The association started in 1966 when Mr Gallagher, the secretary of the North Staffs Hospital's Broadcasting Service, arranged with Crewe Memorial Hospital's Secretary to make an experimental broadcast from Crewe Alexandra F.C. to see how it would be received by the Patients in the Crewe area. The experiment was a success and a second broadcast was made of a F.A. Cup Tie.
Mr Gallagher's second broadcast commentary of a Crewe Alex Match was on the 7 January 1967, when he was joined by Harold Hipwell and Tom Mainwaring from Crewe. With the continued interest in these commentaries others joined the team including Mr J Wilkes & Mr Caine.
The Mayor at the time was Counsellor Herbert P Vernon who invited Mr Harold Hipwell and others to a meeting to hear about the activities of the commentary team. So impressed was he that he arranged a meeting on the 4 May 1967 in the Mayor's Parlour with various other organisations in the Crewe area. It was at this meeting that the first committee was formed and Crewe and District Hospitals Broadcasts Service came into existence.
Chairman Mr Herbert P Vernon (Mayor)
Secretary, Director of Programmes & Treasurer Mr Harold Hipwell
Committee Members Mr Tom Mainwaring & Mr J Wilkes
After its formation Councillor Herbert Vernon launched an appeal among local clubs and organisations to help raise funds for the formation of the CADHBS. He started the appeal with a donation of £25 from the Mayor's Charity Fund. With a further donation of £75 from the appeal it was decided to hold a draw, which raised another £309. With this money it was decided to equip the Coppenhall Hospital with an individual bed-head radio service as at the time the hospital only had transportable radios in some of the wards.
In May 1967 Mr Frank Home handed over equipment to the hospital to start Hospital radio in the
In March 1968 equipment was installed at the Coppenhall Hospital to equip the new facility allowing the society to start broadcasting the commentaries to patients at Crewe's hospitals.
Up until this date the society had used equipment borrowed from the North Staffordshire Hospital's Broadcasting Service however on the 20th April 1968 the first football commentary using the societies own equipment was broadcast to the wards.
Crewe becomes the smallest town in country to have its own hospital radio
A visit was arranged to the North Staffs Hospital's Broadcasting Service to gain ideas as to what to include in talks with the South Cheshire Hospital Management Committee re starting a studio and regular broadcasts to patients within the Crewe area. Permission was given to the society by the SCHMC along with a room at the Coppenhall Hospital, where a studio was installed to allow broadcasting to start in November 1968 with a regular record request programme joining the Crewe Alexandra commentary. At the start of broadcasting it was believed that Crewe was the smallest town in the Country to have a Hospital's Broadcasts service of its own.
On the 5 May 1972 the new Leighton Hospital was opened and the new bedside radios were equipped with the facility to broadcast Hospital Radio.
In April 1975 the Coppenhall studio was broken into with minor things like tea money being stolen. It did highlight the lack of security in the studio area and caused the shut down of the service. The equipment was moved into temporary storage at the Memorial Hospital in May. By January 1975 the Memorial Hospital had given the SCHBS a room for it to restart broadcasting. On the 15th January 1976 Nick Clarke & David Davies from the BBC television programme 'Look North' officially opened the new studio at the Memorial Hospital.
On Tuesday the 7 July 1977 the day of the Queen's Silver Jubilee a special programme was broadcast involving six people who were actively involved with the official opening of Leighton Hospital by H.M. The Queen and H.R.H. Prince Philip back in May 1972. They talked about their experiences and feelings at the time of the opening. The pre-recorded programme was
linked by BBC Radio Stoke station Manager, Sally Chalmers (Sister of Judith Chalmers, ITV Holiday presenter, "Wish You were here").
By March 1980 the studio at the Memorial Hospital was considered too small for the needs of the society and so the local Health Authority were asked if they had a bigger room. It was proposed that a move to the Barony Hospital in Nantwich would be appropriate and a room was looked at.
In December 1980 the society moved into their new studio at the Barony to start alterations. On the 7 August 1981 the Memorial studio closed for the last time and equipment was moved to the Barony. By the 30 September all installations had been completed and the studio was ready for the first official broadcast on the 26 October 1981.
On the 26 February 1988 Hospital Radio ambassador and magician Paul Daniels and his wife Debbie McGee opened the new studio.
In 2005 the hospital agreed to an upgrade of the room / studio and so a major refurbishment took place giving the broadcasters a brilliant new facility to produce good quality programmes in.
Christmas Carols broadcast for the first time
In 1983 Betty Foster and Audrey Lewis, two Monday night presenters organised the first annual Christmas Carol service for the society at a church in Church Minshull.
Over 50 years of Broadcasting and counting...
