Our Story

Radio Brockley is the dedicated hospital radio station for patients at the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital in Stanmore, Middlesex.

Our award-winning station is the longest-running hospital radio station in London and is run entirely by volunteers who visit patients on the wards and produce shows to provide entertainment and distraction during their stay at the RNOH.  We also produce shows which feature news and information on what is going on in and around the hospital.

1966 Radio Brockley (RB) was started by six volunteers who broke away from the ill-fated Radio Edgware and approached the authorities at the RNOH in Stanmore.

RB owes much to Mr Jack Upton, the hospital’s engineer, who helped the original team set up the station.

Tape recorders, a mixer, amplifiers and other equipment were built by and provided by members and the station was officially opened by Harrow East MP, Roy Roebuck, on Sunday 2nd October 1966.

The first ‘studio’ was just off the “slope”, near “Intensive Care”. The disused air-raid shelter’s leaky roof affected the sound-quality, as the crystal cartridges dissolved in the damp.  A second shelter half way along the slope became RB’s next home for a few years.

The first programme was a request show. Most of RB’s broadcasts took place on Sunday evenings and, although Bedside Bingo became popular, the request shows proved to be the station’s main strength, as they are today.  When RB was not on air, the BBC ‘Light Programme’ (later ‘Radio 2’) was re-broadcast via the hospital’s internal hard-wire system as the sustaining service for patients.

All this was before BBC Radio 1, 2, 3 or 4 had been launched, pirate radio ruled the pop airwaves, and commercial radio in the UK was still illegal and 7 years away!

1967 Roger Moffatt of BBC Radio 1 & 2 helped RB celebrate its 1st birthday.  It was also the first outside broadcast (OB) from the wards.

Using a Philips open-reel tape recorder, RB was present to commemorate the opening of the M1 extension from Watford to Edgware. Permission was given for RB members to ride in the opening ceremony’s cavalcade, so the proceedings could be recorded and later relayed for the patients to hear.

1968 RB starts Bedside Bingo, devised and presented by Ghislaine Painter, then a student nurse at RNOH.
1969 Peter Young presents his first ever radio show on RB from the air-raid shelter studio. He went on to achieve major success on Capital Radio, Smooth and Jazz FM, then would then return to RB 37 years later to broadcast once more for our 40th anniversary celebrations.
1971 RB moves into its current secure and sturdy brick-building that was previously used as a laboratory, although not all the space we now have was available for use.

The existing low-impedance bedside headset network is installed.

Current member David Rauch joins RB.

1973 The first “phone out” takes place.  The idea, suggested by Pauline Cobden way before the days of mobile phones, was that RB asked the patient if there is anyone in the world they would like to call from their bedside, at RB’s expense.  The call is then connected and then the whole conversation broadcast live on RB.  Over the years many phone outs took place, linking many people with their friends and family in faraway places.  As you can imagine, these led to many very special emotional moments, both for the patients, the person on the other end of the phone and our volunteers.
1974 Current member Ron Laver joins RB.
1976 On 5 June, a sponsored “bed push” takes place between the RNOH Stanmore and the RNOH at Great Portland Street (Bolsover Street) in central London, headquarters of the RNOH.   The distraction of several men dressed in nurses’ uniforms pushing a bed complete with “patient” attracts a lot of attention, such that when navigating Marble Arch a minor road traffic accident occurs between 2 vehicles.

Mike Shelton’s backstage interviews with the original cast of “Side By Side By Sondheim” was broadcast on several hospital radio stations via the now defunct Hospital Radio Information Link.

1977 RB is given the room which is now the Control Room.  Previously it had been used as a porters rest room.
Current member Keith Reeve joins RB.
1979 Local resident Pat Sharp joins RB, and promptly has his push bike stolen from outside the studio.  Pat went on to work on BBC Radio 1 as well as other national and regional stations in the UK.
Founder member Barry Cobden, assisted by Keith Reeve, records the official opening of the Graham Hill Unit by HRH Prince Charles, for later broadcast.  The speeches were made in the Patients Centre, with Barry and Keith huddled in the manager’s office with a tape recorder and other equipment.
1980 We compile our first Patients All-time Top 100 music chart, with “Way Down” by Elvis Presely at No 1. New charts were compiled in 1982, 1993 and 1996.
1981 On the Spring Bank Holiday Monday, Keith Reeve presents a marathon 6-hour show “Keith Springs Into Summer” and is joined by special guest Jeremy Beadle.  Beadle was certainly about as he presented his part of the show live from the wards, and ran the whole OB operation single handed.  Keith recalls that Jeremy was great on air and with the patients, but a bit of a handful!
1984 A major studio refit utilises the current Control Room for the first time, with a new mixer constructed by apprentices from the nearby Marconi Industries. Most of the building work was done by RB volunteers, a feat we would not be allowed to do with today’s H&S laws.
1985 The Annual Request Chart begins, an idea introduced by Steph Farley.

