Our History

Stoke Mandeville Hospital Radio went on air and launched at 7.30 pm on Monday December the 4th 1978 after more than a year of planning and fundraising by a team of dedicated people who thought that Stoke Mandeville Hospital should have it's very own radio station.

The first voice to be heard was presenter Geoff Tyrell who started the station off with an old TV jingle called 'Let us be the one you turn to' which was followed by the Les Reed instrumental "Man of Mystery". The very first request to be played was for 'Colin' on the burns ward who asked us to play 'Sir Duke' by Stevie Wonder. The request show was presented by the programme controller at the time Dave Ralph.

One of the first fundraising events was a 100 hour sponsored drumming marathon and there were donations from the likes of Aylesbury round table, The Harding trust, Carreras Rothmans Ltd and pupils from Aylesbury high school.

At this time we were only broadcasting for three evenings a week. During the next few years our hours of broadcasting (and our record library) increased as we continued entertaining the patients and raising more funds. Other big fund raising events at the time included a 50 hour sponsored programme in 1980 by Martin Kinch and Shane Carlson with special guests including Labi Siffre, Roy Wood, and Tim Rice

After a lot of hard work by our then Chairman Chris Long, in 1997 Stoke Mandeville Hospital Radio was one of two Hospital Radio stations to be awarded a temporary experimental AM licence by Ofcom (The other station was Hospital Radio Tyneside in Newcastle) and as a result of the success of that experiment we and many other Hospital radio stations are now able to broadcast permanently on AM (or as some people still like to call it, Medium Wave).

At 2pm on Monday 26th January 1998 DJ Simon Bates came to the station to help us launch our new AM service on 1575 kHz with an opening speech and a visit to some of the wards. He told TV and newspaper reporters "The radio station is part of the community and this is long overdue". On the same day we also started broadcasting 24 hours a day with a mixture of live programmes and an automated sustaining service using the Myriad PC playout software.

In 2006 the Hospital trust told us that we would soon have to move out of the building that our studio was based in, this was due to the re development of the hospital which meant that our studios (along with other buildings in the old part of the Hospital) would have to be demolished.

We managed to continue live broadcasting until March 18th 2007, As we started to dismantle the studios, and with the bulldozers getting nearer every day, our computer carried on broadcasting non stop music until we had to pull the plug at 10pm on Thursday the 22nd of March 2007.

After just over 28 years of broadcasting from that building it was time to move on.

Our members then had the mammoth task of moving equipment, records and CDs to another part of the hospital where our engineer had the task of building us a temporary new studio in a disused ward (4X), Aerials and transmitters had to be erected and  miles of cables had to be re laid.

On Tuesday the 12th June 2007 the computers were started back up and the sound of Stoke Mandeville Hospital Radio was once again broadcasting to the hospital complex. It was at 6pm on Monday the 18th June that Martin Kinch presented Solid Gold, the first live programme from the new ( temporary) studio, this was followed by the first request show at 8pm presented by Matthew Nash.

In September 2008 we were very pleased to find out from the Hospital trust that in 2009, we will be moving to an exciting new onsite location. The new premises provide the vital extra space required to enable us to upgrade our facilities to include a second live studio,

At 9am on Friday May 28th 2010 automated test broadcasts started from the new studio, and on the 4th of October live programmes started again with Martin Kinch at 6pm, followed by the first request show from the new studios presented by Jack Andrews,

On Tuesday the 23rd of November 2010, Ken Bruce from BBC Radio 2 officially opened our new studios, Ken spoke about how he started in Hospital Radio and how much the patients & staff appreciate the work that the voluntary members do, Also present were Hospital staff and guests from the many organisations and trust funds that have supported our fund raising. Steve Andrews and Dez Kay presented a special request show which included interviews with Ken and many of the evenings guests.

On the 11th July 2011 Stoke Mandeville Hospital Radio started broadcasting on line,

Station engineer Simon Daniels said "With Wi-Fi and internet access becoming widely available now in hospital we want to ensure we give the patients every possible means to listen to SMHR"

In March 2017 we updated our 24 hour playout system to Myriad v4, this involved a lot of time and effort by Matthew Horton, Mike Oxlade, and Simon Daniels.

In October 2017, with thanks to a Raspberry Pi (mini computer), a lot of hard work and generous charitable funding patients can now listen to SMHR at every bedside in the National Spinal Injuries Centre (NSIC) A huge thank you to SMHR member Matthew Horton for all his development work and coding of the Rapsberry Pi.

During 2018 Stoke Mandeville Hospital Radio were sorry to hear that Freda Roberts, who had been our President since we started in 1978 would have to stand down due to moving away from the area, we would like to thank Freda for being our President and for all that she has done for us during her 40 years with us.

Later in the year we were pleased to announce and welcome Ken Bruce  as our Patron. Ken is a great ambassador for Hospital Radio and indeed started his broadcasting career at the hospital broadcasting service in Glasgow.

On the 13th of May 2019, we were pleased to confirm that from Friday 24th May at 2pm we would  start broadcasting on 87.7 FM and this will be our new permanent home Our service on 1575 AM will close down on the same day and while we are sad to say goodbye to AM our new crystal clear FM service will sound even better.

The UK was put into lockdown on 23 March 2020 in an unprecedented step to attempt to limit the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, all live shows from our studios were temporarily suspended, many of our members started to record shows from home.

On Wednesday 1st September 2021 SMHR moved to a brand new frequency of 101.8 FM. We were taking part in a 12 month trial with Ofcom to see if it is possible to give hospital radio stations a bit more transmitter power to help us cover some of the hard to reach parts of the hospital site, and after taking part in that trial, in 2022 we found out that we would be staying on the new frequency of 101.8 FM.

In June 2023 Ken Bruce spent the afternoon at our studios recording a special programme about hospital radio that went out on Greatest Hits Radio and SMHR on the 5th July - the NHS 75th Birthday. Peter Dickson, voice of The X Factor, came along as well to take part. Ken spoke to Martin Kinch who has been at our station for 44+ years. Bauer Media also made the special programme " Back to the Start " available to all other hospital radio stations in the UK.