Sir Cliff Richard has thrown his weight behind a campaign to save Tunbridge Wells Hospital Radio which is in danger of closing because of a cash- flow crisis.
The charity has been running the service for 55 years and serves patients in the Tunbridge Wells Hospital at Pembury and Tonbridge Cottage Hospital.
It embarked on a 100-hour ‘Save Our Service’ continuous broadcast last week in order to bridge a £3,000 annual shortfall in funding.
The legendary singer, who is renowned for his charity work, recorded a personalised message which said:
“Hi there, this is Cliff Richard, and I’m asking you to please dig deep and help Hospital Radio Tunbridge Wells raise much needed funds to continue their vital broadcasting to local hospitals – something they have done since 1961, God bless them. Good luck to all concerned.”
Sir Cliff, 76, became involved with the radio station in 1973 when he was performing at the Assembly Hall theatre in Tunbridge Wells.
Volunteer Nigel Peacock and Derek Martin, of Christian Hospital Radio, made contact with him and he paid to have a line installed for his concert to be broadcast live on Hospital Radio Tunbridge wells (HRTW).
Chris Manser, who has been a volunteer for 25 years and is now Programme Controller and Chairman as well as DJ, said: “Cliff paid £19 to install the line, which was a lot of money in those days.
“It allowed the station to keep the line in place for a full year and many other concerts were broadcast – Kenny Ball, The Spinners, The Yetties. The local council paid for the next few years of line costs.
“The line remained in place for many years and during the 1990s we used it to relay coverage of the town’s annual carnival,” he added.
“However, when we moved out of the Kent & Sussex Hospital it was another facility which was lost.”
The Kent & Sussex Hospital was closed in 2011 – which is when the broadcaster’s financial problems began.
Instead of being provided with free accommodation on the hospital premises by the NHS Trust, it had to rent out a studio on Grosvenor Road and pay insurance and utility bills itself.
This meant that running costs soared from £5,000 a year to £12,000. While the difference has been alleviated by fundraising work and dipping into savings, the station has admitted it may have to close in September 2017.
The hospital radio service has broadcast concerts since then using a Skype connection, but the sound quality has been patchy so it has stopped doing so.
More than £3,000 was raised from HRTW’s SOS campaign, which ran from midday on December 28 to 4pm on Sunday, January 1.
The effort began with a welcome from the town crier, John Scholey, and Mayor David Neve visited the studio for a live interview.
The marathon also provided slots for up-and-coming local acts such as Olivia Rose, Ryan Weeks and Kathryn Anderson.
“When we started the broadcast we had no real idea how much we might raise, this figure is great news for us,” said Mr Manser.
“The additional publicity the event has created will also assist us when we hold some store collections in the next few months.
“It has also brought us some additional benefits including a former member who has decided to rejoin us. I know he will be a great asset to the team.”
If you would like to make a donation, please visit the charity’s link My Donate on its website, www.hrtw.org.uk.