Radio Royal is the voluntary hospital broadcasting service serving the Bradford Royal Infirmary. Established date Friday 17th October 1952.
Radio Royal began its broadcasting career as an idea thought up by Robert Morris, doctors, engineering staff and electricians. Thomas Last supplied the electrical equipment for this purpose. He was a solicitor in Bradford in the 1950s as a partner in a firm called Last Cawthra Feather and was a member of the hospital management committee. He also started up Woodland’s hospital radio at Apperley Bridge.
When Radio Royal first started we consisted of just a single gramophone and a couple of speakers along with a few hits of the time. We held the belief that music provided a release from a long stay in the hospital.
Robert Morris also known as Uncle Bob to the patients had a show which was called the Medicine Chest. Our studio was the broom cupboard near the boiler room. Robert Morris was the founder member of the radio station and was an electrician. He had been an apprentice electrician at Smith and Crafts and, as a contractor, he worked on the new Bradford Royal Infirmary. When the hospital was completed he asked to stay on and worked his way up to the position of senior electrician in the hospital. In 1940 Robert did not go to the army as he was working through the war in the hospital; keeping the generators and lights working.
Enid, his daughter, remembers her father:
“He made my dolls house which lit up and all the furniture in it, he could also take and in fact iced my wedding cake. He also taught my late husband the art of decorating, plumbing and electrical repairs. My dad also came into the hospital every Christmas morning to make sure all the tree lights were working. He was also a keen midnight walker and used to walk from home on Manchester Road to Disk Hudson’s in Ilkley and back again.”
In August of 1954 we were joined on the airwaves by Bradford Hospitals Broadcasting Association (BHBA) (Registered Charity Number 258787) founded by H W Walker a former Lord Mayor of Bradford. BHBA was established to bring sports, concerts and special events to six hospitals in the Bradford area. Sadly in 1974 BHBA made its last broadcast ending its 20-year association with us. Their last broadcast was the last football match of the season from Valley Parade.
Sheila Mirrell Remembers from 1954:
“I worked in Bradford Royal Infirmary in the administration department as a secretary back in 1954. I was 17 years old. Mr Naylor the lead radiographer of the hospital obtained permission for me to type the scripts for the radio presenters. I would also send out request forms to the wards and collect them afterwards. I used to go to woods music shop in Bradford with the requests and borrowed records from them to play on the hospital radio station.”
Sheila read out the requests on air. She later trained as a nurse and eventually taught the nurses for many years.
In 1978 we first staged our great escape, tunnelling out of our broom cupboard and taking over the main entrance to celebrate over 25 years of broadcasting to the hospital and our listeners the patients. After two well-executed escapes from the hospital, management were getting suspicious about the activities of the people in the broom cupboard. Because of this, all escape attempts were put on hold. We decided to do what we do best, broadcast to the patients and provide some serious entertainment.
After keeping quiet and lulling management into a false sense of security, 1984 saw our biggest escape of the decade. This time we had help on the outside. We received our outside broadcast studio donated to us by Sovereign Healthcare and the Telegraph and Argus. The keys were presented to us by the then Lord Mayor Councillor Mr Oliver Messer. The help given to us from the outside broadcast studio enabled us to hit the roads of Bradford, providing music for dances, nursing homes and retirement homes and day centres. We even began to provide music for fun days, galas and the community at large, a function we can still provide. The outside studio enabled us to raise our own funds and ensure as a registered charity we continued to provide our service to the patients.
In 1985 Radio Royal received another donation from Sovereign Healthcare, this time a cheque for £3,000. The enabled us to buy new equipment for our studios and also new buckets and spades for our tunnelling.
In 1990 we thought the end of Radio Royal was nearing, after 38 years in the broom cupboard. The cleaners said they wanted it back for the brooms. This came as a bit of a shock. We began planning our biggest fundraising attempt yet. We needed £6,000 for a new studio and we needed it yesterday. Then disaster struck again; thieves broke into our mobile studio and stole £4,000 worth of equipment. This meant with less than a year to move out, we needed to raise £10,000. Thankfully the pulse came to our aid, with £4,000 of their studio equipment, so we were back on track. We eventually managed it and moved under ward 22. It has been said that on a night with a full moon you can still hear the echoes of please release me coming from the boiler room and our old broom cupboard!
1997 once again has Radio Royal planning another fundraising scheme, this time we have a real challenge raising between £50,000 and £70,000 to replace the failing radio system in the hospital. In addition to this, there is the possibility that we will be moving again.
Then in 1999 we received £10,000 from Telegraph and Argus and Pulse and in 2000 we moved into our present studio which is an old wash house. It took a lot of work to refurbish it. The stock of buckets and spades had come to an abrupt end they had broken! All the facilities that we need and two studio and a store room.
