

The charity is on the lookout for volunteersThe charity is on the lookout for volunteers
The charity is on the lookout for volunteers | echo

The radio's rooms at the Children's Centre, which they moved into after the closure of their previous base at Monkwermouth Hospital, are provided by South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust, but all their equipment is paid for through their charity fundraising.

Another vital part of the charity is its volunteers.

Currently, there are 10 dedicated volunteers - but they're looking for more across a range of roles.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Potential volunteers only need to be able to provide a minimum of 2/3 hours a week and Bill say it's so rewarding that "you only need to put a little bit in, but you get more out."

As well as ward visiting and working in the studio, there are a host of other management skills required to run and maintain a successful radio organisation, such as technical maintenance of the studio broadcast equipment and computers, the organising of publicity, fund raising and other administrative tasks that are required to keep things running smoothly.

Anyone aged 16 or over can be a volunteer at Radio Sunderland - there is no upper limit. No experience is required, as full training will be given.

Anyone interested can email [email protected] or visit the website for more at www.radiosunderland.co.uk

Comment Guidelines

National World encourages reader discussion on our stories. User feedback, insights and back-and-forth exchanges add a rich layer of context to reporting. Please review our Community Guidelines before commenting.