Radio stations were starting to appear at most larger hospitals in the United Kingdom in the late 1970s, so when two mobile DJs (Barry Stone and one other) found themselves on the same ward in the then Epsom District Hospital, they formed the idea of starting a station in Epsom, having realised that there was nothing in place to help pass away the hours for the patients in the hospital at this time.
Epsom Hospital Radio was founded on the 12th August 1977, but it wasn't until April 1978 that enough funds had been raised to begin broadcasting. The facilities were very crude, the equipment extremely old fashioned and basic – but it was a start!
The studio was assembled in a second-hand garden shed, ten feet by six feet and sited on the roof of the hospital.
It was a hostile environment in the winter! The sight of presenters doing a programme dressed in heavy winter coats, hats, scarves and gloves was not uncommon. The equipment used consisted of a microphone, a cassette deck and two turntables that took almost three seconds to get up to a speed of 45rpm. Thus, making the timing of a record much more of a skill than it is in this age of an instant start CD, MiniDisc or a cart on a PC.
Thankfully, we didn't have to spend long in this accommodation, and we were soon able to relocate to a second site near the nurses’ home in November 1982, which, thanks to careful maintenance, was to serve faithfully as the home of the studio for nearly 18 years.
By the early 1980’s, Epsom Hospital Radio’s profile in the area had grown considerably. People of all ages would be seen wearing the stations tee-shirts or sweatshirts around the town and more requests than ever were being received. The record of 48 requests being made during on Friday evening late in the summer of 1982 is a station record that still stands to this day!
The station suffered a setback in the early 1980's, when thieves broke into the studio stealing vital broadcasting equipment, in fact they took everything except for the mixing desk, they took several records too.
Epsom District Hospital Radio (as it was known at the time) staged its own ‘Fun Day’ taking over the paddocks of Epsom Race Course on 21st July 1984. The actor Stratford Johns of TV’s ‘Z Cars’ and ‘Softly Softly Task Force’ fame, opened the ‘Fun Day.’ On a gloriously hot and sunny afternoon more than 2500 people came to join in the fun and watch the stations first road show, hosted by Nigel Ansell, Trevor Leonard and Martin Glazebrook, all of whom had been on site as early as 5:30am to build the staging, set-up and rehearse the three hour long programme of music, live acts, competitions and games.
The money raised from this and many other fundraising activities, was re-invested in the station purchasing new broadcast equipment to coincide with another re-location, this time to the car park near to A&E in August 1986.
When the name of the hospital was changed in 1991 to Epsom General Hospital, naturally the radio station had to change its name in keeping with the hospital community it served. Our identity changed too ‘Epsom Hospital Radio.’ In 1992, two presenters of the time, Kieran Cooke and Chris Spring, jointly hosted the station’s first 24-hour programme. This was just part of its key role in ‘National Hospital Radio Week.’
On Saturday 31st July 1999, Epsom Hospital Radio celebrated its 21st year in style with a special benefit performance of the stage show ‘Let's Have A Party’ at a packed Epsom Playhouse.
The show paid tribute to some of the biggest recording acts of all time and featured tributes to Buddy Holly, Roy Orbison and Epsom Radio’s most requested artist – Elvis Presley. The American singer and actor Clayton Mark, who played the lead role in the award-winning production of ‘Elvis – The Musical’ over 4500 times, superbly portrayed the role of Elvis.
The standing ovation for the cast after two encores confirmed the success of the show, which was co-devised, produced and directed by Trevor Leonard.
This night proved to be the biggest single fundraising event ever in the station’s history and helped to pay for a new broadcasting studio for Epsom Hospital Radio.
This new studio, constructed primarily by Epsom Hospital Radio’s Chris Cook and Dave Woolgar was opened in February 2001. As a result, programmes were now being produced using equipment of a professional standard for the first time.
This was essential for the next stage of the stations expansion – the new ‘Patientline’ (now Hospedia) broadcasting system that began in October 2002, whereby listeners can now enjoy hearing crystal clear stereo on new state of the art equipment.
The next big change to Epsom Hospital Radio came on the 26th February 2010. Preceding that date, when there were no presenters around to do a programme, the station switched to BBC Radio 2.
However, following several months preparation from Chris Spring, Ian Daggett, Martin Rothwell and Andy Tijou, a new computer system was set to live, which would provide programmes and the latest news headlines, even when all the presenters had gone home.
For the first time ever, Epsom Hospital Radio had become a 24-hour radio station.
March 2015 saw Epsom Radio's biggest change since 2001. For many years we had been based in sheds and portakabins, but after some persuasion, and planning, the hospital agreed to give Epsom Hospital Radio a suit of rooms in Rowan House.
After considerable planning and work by the stations chief engineer Andy Tijou, Epsom Hospital Radio moved from the protakabin to the newly constructed studios, with the old portakabins ceasing to broadcast from the 31st March 2015.
It was at about this time that Epsom Hospital Radio had a re-brand adopting its current logo and strapline "The Pulse of Epsom Hospital."
However, the studio's in Rowan House were short lived, as the trust chose to sell off the building, and so Epsom Hospital Radio moved again, this time to a small chalet building connected to the Headley Wing.
With free Wi-Fi provided by the trust, Epsom Hospital Radio were now offer a new means of listening in to patients, staff and visitors to Epsom General Hospital, anyone connected to the NHS-Wifi network could now listen to the station on their smartphone, tablet or laptop.
There are always on-going projects at Epsom Hospital Radio for future improvements, equipment gets old and needs replacing. If you would like to make a donation to Epsom Hospital Radio to help us achieve our aims, please visit our donations page.
To see how our studios look now, visit the Studios page.