Founded in February 1978 Radio Lollipop was formed to support the largest children’s hospital in Europe, Queen Mary’s Hospital for Children in Carshalton.
This unique children’s hospital had over 460 beds for sick and handicapped children. These children wer housed in 36 individual wards that were spread over a 92 acre site. Radio Lollipop was created to help ‘link’ the community of children and staff together through radio.
The name Radio Lollipop was chosen by the first group of volunteers and on the 1st of April 1978 was registered with the both the charity commissioners and with Companies House.
The cost of building the first Radio Lollipop was just over £5,000. The Radio Lollipop volunteers raised that money in just over a year. During that time the studio was constructed in the administration block on the hospital site. The whole hospital site was cabled and all the wards had loudspeakers installed – many of them between the beds so the children could hear the station. (Headphones were not used).
The first broadcast took place with the launch of the station at midday on Saturday 5 May 1979. Capital Radio in London, handed over to the new station and wished them good luck, live – on air, as the launch took place and McFadden and Whitehead’s, “ain’t no stoppin’ us now” was played as the first song at 12.00 that day.
The service at Queen Mary’s Hospital for Children ceased when the hospital closed in 1993.
The expansion of Radio Lollipop began in 1980 following a feature about Radio Lollipop on the children’s television programme ‘Blue Peter’ when the Birmingham Children’s Hospital asked if they could have a Radio Lollipop for their children. The appeal to get this second service underway was launched on the November 1980, live on daytime TV with BBC Pebble Mill at One with Radio One DJ’s Peter Powell and Tony Blackburn. The service started 6 months later on the 2 May 1981. During this time, a funding request to the “International Year of the Child” resulted in money being made available for a Lollipop Roadshow and mobile studio to help raise funds and publicise the work of the charity as well to expand the service to other hospitals. A new national committee was formed and a part time co-ordinator was appointed. An office was opened at Queen Mary’s Hospital for Children to help co-ordinate the work and the expansion of the organisation. At this time the service provided to the children had been defined as a play and entertainment service.
1985 the first Radio Lollipop outside the UK was started in Perth, Western Australia, at the Princess Margaret Hospital for Children.
In 1993/4 Radio Lollipop was appointed as the Official Charity of the Whitbread Round the World Yacht Race. This unique sailing challenge started in Southampton and visited Uruguay, Miami, West Australia and New Zealand. As a result of the race, Radio Lollipop was able to start new services and help to expand existing services in those places, the exception being Uruguay where donations of toys and play equipment were made to the Pereira Rossell Children’s Hospital in Montevideo, Uruguay.
A report in 1994 stated: “Radio Lollipop’s trained volunteers provide play therapy and radio entertainment for children in hospital. Together with their own special brand of care, comfort and laughter this unique service is delivered on a one to one basis that will help to meet the needs of over quarter of a millon children, in eighteen children’s hospitals in five countries this year. Participation is the key for Lollipop and its volunteers”.
In 1995 Radio Lollipop’s central office was located at Orchard Hill, Carshalton, this was closed in 1993 when the hospital closed and administration of the charity was then spread between the existing Lollipop hospitals.
The name Radio Lollipop and the Radio Lollipop logo were registered as trade-marks and service marks in Australia, New Zealand, Uruguay, UK, Canada, Europe, South Africa and the USA.
In 2017 Radio Lollipop was operating in 5 countries: Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, UK and USA. “We also operate 13 satellite stations in a number of suburban/regional hospitals that have their service relayed to them from a Radio Lollipop studio located in another hospital”.
The thirteen satellite stations are located in: Scotland (1) at Dundee. Australia (8) at Kelmscott, Rockingham, Joondalup, Midland, Fiona Stanley, Murdoch, Kalgoorlie and Logan. New Zealand (4) at Waitakere, Middlemore, Manukau and Whangarei
Between February 1978 and January 2017 a total of 40 services in 5 countries have existed. In January 2017 a total of 33 Radio Lollipop services were operating. 10 in UK, 14 in Australia, 6 in New Zealand, 1 in South Africa and 2 in USA.
As at January 2017 only 7 services have been closed since the first one was opened in 1978: Queen Mary’s Hospital for Children, Carshalton, Surrey, Frenchay Children’s Hospital, Bristol, Alder Hey Children’s Hospital, Liverpool, Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital, Fleming Memorial Hospital for Sick Children, Newcastle (all UK), the Gold Coast Hospital Australia and at the Children’s Hospital, Orange County, USA. All closures have been due to hospital moves to new premises.
The dates of the first services in each country are: UK – Carshalton (5 May 1979). Australia – Perth (3 November 1985). New Zealand – Grafton: (15 April 1992), South Africa (2 December 2016), Uruguay – Montevideo: (October 1993) and USA – Miami (August 1996).
1991 Radio Lollipop Perth, Advance Australia Award for Outstanding contribution to child care and education
1992 Hedley Finn, Chair, Radio Lollipop – MBE for services to Charity
1998 HAVE award for Volunteer Excellence – Radio Lollipop Miami, Presented in Washington
2000 HAVE award for Volunteer Excellence – Radio Lollipop Texas, Presented in Washington
2003 Gift of Joy, Humanitarian Award, Miami, to Hedley Finn
2004 George Williamson – Highly Commended in the BT Chairman’s awards for innovation
2013 Sandra Ursino, Radio Lollipop Trustee, Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM)
2015 Deirdre Neville-White, Lollipop Chair, Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for service to children’s Health (MNZM)