(A PRESS RELEASE to Celebrate 50 years "On Air" in the Crewe Area from November 1968 to 2018)
In the year that the NHS celebrates its 70th Birthday and BBC Radio Stoke Celebrates 50 years of Broadcasting a more local link to both events celebrates its 50th birthday on the 14 November 2018. It is the anniversary of when Hospital Radio Leighton or the Crewe and District Hospital’s Broadcasting Service as it was known, started broadcasting its first regular request programme from its studio at the Coppenhall Cottage Hospital in Crewe.
It was also the launch week of a new project to build a Hospital at Leighton and during a news broadcast on the opening night the papers were asking for the public to think of a name for the new venture. With so many names to choose from they eventually went for “Leighton Hospital”. On the 14 March 1968, BBC Radio Stoke a successor to 6ST an experimental station from the 1920’s started broadcasting as one of the first BBC Local Radio Stations. On the 14 November 1968, Committee members and presenters were invited to the BBC’s Studio at Cheapside in Hanley to advertise the launch programme of their rival station in South Cheshire and this is how Hospital Radio started broadcasting.
Hospital Radio in Crewe started in 1966 when Mr Gallagher, the secretary of the North Staffs Hospital's Broadcasting Service, arranged with the Crewe Memorial Hospital's Secretary to make an experimental broadcast from Crewe Alexandra F.C. to see how it would be received by the Patients. In those days a reel to real tape recording would be made of the match commentary and this would then be taken to the hospital, plugged in and played back though a speaker to the patients on the wards. On the 7 January 1967, a second commentary was made and Mr Gallagher was joined by Harold Hipwell and Tom Mainwaring from Crewe. The Mayor at the time was Herbert P Vernon who invited Mr Harold Hipwell to tell him about their activities and was so impressed with the idea that he encouraged the formation of the Crewe and District Hospitals Broadcasts Service.
By March 1968, the volunteers had raised enough money to start instillation of equipment at the Cottage Hospital with speakers around the hospital ready for the first commentary to be broadcast on the 20th April 1968.
At this time volunteers attended a lot of events to raise money and the profile of the new venture and as part of this Mrs Judy Preece, a 23-year-old Rolls Royce employee became the first “Miss Hospital Broadcast”. This was partly to cash in on the fact that the 1968 Miss Great Britain, Miss Yvonne Ormes came from Crewe.
At 8.15pm on the 14 November 1968, the official opening of Hospital Radio took place, starting with an interview with the Mayor, Head Nurse and included a news feature and requests from the patients.
In 1969, the station started recording a quiz with local businesses and organisations taking part.
On the 5 May 1972, H.M. The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh opened Leighton Hospital which would open the doors to a larger audience than had previously been available at the Cottage Hospitals and an old people’s home. This new hospital had a headphone system for patients to listen to national and local radio but at the time did not have a link to Hospital Radio. However, plans were being looked at to include the new hospital in their broadcasts and things were looking up for the South Cheshire Hospital Broadcasting Service as it had been renamed. Between the 15 and 16 March 1975 the station was forced to stop broadcasting due to the theft of equipment from their studio at the Coppenhall Hospital including the tape library of music and items. Security was an issue at Coppenhall and the NHS thought it would be better to move the studio to the Memorial Hospital and so on the 3 October 1975 the Hospital Broadcasting Service held an “Open Evening” at their new studio at the Crewe Memorial with the official opening on the 15 January 1976 when David Davis (Later the Head of the FA) and Nick Clarke (Who became a BBC Radio 4 Presenter), who were at the time both working for “Look North” in Manchester, performed the opening ceremony.
Changes to the NHS in Crewe would lead to the closure of the Cottage Hospitals in the town and at Nantwich where the Barony would be downgraded and become an administration building with a few beds. This would also become the new home of Hospital Radio and would for the first time have a link to Leighton Hospital via a land line specially dedicated for use by Hospital Radio.
On the 3 August 1981, the new studio at the Barony Hospital was ready to be occupied and it was decided to close the Coppenhall Studio on the 7th of August 1981 so that equipment could be moved to the Barony ready for the first broadcast on the 26 October 1981.
However, like the launch of BBC 2 Television the opening night didn’t quite go to plan as there was a line fault with the link to Leighton and the broadcast was not heard.
At the 22 March 1984 AGM it was suggested that a new name be adopted by the society as an “On air” call sign instead of the “South Cheshire Hospitals Broadcasting Service” and the suggestion of “Hospital Radio Leighton” was accepted.
In September 1987, the NHS sent Hospital Radio a notification letter to vacate the Barony Studio by the 1st December because the Community Nursing department was being moved from Leighton to the Barony and so the rooms occupied by Hospital Radio were no longer available. This was not the end of broadcasting for the station as a room would be made available at Leighton Hospital to house the studio.
