A very primitive radio service had been run for a short time by the Whipps Cross League of Friends in the early 1960s. There was no studio, just a microphone and amplifier – and probably no listeners.
The idea for a more permanent service came from the Walthamstow Lions Club in 1969 and an old, leaky garden shed was set up in the grounds and wired with home made equipment as a studio. With funding from the Lions, the station and six volunteers broadcast for just three hours on a Sunday evening.
In 1970 a second hut was grafted onto the first one to provide room for expansion but it was to be some years before the new facility was finally on air. A nightly local news programme was part of the new schedule, which by 1971 had grown firstly to three evenings and then to five evenings a week.
In July 1974 there was a damaging disagreement amongst Lions officials over how the station should be run and the founding member Ivor Gilbert left. However, the new studio was finally commissioned and the service got back on its feet again.
The hospital radio mobile disco was established as a fund raiser in 1976 and proved to be very successful. The radio service itself was extended by landline to Chingford Hospital and then to Wanstead Hospital (both now closed), and broadcasting hours rose to 40 hours a week. In 1980 a line was connected to Leyton Orient and regular football commentary started.
The station broke links with the Lions Club in November 1982 and became a registered charity in its own right and from this point was self-sufficient. Due to a shortage of money the service to Chingford was reluctantly closed as the hospital became a geriatric unit.
Annual ‘marathon’ drives around Britain were started to raise funds and the profile of the station. A plan to move to more solid studios in the basement of the hospital was agreed and a full-blown fundraising campaign was launched. The move eventually took place in July 1991 and two professionally built studios came online under D block in the main hospital. Just a few months later Wanstead Hospital closed and the station reverted to serving just one hospital.
Awards followed for the station and gradually technical facilities were improved further and programmes were expanded. In 1998 the first of two Restricted Service Licences were bought for a one month period of broadcasting on FM with adverts and a 24-hour schedule.
By the new millennium there were 50 members and two years later a computer playout system was purchased with a lottery grant to enable 24-hour broadcasting. Patientline arrived in 2004 with bedside tv and radio units and although there was talk of the entire hospital being demolished and rebuilt, it has not happened yet!
In 2019 the station marked its 50th anniversary, it has come a long way since 1969.