THIS week Ridgeway Radio celebrates 50 years of broadcasting in the Dorchester area.

The hospital radio station has been entertaining and providing comfort for hospital patients for half a century.

On Thursday, precisely 50 years after it started broadcasting, there will be two commemorative live programmes, one of which will be broadcast 50 years to the day when the station first hit the airwaves.

There will also be a celebration event in the Damers restaurant of Dorset County Hospital in Dorchester for invited guests and medical staff.

The Dorset Evening Echo featured the opening of the hospital radio service in its pages on September 30 1966.

The studio was opened by the Lord Lieutenant of Dorset J.W. Weld. It was originally set up to broadcast one night a week and special thanks was given to Chief Constable Arthur Hambleton, who backed the station.

The radio station has had different incarnations and homes over the years.

It was first known as the Dorchester Hospital Broadcasting Society, then West Dorset Hospital Radio and as Ridgeway Radio from 1997 to present day.

Chairman Andy Worth has been with the radio station since 1966, when he volunteered as a 16-year-old because he loved playing music.

He says he has maintained 50 years of volunteering for two reasons.

"I suppose from an old man's point of view you have a limited chance to make a difference but from a young man's point of view some of it is selfish, because you like doing it."

The radio station has developed and overcome many hurdles over the years Andy says, including being based in 'attic room' studios in South Walks, Dorchester, and Somerleigh House in Prince's Street.

After being based in many locations, the radio station now calls a studio in Dorset County Hospital home.

The station, which has around 40 volunteers, prides itself upon improving the experience of patients of hospital and 'bringing the outside world in', Andy said.

"While a commercial radio station gets satisfaction from their listening figures improving and is about talking to many people, hospital radio station is about talking to one person.

"One of the most important things we do is go around talking the patients and asking them what songs they'd like us to play.

"It's about talking to people, many of them don't get many visitors.

"Any we try and bring the outside world into them, we go out and record things, we do documentaries and let people know what's going on.

"We could go and record a dawn chorus and play it to patients at 5am when they aren't able to sleep - it has a massive effect."

Peter Foster, vice chairman of the station, said said he became involved in the station because he has always been interested in radio broadcasting.

It soon became a family affair, with his wife Heather also getting involved and even his mother.

"I enjoyed the speaking, enjoyed the presenting, enjoyed all aspects if it,

"We were always pleased knowing we were helping just one or two people. With me and Heather it became part of us. It became more of an interest and part of our life."

The future is looking bright for the station, Peter added, with the station looking to broadcast over the internet. And with more people being cared for at home, station volunteers are hoping to be able to go and assist people in their homes and put together entertainment packages for them.


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