Presenter and chairman, Mike Jones, has marked 40 years on-air at Whipps Cross. He is the longest-serving member to have broadcast almost every week throughout the four decades. He cannot quite match Tony Blackburn’s 50 years behind a microphone, but then Mike is a volunteer.
When he started in 1974 there were no CDs or iPods, only scratched 45s, crackly albums and wobbly cassettes. It was a different world, he remembers: “We had very basic facilities which were not very reliable. There was just one small on-air studio within a wooden hut (the station was building a second studio) but the studio we had was only just large enough for two people – as long as you didn’t shut the door. It was not uncommon for the knobs on the mixing desk faders to fall off, and while a record was playing the presenter would be scrabbling on the floor to find the missing knob, taking care not to bang their head on the desk and jog the record.”
Mike recalls that in those early days ward visiting was a rarity: “One of the things I’m most proud of is how we’ve put patient visiting and requests at the heart of our programmes.” He was responsible for accidentally starting the ‘Tuck You in Service’ where patients requested a hunky presenter (or often a not-so-hunky presenter) to go to the ward and tuck them in with a requested record. It was simply another mechanism for making contact with patients. “The station also kept a tin with change in it for the pay-phone trolleys which we took to patients so they could be put on air. No mobiles then!”
At one point Mike was presenting three programmes a week but has now scaled back to a more reasonable Wednesday evening with ward visiting thrown-in on Sundays. He jokes: “I have no idea how many requests I’ve played over all those years but it must run into many thousands. And to be honest I shan’t be downhearted if I don’t have to play My Way too many more times.”
Summing up why he is still involved Mike is quite clear: “It’s still very rewarding to talk to a patient and hear them brighten-up and chuckle as we share a few minutes on the air and share a favourite song. That’s really what it’s all about.”