The First Fifty Years
It was football that started it all in 1952. Equipment and a microphone were rented from Rediffusion along with the services of an engineer - the costs were defrayed from a sum of money raised each year by Leslie Sullivan, in order to relay a commentary of the Saints home game around the wards of the Royal South Hants Hospital, the General and the Old Eye Hospital, using the Rediffusion wired network system. We have covered every home match since 1952 but for the first 11 years football commentaries were the only form of broadcasting.
Programmes were recorded until 2nd January 1966 with the first live transmissions from a damp smelly former wine cellar under the Toc H building at the top of The Avenue, Southampton. A complete programme service came out of there, including newscasts, childrens programmes, outside broadcast coverage of the Carnival, and the Southampton Three Day Show on The Common, as well as live coverage of shows held at the Top Rank Suite. The regular request programmes flourished and a record library of 78s and 45s started. In August 1971, we moved above ground, having raised £9,000, representing the cost of a single storey, two studio building which was erected in the cabbage patch alongside the Toc H Mark V Youth Hostel.
In 1978 however, the developers moved us along and a new studio had to be found. The Western Hospital site was slowly being run down and we were granted a 21 year lease on a piece of land within the 20 acre grounds, next door to the Old Chest Hospital in Millbrook. More serious fundraising was again required and it cost £50,000 to build the studio complex, this time in brick with a tiled roof. Programmes started from these new studios in 1980 and were formally opened by Lord and Lady Romsey on 11th December, 1981.
Just ten years later, Tesco came along and wanted our piece of land to use as the entranceway, off Tebourba Way, for their new superstore. This led to them building and fitting out our magnificent new Studio Centre, We now have a new lease on our piece of land from the Hospital Authority and we started broadcasting from these new studios on 12th December 1993. The new Studio has five rooms with three sound desks, a record library, office, conference room, kitchen, engineers' workshops and a first floor which is used as storage space. We have over 100 volunteer members, with annual running costs in excess of £17,000 and we broadcast our own radio programmes 24 hours a day to the four hospitals.
Our last show at this site was on the 13th November 2015, before we moved seamlessly to our new home at Normand House, Tremona Road and without a break in transmission started our next chapter.
The First Fifty Years Book
Chairman Roy Stubbs has been a member for over 20 years and kept the chairman's seat warm for the past 12, so was in a good position to gather together the historical details of the charity. After selling his business and taking early retirement, Roy was able to spend a few months collecting and sorting memorabilia and held long talks with some 'old timers'. The result is an entertaining book celebrating 50 years' history. The radio station started in 1952 with football commentaries and in the swinging sixties developed with musical request shows, broadcasting to ten locations around Southampton. Their first studio was set up in the converted basement of the local Toc H building. They moved above ground into their first purpose built studio in 1970 but were moved by developers, constructing their third studio in the grounds of the Chest (Western)Hospital. This went on air in 1980. In the early nineties, Tesco bought the Chest Hospital site and, following negotiations, knocked down the oldstudio, and paid for a new building, complete with new desks and wiring.
This went on air in 1993. (The book contains chapters devoted to each of the four studio locations and the trials and tribulations associated with each - fundraising always being the major problem).
Since 1997, Southampton have been operating a 24 hour radio service and, with the introduction of Patientline in 1998, they became confident their service was received at the patient's bedside.
Outside broadcasts, using ISDN digital connections, are in place for football and cricket commentaries and there are complete chapters on the history of these sporting activities over the years. There are pictures relating to 'Fun and Romance', with a complete chapter on this subject! Winchester Hospital Radio was originally a part of their network until 1984 when they started their own local service; There is a chapter called 'The Blind Connection' relating to the activities devoted to assisting the visually impaired in the community. Chapter 18 tells of the early years of NAHBO ... Southampton were one of the inaugural stations when the National Hospital Broadcasting Organisation was formed in 1970. Every one of the 22 chapters details a different subject in depth - at the end of each there is a pictorial selection with over 100 pictures.
The book is available from the studios, as well as Waterstones bookstores (High Street and West Quay Branches), price £10.95.