THE Last Waltz, by a young man called Engelbert Humperdinck, was topping the charts, and the threat of pit closures was hitting the headlines.

And in a wooden hut, Radio Cherwell was being born at the Churchill Hospital.

The hospital radio station celebrates its 45th birthday tomorrow and has invited back volunteers from over the years to join the celebrations.

Launched on September 30, 1967 – the same day as BBC Radio 1 began – Radio Cherwell is one of the most successful of its kind in the country.

The station’s founder was John Simpson, a future BBC Radio Oxford presenter. He set up the station so Oxford United fans who were too ill or injured to get to games could keep up with the action from their hospital beds.

Forty-five years later and Radio Cherwell is still going strong with a few of the same faces as those pioneering early days, albeit in a slightly more sturdy headquarters.

Radio Cherwell chairman Neil Stockton, 60, who has been with the station for 40 years, said he remembered broadcasting in the old building which was so full of holes chickens from the nearby Warneford Hospital farm made their way into the studio.

He said: “The studio was made from the wood from the houses in St Ebbe’s.

“They were being demolished so the team asked the foreman if we could have some old materials.

“Finally, in 1982, they offered us this space.”

The mainstay of the early broadcasts was the football commentary from the Manor Ground at Headington, and the first game broadcast – by commentary team Gerry Cadle, Mick Alsworth and Jimmy Hall – would certainly have pleased audiences with the U’s beating Bury 5-4.

Over the years many more aspects have been added to the station’s repertoire, including a weekly request show, bingo and quizzes, and a children’s programme.

Mr Stockton said a lot had changed in hospital radio over the years, but that it still has a vital role to play.

He said: “My favourite part of the job is going around the wards chatting to familiar and less familiar faces.

“A lot of people get back in touch and let us know just how much it meant to them.

“Things have changed over the years. People can listen to music on their iPods and iPads on their headphones. But what we do is offer a more personal and interactive approach.”

The station was given special congratulations in a letter from Prime Minister David Cameron .

He said: “As modern technology has evolved, you have used it to enable even more patients to be involved in programmes.

“Hospital radio in Oxford is still as relevant today as it was when it started way back in 1967.

“You have been a friend at the bedside for thousands, if not millions of patients throughout the years, and have always bought a smile to patients in their time of need.”

Jacquie Pearce-Gervis, of the patient group Patient Voice, said: “Radio Cherwell has been a friendly voice to so many patients over the years.

“I know it means an awful lot to people.

“Long may it continue.”



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