Over thirty years ago, Raymond Watson noticed an advert for a voluntary role in a brand-new radio station in the Royal Hospital for Sick Children in Yorkhill and liked the idea of being a DJ.

After hundreds of applicants were whittled down, Raymond got the gig.

Radio Lollipop began with visits to the hospital wards in October 1991, and the broadcasting station was officially launched on April 4, 1992.

Today, Radio Lollipop is still putting a smile on children’s faces at the Royal Hospital for Children in Govan.

Raymond, who is chairperson at 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.”

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He added: “When I started, we played vinyl, 7-inch and 12-inch records, but now everything is digital. Everything is on a computer, it’s amazing.

“There were also eight of us when I started, and pre-pandemic we had 45 volunteers and we want to keep growing.”

Radio Lollipop was founded in the UK as a one-off volunteer service in the 1970s and has since expanded across the world

Raymond said: “It’s grown arms and legs, there’s stations in the UK, South Africa, the US, Australia, and New Zealand. There’s also three in Scotland: Glasgow, Edinburgh, and there’s a satellite station in Dundee.

“We’re not like other radio stations; as we’re a charity, we have an arrangement where we can play a song 50 times and not get billed.”

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There is another special reason that 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’s driven by children, and it belongs to children. They can come along to the studio and ask to be in the show and say what music they want to play.”

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While every song Radio Lollipop has on their system is child friendly, Raymond says they often get some unexpected requests.

He said: “We get asked to play Eminem and NWA and we can’t believe they know it.

“The musical taste is so wild and varied – I’ve had requests for ACDC, the Beatles and Elvis from nine-year-olds!”

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For the children who are too poorly to leave their beds, Radio Lollipop can come to them. The Lolly Trolley, a mobile radio station with lights, bubbles, and even sensory equipment for deaf and blind children, makes sure no one is left out.

Raymond said: “The most important thing about Radio Lollipop is the ward visits. The volunteers go round the wards, interacting with the children, doing arts and crafts and playing with sensory equipment.

“Sometimes they might not want to talk to anyone – they might have had a rough day of treatment, and some are in hospital for quite a long time.”

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Raymond adds that while not every day will be a good one in a hospital, the radio team can ensure that they keep things as positive as they can.

He said: “We want the children to know that when they see us, it’s a good thing. We’re not here to give you medicine or for anything unpleasant, we’re here to have fun.

“We want them to associate us with a happy time.

“We never ask what’s wrong, but usually the children tell you! If they’ve had a big operation, they love to show their scar. The resilience in children is unbelievable.”

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The Lolly Trolley and ward visits is something everyone at the hospital has missed greatly over the last two years.

Volunteers had to do remote radio shows due to covid and while they are currently back in the station, they are still not allowed in the wards.

Raymond commends the dedication and hard work of his fellow volunteers during this difficult time, saying: “My management team are superb.

“Our volunteer coordinator Catherine Caughie, who I knew from Slaters and ‘recruited’ over to Radio Lollipop 21 years ago, does a phenomenal amount of fundraising work.  

“Some of them are students, some are retired, some work full time. But they’re all giving up their free time to do this.”

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Despite the hospital naturally being cautious of people moving in and out of different wards, Raymond is excited for what the eventual return of ward visits will mean for Radio Lollipop.

He said: “We’re waiting on returning to ward visits. The next big thing for us is a big recruitment drive and once we’ve got the go ahead on ward visits, we’ll start that process.

“We will also have inductions on infection control for new protocols.

“It’s a big miss. The children, the parents and staff all ask us when we can come back in the wards.

“It’s great. It’s a couple of hours where you can be as daft as you like, and no-one will judge you.”