Nick Ashton joins Radio Brockley.  Nick’s technical skiils provide to be invaluable for the upcoming marathon broadcast, and he still help sus now when we need his in-depth knoweldge.

On 24th August we commence a week long sponsored broadcast marathon, where each presenter broadcasts for 24 hours non-stop, from the Patients Centre.  It raises £2500 and is a massive leap forward in our technological capabilities.  Michael Sundin (ex-Blue peter presenter) and Susan Tully (actress from BBC TV’s Grange Hill & Eastenders) paid us a visit.

In the autumn a Wheelchair Race is held on the old staff car park to raise further funds.

RB’s epic radio production of Charles Dickens “A Christmas Carol” is aired for the first time over the festive period.  The cast includes consultants, senior nursing staff and RB members, some in cameo roles. The producer is Steph Farley, and the editor Keith Reeve.

1986 The RNOH escapes closure (again), with “Keep Orthopaedics In Stanmore” car stickers common locally. However, the hospital loses the Accident & Emergency Unit, which is now the Jubilee Rehabilitation Unit.

Permanent underground cables are run from the studio to the Patients Centre to facilitate more OB’s and to provide a radio feed to the buildings PA system.

In August another week long sponsored broadcast marathon takes place in the Patients Centre and raises a further £2500 from sponsorship.  John Barnes, then still a Watford footballer, visited the event.

1987 A mini-marathon is held to celebrate RB’s 21st birthday. The event again takes place in the Patients Centre, but this time it’s only over a long weekend.

Fellow members Nick Ashton and Dave Bottcher build the electronics for a new mixer and re-cable the studio.  David Reeve (Keith’s father) manufactures the mixer casing and panels.  The mixer is still our primary broadcast mixer to this day, and has proved to be reliable and durable.

1988 We purchase our first CD player, a controversial decision at the time, but we found that the needle lasts a long time!

A Balloon Race is held to raise further funds.  Permission is sought from Air Traffic Control to release them from the main car park on a Sunday afternoon.  The event did not work too well on radio!

1989 Capital Radio’s “Help A London Child” charity funds the installation of an inductive loop system (low power AM transmission) on the Colonel Wood and Lina Williams Wards (then the children’s wards). Ex-member and broadcaster Pat Sharp officially launches the service.
1990 A sponsored attempt at the world record for visiting all the London Underground Stations in a single day is made by members Steve Atkins and Syd Jarvis. The funds are used to extend the inductive loop system to other wards.
1991 A third 7-day broadcast marathon is held in the Patients Centre to celebrate RB’s 25th anniversary.

Celebrations are held in the Mike Heaffey Centre, now part of the Aspire National Training Centre, with many past members returning for the event.

1992 In December, RB’s longest running weekday programme begins – “The Thursday Something Experience”, featuring Keith Reeve, Paul Downer, Alan Tomlinson, Anne James and Sue Weston.

The very first Christmas Raffle, organised by Daniel Gee, raises £198.

1994 Programmes are broadcast on RB 7-days a week for the first time.
1995 Our members begin helping with the car parking at Edgware School’s Sunday Car Boot Sales. This proves very lucrative for the station, with over £4000 raised over the next 6 years.
1996 A second sponsored Tube run takes place, this time by Alan Joyce, Paul Joyce, Joe Lemer, Mandy Segall.
1997 We purchase our first MiniDisc machine, and dispense with our tape cartridge players.

The inductive loop system is further extended to Ward 4.

1999 Member Josh Holzman makes our annual request chart Top 40 with his recording of Steps “Better Best Forgotten” under the alias “Brockley Tubby Steps”.

Tony McNulty, then the MP for Harrow, was interviewed by Daniel Gee for “The Missing Link” news programme.  Other interviewees in the year were Douglas Cameron (broadcaster) and Boy George (singer).

2001 The Christmas Raffle raises over £1000 for the first time, and is again organised by Daniel Gee.
2004 At the annual Hospital Radio Awards, Daniel Gee’s interview with then RNOH Chairman Donald Hoodless MBE wins the gold award for “Best Speech Package”.  The show was compiled by Suz Joyce.
2005 Jackie Liff gives birth to the “Brockley Grandbaby”, Benjamin, on 1st July.  Benjamin’s parents, Jackie and Mike, met each other at RB, as did Jackie’s parents Shirley and Les Sackwild.
2006 Natalie Cassidy from BBC TV’s “Eastenders” visits the studio, the wards and takes questions from patients on-air after Beside Bingo.