Discussions as to possible spaces took place and it was decided that a room down by the laundry and kitchens was ideal for the broadcasters. The deal to move included the hospital fitting out the studio with power and a new set of walls to include a technical area, presenter’s box, quiz studio and space for a record library.
The broadcasters moved into the new facility and soon felt at home. On the 26 February 1988, Paul Daniels and his assistant (Later wife) Debbie McGee officially opened the studio and presented long service awards to members of the society before reading out requests on air, alongside Friday night presenter Andrew Powell.
Having broadcast the commentary for patients at Leighton since 1966 the blind supporters at the ground had started to show an interest in listening to the match at the Gresty Road ground and in 1994 Crewe Alexandra approached Hospital Radio to see if they could supply commentaries of matches to the blind via a headphone system in the stands linked to the commentary box at the top of the stands.
In 1996, BBC Radio Stoke contacted Hospital Radio Leighton to see if they would be interested in taking part in the Chris and Alley (Alison Greatbatch and Chris Marshall) show on a Sunday. They wanted to start a Hospital Radio link programme involving presenters from hospitals at Stoke, Stafford and Leighton Hospital who would do the opposite of what they normally did. They wanted requests from patients to their relatives and friends outside the hospital. Terry Baker was picked by Radio Stoke to represent Hospital Radio Leighton and so on the 3rd week of the broadcasts he would go down to Hanley to do the programme.
For 50 years broadcasters have been entertaining patients in the Crewe area and have adapted to the new technology as it arrived. In the 1960’s music was played on records and reel to reel tape followed in the 1970’s by the introduction of Cassettes and by February 1990 presenters were starting to bring in CD’s to play in the studio. Technical Director John Epps thought that this new technology would not last and did nothing to enhance the output of the studio but as more and more CD’s became available and 45 and 33⅓ records were becoming less available he gave in to the technology and in December 1992 a CD player was installed.
Up until now Hospital Radio had only been broadcasting for a limited number of hours due to a lack of presenters to cover the 24-hour period. In May 2001, new member Bob Squirrell who had been broadcasting on other stations came up with a plan to install a computer system that would not only take over from the record library by providing 3,000 music tracks but could also play a mixture of tracks over the day when broadcasters were not available. This playout system could be overridden by presenters for request shows, Football commentaries or other features with the ability to insert pre-recorded shows. After a bit of opposition to the new technology the computer “Play out system” was installed in April 2002 to assist with supplying recordings for requests and plans were started to increase the library of tracks to allow the computer to keep going all day. In October 2006, after the hospital had made some changes to the studio layout it was decided to have a second computer that would play continuous music, making the station a 24-hour broadcaster.
Changes to the ward system also took place in December 2006, when “Patientline” started supplying a Television and Radio systems for listeners with Hospital Radio free of charge.
Plans continue to bring the Hospital Radio system into the 21st Century with the introduction of a short-range Internet Radio system which can be accessed by anyone within the hospital by going onto the Leighton Hospital Patient Wi-Fi system and clicking on the icon.
50 years of Broadcasting is a long time for volunteers and some have been broadcasting and involved with the society for a large part of this time. Reg Spencer started in 1968 and continued broadcasting and as part of the management committee for many years until 2002 when he became an honorary member in 2008. Barbara Wilson joined in September 1979 as a quiz and request show presenter until Sept 2012 but has continued to be a member of the management committee to date. Jonathan Ollierhead joined his father Peter as a Football Commentator in 1978 and is the longest serving member of Hospital Radio at Leighton with 40 years but the person who has broadcast the most programmes on the station is Stewart Green who unlike Jonathan who only broadcasts home matches of Crewe Alexandra, has broadcast a regular request programme since June 1983 firstly once every three weeks and then technical on every 2nd week and a weekly Wednesday show each week along with an Interview and music show every Thursday since 1994.
Hospital Radio Leighton has been active over the 50 years with broadcasts of Request programmes, a regular Country programme, interview shows, an annual Carol service, Children’s programme with Uncle Walter Williams from 1985 to November 1994 and from the start of broadcasting in 1968 the presenters have interviewed the local Mayor, beginning with the Mayor of Crewe and Nantwich the guest changed in 2009 when the Mayor of Cheshire East came into existence. The society has also been fundraising over the years with a Bed Push, Piano Smashing, Stalls, Hit the Rat Game, Cake sales and three 24-hour broadcasts.
Leighton Hospital very generously pay for electricity and general maintenance of the studio but funds are needed to pay for a music licence (PRS) to play records, new equipment and maintenance of the mixing desk, computers and other equipment.
On Wednesday the 14 November 2018, the station broadcast a copy of the original programme from 1968 and some of the highlights from the last 50 years.