In 2009 George Sumner who was a treasurer at the time received an award and came third in a ceremony to thank all volunteers for their work and dedication. He received it for his work on the radio station. Then Black Lace came to Bradford Royal Infirmary on Friday 4th December. They created one of the iconic pop songs of the 1980s that had generations of families singing along. Agadoo and the music man and dancing in the discos. They led the singing again this time with crowds of school children and more mums and dads as they helped to switch on the Christmas lights.
As the years past, the number of members dwindled. Ashley Williams, who had been the chairman for many years moved down to Felixstowe so it made it harder to attend to the duties of the radio station. In April 2010 an annual general meeting took place in Field House at the hospital. George Sumner was voted in as chairman.
The radio station was in difficulties so a business plan was put together for the future. As we were sorting out the files and throwing away rubbish, a document with the named president came to light on the bottom of a letter from 1986. With great surprise, it said Joe Johnson, word snooker champion.
The business plan was put into action, a Radio Royal award plaque was awarded for 50 years and on this was the logo that we were to use. It was an old-fashioned table microphone with a crown placed over it. In June 2010 we ordered dark blue t-shirts which had our logo on using a donation we had received. These are worn by all members. In September 2010 George Sumner nominated Christopher Fisher for an award to the trust. Many hospital volunteers were put forward and three people would receive an award; first, second and third. He didn’t receive this but was given a certificate for his first year working at the station. The Radio Royal logo was characterised and designed by Christopher Fisher in December 2010. Our plan was now working and the radio station is going from strength to strength. All decisions and ideas are put forward and discussed in a democratic way. The radio station is improving from month to month and ideas are put into practice and we work alongside the whole hospital and the trust.
In March 2011 an exhibition was decided upon the years that the Beatles came to Bradford. Saturday 2nd February 1963, 21st December 1963, 9th October 1964. A letter was written to the Telegraph and Argus for information about the Beatles in Bradford. Sifting through the internet researching the many archives and then putting it into various different aspects of the visits of the Beatles etc. Later on we purchased a laptop from a kind donation. Asda was kind enough to give us a printer for a knockdown price as we were a charity.
In October 2011 the Beatles in Bradford Exhibition was completed as over 30 A4 pages laminated and the stories of the three visits of the Beatles. A big thank you goes to Christopher Fisher and Margaret Southern for putting it together. The Exhibition was on show in Radio Royal and later put on the Internet. A big thank you goes out to everyone who made this possible.
Business cards were also purchased from Vista Print. Letter headed paper was also designed with the Radio Royal logo on.
On Saturday 3rd July Joe Johnson and Alan Halsall (Tyronne Dobbs from Coronation Street) added a touch of magic along with his real wife and actress Lucy, best known for her role as Katie Harris in Coronation Street. The duo were also interviewed by George Sumner and Christopher Fisher and St Luke’s Sound presenter Chris Bemon.
On 23rd July Rick Wild Gledhill visited the studio to entertain patients and chat to George Sumner and Christopher Fisher. Rick had a number one hit with Michelle with the Overlanders in 1966, long before it was made famous by the Beatles and as he lives in Huddersfield he was only too happy to pop over to BRI to chat to patients via Radio Royal. Rick’s girlfriend was Michelle and broke up with him. As John Lennon and Paul McCartney felt sorry for him they wrote the song Michelle for him. Rick played tracks from his new album and also talked about his experiences in the pop world.
On Friday 29th July 2011 Graham Atkins (an international referee) visited Radio Royal and is landscape manager at Peal park in Bradford. A very informative interview about the ins and outs of a referee in football was conducted.
Christopher Fisher wrote to Helen Shapiro asking if she could give an interview. In October 2011 Helen was interviewed by George Sumner for half an hour, a jewel in the crown for us as it ties in with the bringing together of the Beatles in Bradford. At the time, Helen was top of the show in 1963 on 2nd February, when she was 16 and the Beatles were a support group.
In November 2011 we discovered some photographs. One, in particular, was of interest to us. It was of Robert Morris and Edgar Naylor on the air back in 1952. It was decided after some thought to invite his relations to the studio. After we received an answer, on the 5th November 2011 they came to the studio: Sam Morris, Robert’s brother; Jean, Sam’s wife and Enid who was his daughter. They spoke on air at Radio Royal and a great time was had by all. A big thank you to the Telegraph and Argus for publishing these many letters of help.
The reason for our interest in Robert Morris is that in October 2012 we had a brass plaque dedicated to him. On the occasion of our diamond jubilee for Radio Royal’s 60 years of Broadcasting at the hospital.
The business plan is going along very well and at this point of the year our listening hours moved to 22,000 average per month. The official figures are supplied by Hospedia, the firm which supplies the radio units to the patients throughout the hospital.
In December 2012 posters of Mikey, the caricature of our logo, are given out at the hospital.
The work and dedication that has gone into Radio Royal is a credit to all the members who have placed songs and programs onto the computer. I should also list the chairman, treasurers, secretaries, presenters, engineers, electricians, request collectors and fundraisers and to all our sponsors, the voluntary services and the hospital trust for working alongside us and giving us their overall support.