Burnley Hospital Radio has closed

DYNAMIC DUO: Hospital Radio's last studio manager Bryan Sisson (left) and veteran engineer Colin Wakefield
DYNAMIC DUO: Hospital Radio's last studio manager Bryan Sisson (left) and veteran engineer Colin Wakefield

A HOSPITAL radio station that entertained thousands of patients for more than 60 years has turned off its microphones for the last time.

But it was with a heavy heart station manager Bryan Sisson and stalwart engineer Colin Wakefield agreed to pull the plug on Burnley Hospital Radio.

The station’s studios, only five years old, have been given to the Royal Blackburn Hospital because there are hardly any patients in Burnley to listen to broadcasts.

“I feel gutted that it’s happened on my watch,” said Mr Sisson. Even so, the closure did not go off without a coup for the dedicated Burnley crew, who have a long-standing commitment to Clarets’ fans.

Burnley supporters being treated at hospital in Blackburn still will be able to hear live coverage of home games from commentator Chris Farnworth and analysis from Teddy Butterworth, the station’s sports team. Mr Wakefield has been with the station since its earliest days through his radio engineering background with the Rank Organisation, and has set up every studio.

It began in 1951 after solicitor Colin Sanderson and a fellow Round Table member, Mr Nicholson, who worked for Amalgamated Relays, saw a similar operation in Birmingham when following the Clarets.

At its height, the station was listened to by patients in the Victoria, the General, the Marsden in Burnley, Reedyford, at Nelson, and Hartley Hospital, in Colne. 32 volunteer presenters and request collectors kept the wheels in motion.

Football was a mainstay on Saturday afternoons, with home and away games covered. There was a daily religious programme and outside broadcasts. Amateur operatic shows from the stage of the Palace Theatre, in St James’s Street, led the radio station to try its hand at television with two productions streamed from the Empire theatre.

The Round Table financed the station until the 1970s when volunteer supporters took over the reins. Their fund-raising brought about one of the most memorable times in the station’s history, when, in 2001, presenter Charlie Tuna broke a world record by broadcasting non-stop for more than 73 hours.

The station also helped 2BR gain its RSL licence by letting station owner David Blaxhall learn the ropes, and it gave presenters, including Sally Jacks, of Bid TV, their first taste of life behind the microphone.

“That’s quite a legacy,” said Mr Sisson. “We want to thank everybody who has worked with us over the years for the trust and help they have given. Without them we would not have been there.”