Here's to the next 50 years of Hospital Radio Ipswich!

HRI volunteers Tim Ward and Michelle Howlett distributing headphones and collecting request around the wards, pre-Covid

HRI volunteers Tim Ward and Michelle Howlett distributing headphones and collecting request around the wards, pre-Covid - Credit: HRI

Hospital Radio Ipswich is all set to celebrate its 50th birthday in style this weekend.

The station has played a unique role in the community over the years, and its team of volunteer presenters have played countless requests.

Suffolk's oldest radio station, HRI was launched on October 4, 1971, in a boiler room at the then Anglesea Road Hospital. It later moved to Heath Road - and is now in a state-of-the-art studio.

It will mark the anniversary with a marathon live weekend of broadcasting, which can be listened to via the internet, from 7pm on Friday, October 1 to midnight on Sunday, October 3.

John Alborough has been on the air waves since 1974

John Alborough has been on the air waves since 1974 - Credit: HRI

Some presenters have gone on to professional radio careers, including Stephen Foster and Patrick Eade, who will both return during the special weekend.

Norman Lloyd started on Hospital Radio before joining Radio Orwell, and is now back as an HRI presenter.  "All the old DJs are coming back, after going round the block a few times," he said. 

Hospital Radio Ipswich raising money for charity with a sponsored bed push in 1980

Hospital Radio Ipswich raising money for charity with a sponsored bed push in 1980 - Credit: Archant

He vividly recalls a fire at the studio at Heath Road in November 1980.

"There were about seven or eight of us there. Our big band man, Ginger Ray, was on the radio at the time," he said.

Presenter Norman Lloyd remembers a fire at Hospital Radio Ipswich in 1980

Presenter Norman Lloyd remembers a fire at Hospital Radio Ipswich in 1980 - Credit: Archant

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Norman noticed flames and realised they would all have to climb out of a window to escape.

"I went in the studio and told Ginger we would have to leave. He said, 'Shall I put on an LP?'," he recalled. 

The building housing the studio was destroyed, but people helped to clear the damage and post office workers took time off to get the station back on air. 

Playing patient requests is still the most important thing for the station's team, as it was in the 1970s and 80s.

John Alborough in his early days as a Hospital Radio Ipswich presenter 

John Alborough in his early days as a Hospital Radio Ipswich presenter - Credit: HRI

Chairman John Alborough has been volunteering with the station since 1974, and said:  "It is rare that we cannot play someone’s special piece of music memory. The patient feedback about this we receive is very rewarding."

Pre-pandemic, HRI was broadcasting 16 requests per night, from its store of 120,000-plus tracks.

Ipswich Hospital Radio funfair in 1982

Ipswich Hospital Radio funfair in 1982 - Credit: Archant

Programme manager Tim Ward recalls one special request from the past was Ode To Billie Joe by Bobbie Gentry.

"We were asked to play it every night at the same time for someone who was in a coma."

Presenters can't currently go around the wards to collect requests, due to Covid, but hope to do so again next year.

 Over the weekend, two special top 50 shows will reveal HRI's most popular tracks and artists.

Terry Wogan and his producer Paul Walters were interviewed by Tim Ward on HRI in 1996.

Terry Wogan and his producer Paul Walters were interviewed by Tim Ward on HRI in 1996. - Credit: HRI

The station is keeping these under wraps for now, but has played everything from Glenn Miller and Jim Reeves to Robbie Williams and Tina Turner.

Many local and national celebrities and sports people have given interviews to HRI over the years.

"Terry Wogan was one of the best - he was such a lovely man," Tim said.

"One of our early studios was opened by Percy Edwards, who was also great." 

Fun Day with Hospital Radio Ipswich in 1977

Fun Day with Hospital Radio Ipswich in 1977 - Credit: Archant

Another memorable guest was clean-up campaigner Mary Whitehouse, who lived in the Dedham area. 

"I picked her up and brought her to the studio, and invited questions from around the wards. She was a really good, interesting guest."

Tim also interviewed former prime minister Sir Edward Heath, who was "grumpy" at first but then became more talkative.

Hospital Radio Ipswich presenter Gemma G

Hospital Radio Ipswich presenter Gemma G - Credit: HRI

Many local figures, including politicians and Ipswich Town stars, have also appeared - and current Ipswich MP Tom Hunt will be taking part in the special weekend of shows. 

The chief executive of the ESNEFT hospital trust, Nick Hulme, has had his own live Christmas Day programme for the last six years.

The station has broadcast live from around the hospital, and from outside locations including the Cornhill, the Arts Theatre, The Wolsey Theatre, The Gaumont (Regent) and Woolworth's.

Terry Betts with grandson Sam Betts-Davies, when he joined him to commentate on Ipswich Town for Hospital Radio Ipswich

Terry Betts with grandson Sam Betts-Davies, when he joined him to commentate on Ipswich Town for Hospital Radio Ipswich - Credit: Hospital Radio Ipswich

And of course it has also broadcast from Portman Road, where its commentary team for Ipswich Town matches includes long-serving volunteer Terry Betts, now 80, who has broadcast for more than 40 years.

The station is a registered charity and has staged many fundraising events over the years. 

It is now looking for more volunteers to join its team. For more details and to listen or make requests, visit the HRI website.

Part of the Hospital Radio Ipswich music library - it also includes digital tracks

Part of the Hospital Radio Ipswich music library - it also includes digital tracks - Credit: HRI

The chief executive of the ESNEFT hospital trust, Nick Hulme, doing his own live Christmas Day programme

The chief executive of the ESNEFT hospital trust, Nick Hulme, doing his own live Christmas Day programme - Credit: HRI

Hospital Radio Ipswich's technical wizard, Nigel Taylor

Hospital Radio Ipswich's technical wizard, Nigel Taylor - Credit: HRI

One of the founder members of Hospital Radio Ipswich, Paul Brown, on air

One of the founder members of Hospital Radio Ipswich, Paul Brown, on air - Credit: HRI


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