To celebrate our ruby (40th) anniversary a Reunion Party is held in a sports centre in Borehamwood.  Founder members join other members past and present for a wonderful evening of celebrations.

The Ruby Broadcast Weekend takes place around our birthday on 2nd October.  The shows include 40 celebrity voices, the return of many ex-members to present special shows, Alan Joyce and Lorraine Joyce interviewing all-time request chart favourite Cliff Richard, well known broadcaster Peter Young returning to the station where it all started for him in 1969 to present a special show, and a surprise visitor on the Saturday afternoon was local resident and singer Alison Moyet.

2007 RB purchases an “Autoplus” automation system from Westcountry Broadcast.  It’s part funded by the Edgware Rotary Club with the aim for RB to become a 24/7 station.
2008 David Rauch implements the online music catalogue.  As well as being available in the studio, it allows members to plan shows and check if we have a particular piece of music from anywhere there is an Internet connection.  The facility also records the requests we play, which assists in the compilation of our annual request chart.

During our annual anniversary weekend we launch our 24/7 service.  Although the music library on the system was very limited at this time, it has now grown to over 16,000 tracks, with 95% of our music sourced from the system.

Also during the anniversary weekend, Jeremy Levene and Marge Walker do a non-stop 24 hour sponsored show, and are joined for part of it by children’s TV personality Dave Benson-Phillips and HBA President June Snowdon.

2010 RB relays live the opening of the new Bolsover Street Outpatients Assessment Centre in Central London on 10th April by HRH Prince Andrew.  It was an ambitious project, masterminded by Keith Reeve who also provided the live commentary from Bolsover Street on the day.  The show’s anchor at Stanmore was Alan Joyce, supported by Tim McKenzie, Paul Downer, Graham Rich, Emma Nouriel and Lorraine Joyce.  Pre-recorded interviews were interlaced with live content and requests during the 3-hour special show.

In July, Alan Joyce launches “Brockley News” on Sunday evenings at 8pm, just before Bedside Bingo.  The programme is a weekly news digest of what’s going on in and around the hospital, and features many special guests, interesting information and interviews, including senior hospital staff.

2011 RB wins the Gold award for “Special Event” at the annual HBA Awards for coverage of the Bolsover Street opening in 2010.

Some of our lady members and wives take part in the Addidas Women’s 5k Run in Hyde Park to raise funds for RB.

2012 Emma Nouriel’s “Alpha Sessions” becomes the first RB show to be regularly aired on another radio station, Able Radio in South Wales.

In March RB pilots a webstream via the internal WiFi Spark pay-for-use service which has been recently installed around the hospital.

The RB WiFi Spark webstream is officially launched by HBA President June Snowdon during the anniversary weekend in late September.  RB is the first HR in the UK to broadcast via this method.

A supper quiz, organised by RB members and their families raises over £1100 for RB.

Keith Reeve is granted special permission by Buckingham Palace to be present for a surprise visit by HRH Princess Eugenie, the RNOH Patron, to the children’s wards for their Christmas party.

2013 Radio Brockley is nominated for 3 HBA Awards – Station of The Year, Special Event and Best Speech Package.  Several members attend the HBA Conference and Awards, held this year in Blackpool.

Although it has been ongoing for some time, the project to reduce our vinyl record library becomes very evident, with much space now appearing on the library shelves as much of our music is now sourced from our automation system.

2014 Radio Brockley is nominated for 4 HBA Awards, and won three of these – Station of The Year (bronze) and Best Speech Package (gold). Molly Townson won Best Newcomer (silver) and was a finalist for Best Female Presenter, the only person to be nominated for more than one award this year.  The HBA Conference and Awards were hosted in Bristol.

On June 8, for the first time, Radio Brockley broadcast live from the hospital’s annual Buttercup Walk fund raising day. Rather than using the long lengths of cables which we used to use for OBs, this time we used the hospital’s wifi network, a project which Keith Reeve and Adam Levy had been working on for some months. Although there were some technical issues, overall the broadcast was a huge success, and an important aspect of our broadcasting capability was restored.

On Christmas Eve we broadcast a 2-hour live show from the Duke of Gloucester Ward using our new outside broadcast wifi method for the second time.

