Hospital radio station marks four decades on air at birthday bash

A radio station which has broadcast to hundreds of thousands of patients at a Bradford hospital has celebrated its 40th birthday.

Presenters past and present joined volunteers and special guests at a Valentine’s Day party to look back at four decades of St Luke’s Sound.

The station was set up in the hospital administration block of St Luke’s Hospital in Little Horton Lane on Valentine’s Day, 1979. The first programme featured show tunes and love songs.

The presenter was founding member Philip Barfield, now the station’s Honorary Life President. Philip was awarded an MBE for his services to hospital radio in 2007 and returned to the radio station on its birthday for a live interview, during which he recalled his years in front of the mic.

Philip, of Thornton Road, Bradford, said: “We were all very nervous when we started out as it was the first time we had broadcast live. I dedicated the first piece of music – ‘Whistle A Happy Tune’ – to all the new presenters as our knees were knocking and our hands shaking.

“St Luke’s Sound was originally called Radio 573 after the telephone extension number that patients could ring for a request or dedication, and records were loaned to the station by Woods Music Shop in the city centre and then returned after the show.

“It’s amazing to think we have reached our fortieth anniversary and it is a huge testament to the dedication of our hospital radio volunteers who turn up day in, day out to serve our patients and help brighten their day.”

Forty years ago the presenters broadcast from a very different radio station.

Chairman Jack Worsnop, 84, of Thornton Road, who joined the station 18 years ago, added: “In the early days, the broadcaster spoke into a microphone while another volunteer, at the other side of the mixing desk, put the records on the turntable and cued up the music.

“Then we went from CDs to tracks on computers and in September 2018 St Luke’s Sound went live, streaming our hospital radio station online. This means we can now be heard across the world, so relatives and friends of patients living in Bradford or abroad can send in requests and greetings to their loved ones while they are on our wards.

Moved with the times

“We are proud to say that we have always moved with the times over the years and intend to continue doing so in the future.”

Volunteers estimate the station has broadcast for more than 55,000 hours over four decades. A total of 15 presenters currently broadcast for 45 hours every week.

To celebrate their 30th anniversary the station hosted a ‘radiothon’, broadcasting non-stop for two days.

St Luke’s Sound can be found at where a new website is currently under construction and there are plans to launch on Facebook soon.

Honorary Secretary, David Rathmell, who has been at the station for nine years, added: “We have received lots of well wishes and support from hospital staff and patients and we are now looking forward to the future with excitement.”

Past presenters have gone on to work in commercial radio stations, including Wes Stakes, drive-time presenter on Trax FM, and Chris Johnson, who now presents the Breakfast Show on Pulse 2 across West Yorkshire from 6 to 10am every weekday.

Chris said: I was a member of St Luke’s Sound hospital radio from 1985 to 2005 when I acted as record librarian, presenter and chairperson.

“I was chairperson when we moved to the new studios and am eternally grateful for the experience which hospital radio gave me. I met some fantastic, hardworking, lovely people there.”

Bradford panto star and comedian Billy Pearce recorded an interview for the station which was played at intervals throughout the day.

As the station is self-funding, it is currently looking for local businesses to provide on-air sponsorship so it can continue to grow and flourish. Any companies interested in advertising should email for further details.

If you are interested in learning more about volunteering at St Luke’s Hospital or Bradford Royal Infirmary, please contact Voluntary Services at or call (01274) 364309.