Radio Odstock memories
After considerable fundraising the new portacabin, comprising a studio and lobby, was officially opened on February 18th 1977 by ‘Goodies’ comedian Bill Oddie. An obvious choice given the name.
Although it was great to have a new home the nearest toilet was about half a mile away in the main hospital building. When answering a call of nature standard practice for the presenter was to put on an album before dashing across to the hospital.
We held a lot of fundraising events over the years. This was stepped up when we were raising funds for the new studio. Prior to that we had a very small cupboard-like space in the main corridor of the hospital. Initially the old studio had a wall of huge broadcasting equipment, which was years old. We raised funds to have the space partitioned, with the rear part being the studio and the other half for helpers, storage, visitors etc. However, when the opportunity came to have a purpose-built studio we were delighted (Fiona Crowther)
In 1979 a fundraising campaign started to not only add much needed toilet facilities, plans also included to build a record library and ramp access for patients to access the building. Later they also began broadcasting to Newbridge Hospital, down the hill from the Odstock site.
In 2013 a second studio was brought back into use. Studio 2, which is the Paul Mullins Memorial Studio and the new Studio 1 was named The Hospital League of Friends Studio; opened by the then chairman George Todd after a £4000 grant was made from the League of Friends to fund the works needed.
Many celebrities gave their time to be interviewed, many en-route through Salisbury when performing locally. Sir Cliff Richard has visited more than once. Leslie Crowther, comedian and TV presenter, was interviewed by Doug Crowther (no relation) from Radio Odstock. Leslie requested Amazing Grace, Placido Domingo and John Denver to be played. TV presenter Johnny Morris. The pop group ‘The Searchers’ made a ward visit to see a patient who had won a free ticket to their concert in Amesbury but could not attend. Val Doonican, Dana, The Wurzels, Sasha Distel, Olivia Newton John, Norman Wisdom and Salisbury’s big band singer Rosemary Squires all contributed to broadcasts by Radio Odstock.
In the hall of fame Clive Dunn of Dad’s Army fame requested Streets of London by Cleo Lane in 1976 whilst William Roach (better known as Ken Barlow) requested the theme from Coronation Street in 1981!
We owned lots of singles and some LPs but could not afford to buy the latest records too often. Each week someone telephoned a list through to Suttons Record Shop in Salisbury on Thursday morning of the latest records that had been requested, which we didn’t own. They would very kindly put them in a record carrying case which someone would drop round to SGI to go on the hospital bus to Odstock. We would then collect it from Reception before the programme on Thursday evening. The records would then be sent back to Suttons on Fridays in the same way. (Fiona Crowther)
The station broadcast through radios at the bedside. In 1996, with the advent of digital media, a new system was bought and installed under the chairmanship of David Langrish. At the same time programme arrangements were updated thanks to the technical knowledge of Chris Olley. Later, Radio Odstock began broadcasting through the patient bedside entertainment system. Now programmes are streamed online through their website. The emphasis as ever is to concentrate on patients’ requests as the forefront of all programmes.
When I was first involved there was only one programme a week broadcast (Thursday evenings) with a team of request collectors touring the wards on Wednesday evenings to collect patient requests. Eventually this expanded with a children’s programme going out on a Sunday morning and then a programme for Salisbury Infirmary, which had to be recorded in the Odstock Studio and relayed over the radio system at SGI. On Boxing Day every year we used to tour the wards with a wheelchair decorated with tinsel, bearing gifts for the patients. We usually had a Santa in tow! (Fiona Crowther)
Radio Odstock has also been responsible for helping many other organisations. For many years it was a collecting point for stamps for Shelter and silver paper which raised several thousand pounds to benefit Guide Dogs for the Blind. With variety shows, fetes, football matches, sales and other events they have also supported numerous local charities, St Thomas’s Hospital kidney machine, sponsored a child in South America and Naomi House Hospice. In recent years they have teamed up with Salisbury Hospice.
To begin with there was a fairly small team of helpers – three people who did broadcasting on a rota, a team of around six request collectors, a record librarian (me), a couple of other general helpers. It strikes me that all the broadcasters at this time were men – it was actually a news story when we had the first all female broadcast in 1974 with Sarah Mullins and myself. (Fiona Crowther)