2015 Radio Brockley is nominated for, and won, 4 HBA Awards, namely Station Promotion – The Thursday Experience, Special Event – Charity Bike Ride, Best Female Presenter – Marge Walker (all bronze), Station of the Year (silver).  This year the HBA Conference and Awards took place in Newcastle.

As last year, we broadcast live from the Buttercup Walk. This time, we were also able to speak to the walkers en route, using a 3G connection.

Radio Brockley was nominated for a Harrow Heroes Team Award. Sadly, we did not win an award. We were up against some very worthy competition among the 33 entries.

In March, we upgraded our automation system with new hardware, a current operating system and much larger hard drive capacity. We retained use of the Autoplus automation software, using a much updated version.

In July, we ceased transmitting on 999 kHz AM, via our low power inductive loop system, when the cable was severed. We had transmitted this way since 1989, but few people now used it. Our intranet webstream was the method of choice and offered superior audio quality.

RB stalwarts Ron Laver and Keith Reeve appeared on BBC1’s “The One Show”, proudly wearing their blue RB polo shirts.

In December we disposed of our entire library of over 500 CD singles, as all the tracks required were now present on the playout system.

2016 Radio Brockley is nominated for 4 HBA Awards and won in 3 categories –  Station Promotion for “Thursday Live” (bronze award), Best Specialist Music Programme for “The Country Music Show” with Ron Laver (nomination), Best Speech Package “RNOH Clinical Trials Day” with Ron Laver and Sue Weston (silver award) and Station Of The Year (gold award).  The latter was particularly pleasing as we had won the silver and bronze awards in the previous years. This was Radio Brockley’s 50th year and the award was a great tribute to the hard work the whole team, past and present, puts in.

Long serving member Keith Reeve also received the prestigious “John Whitney Award” for “outstanding contribution to Hospital Radio”.  Keith said “I’m absolutely stunned to win the John Whitney Award.  Hospital Radio has taught me so much, I’ve met many wonderful people and it’s a wonderful hobby”.

The 2016 HBA Awards ceremony and Conference was held locally at the Watford Hilton, with a Radio Brockley contingent of 13 present at the awards ceremony.  As a local station, and to support the conference activities, Radio Brockley members welcomed groups of conference delegates to the Radio Brockley studios on the Friday and Saturday.  This was very successful as a networking opportunity, and good feedback was received from those who visited us.

During the summer the old Presenter Studio, store cupboard and walkway was stripped out and an enlarged Presenter Studio built. Keith Reeve led the project with support from many of the station’s members, especially David Rauch and Jack Andrew, as well as an external builder. The room is now much more accessible for people with disabilities, has better lighting and electrical provision and provides scope to install equipment to create a second radio production studio which would greatly improve our flexibility. The new room has been dedicated to long standing member, Paul Downer, who passed away in December 2015 and left us a legacy in his will.

To celebrate our 50th anniversary, we presented a season of special shows every Sunday in September. Past presenters came back to revive old show formats, and we did several outside broadcasts on the wards, including Bedside Bingo. Over the weekend of 1st and 2nd October, the latter being our actual 50th anniversary, we had a whole weekend of special shows, with more guest presenters, outside broadcasts, the all time patient request charts, outside broadcasts and presentations to four members with a total of 105 years’ service – David Rauch (45 years), Alan Joyce (25 years), Martin Gold (25 years) and Emma Joyce (10 years).

The long awaited redevelopment of the hospital at our Stanmore site finally commences in August, with the old main car park dug up, and Patients Centre building being demolished to provide the space.

In early October, we moved our webstream to the RNOH-FREE-WIFI service, which is widely available around the hospital, and is much more easily accessible to our listeners than our old webstream. They can also use the Internet for other things whilst they listen to us.

2017 Radio Brockley is nominated in 4 categories for the HBA Awards, and won in three of them: Station of the Year (silver), Best Specialist Music Programme – Music Travels with Daniel Edward (bronze), Best Speech Package – The Story of Radio Brockley (gold), and Best Female Presenter – Judy De Hellner (nominated).  Several RB members make the journey to Bolton to be present at the HBA Conference and Awards.

In September we said goodbye to the last of our vinyl records.  In 2009 we had around 5,500 7″ singles, 50 12″ singles and approximately 800 LP’s.  We started to reduce the vinyl library once we were sure we either had a CD copy of the required tracks, or were able to source digital copies, for our automation system.  This was a long process, with much meticulous checking and cross referencing required.  Keith Reeve played the last library record on air, which was “Groovy Baby” by Microbe, as a request for long time patient Nick Kelly for his birthday on 24 September.