Over thirty years ago, Raymond Watson noticed an advert for a volunteer role at a brand new radio station at the Royal Hospital for Sick Children in Yorkhill and liked the idea of being a DJ.
After hundreds of applicants were narrowed down, Raymond got the job.
Radio Lollipop began with hospital ward visits in October 1991, and the broadcast station was officially launched on April 4, 1992.
Today, Radio Lollipop continues to bring smiles to the children of the Royal Hospital for Children in Govan.
Raymond, who is president of Radio Lollipop and works as a supervisor at Slater’s menswear, still remembers the first song that was played: “Get Ready for This by 2 Unlimited”.
He added: “When I started we played vinyl records, 7 inch and 12 inch, but now everything is digital. Everything is on the computer, it’s incredible.
“We were also eight when I started, and before the pandemic we had 45 volunteers and we want to keep growing.”
Radio Lollipop was founded in the UK as a one-off voluntary service in the 1970s and has since spread across the world.
Raymond said: “He has developed arms and legs, there are stations in the UK, South Africa, USA, Australia and New Zealand. There are also three in Scotland: Glasgow, Edinburgh and there is a satellite station in Dundee.
“We are not like other radio stations; as we are a charity we have an arrangement where we can play a song 50 times without being charged.
There is another special reason why Radio Lollipop is so unique: its listeners.
The station prides itself on being a radio show for children and involving them as much as they want.
Raymond said: “It is child driven and child owned. They can come to the studio and ask to be in the show and say what music they want to play.
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Although every Radio Lollipop song on their system is kid-friendly, Raymond says they often get unexpected requests.
He said: “We’re being asked to play against Eminem and NWA and we can’t believe they know about it.
“The musical taste is so wild and varied – I’ve had requests for ACDC, The Beatles and Elvis from nine-year-olds!”
For children too sick to leave their bed, Radio Lollipop can come to them. The Lolly Trolley, a mobile radio with lights, bubbles and even sensory equipment for deaf and blind children, makes sure no one is left behind.
Raymond said, “The most important thing about Radio Lollipop is the theater visits. Volunteers walk around the rooms, interact with children, do crafts and play with sensory equipment.
“Sometimes they may not want to talk to anyone – they may have had a difficult day of treatment, and some have been in hospital for quite a long time.”
Raymond adds that while not every day will be good in a hospital, the radio crew can make sure they keep things as positive as possible.
He said, “We want kids to know that when they see us, it’s a good thing. We’re not here to give you medicine or anything nasty, we’re here to have fun.
“We want them to associate us with a happy moment.
“We never ask what’s wrong, but usually the kids tell you! If they’ve had a big operation, they love showing off their scar. The resilience of the children is incredible.
The Lolly Trolley and ward rounds are something everyone at the hospital has missed a lot over the past couple of years.
Volunteers have had to do radio broadcasts remotely due to covid and although they are currently back in the station, they are still not allowed in theatres.
Raymond salutes the dedication and hard work of his fellow volunteers during this difficult time, saying, “My leadership team is superb.
“Our Volunteer Coordinator, Catherine Caughie, whom I knew from Slaters and ‘recruited’ to Radio Lollipop 21 years ago, does phenomenal fundraising work.
“Some of them are students, some are retired, some work full time. But they all give up their free time to do that.
While the hospital is understandably wary of people going in and out of different wards, Raymond is excited about what the eventual return of ward visits will mean for Radio Lollipop.
He said, “We are waiting to return to service visits. The next big thing for us is a big recruiting drive and once we get the green light for service visits we will begin that process.
“We will also have inductions on infection control for new protocols.
“It’s a big miss. Children, parents and staff are all asking when we can return to the halls.
“It’s fine. It’s a few hours where you can be as dumb as you want, and no one will judge you.