Tucked away inside Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) lies a former Jubilee Line tube carriage. Inside it is a converted studio, and it is from here that Radio Lollipop is broadcast to hundreds of children in the hospital every hour.
Radio Lollipop has been running at GOSH since 2004 and is staffed entirely by volunteers. The organisation believes in the healing power of play, providing smiles and laughter to children at a time when they need it most.
On the wards
Radio Lollipop doesn’t just work its magic over the airwaves; it also has a physical presence around the hospital. Each week a team of volunteers go round a set list of wards armed with board games, crayons, paper, and lots and lots of stickers.
“Basically what we do is play games, tell stories or make a big mess everywhere”, says presenter and comedian Iain Lee. “What better way to spend your time than playing games with kids for two hours?”
Wards can contact the station and request a visit for a particular patient who may need cheering up.
Georgina Atsiaris has been a Radio Lollipop volunteer for over three years. She says: “What’s great is when you have a patient that’s not too sure at first, but then by the end of it they’re having so much fun it’s difficult to leave them.”
There’s no denying the smiles they bring to children’s faces, which all help to make their stay more fun and less frightening.
On the airwaves
Patients can listen to the radio through their television. The service is self-sustaining and runs 24/7. There are three live shows a week and during these, patients can call in and request their favourite songs.
The live shows are usually themed, which varies depending on the presenter. “I did a circus theme once,” says Christina Michalos, Chair of Radio Lollipop London.
“We pretended to set up a tightrope and had a competition running where children had to guess how far the person on the tightrope would walk before they fell off.”
Behind the scenes
There are over 150 volunteers working for Radio Lollipop London, which covers GOSH and Evelina Children’s Hospital.
“The calibre of volunteers is very high and also very varied,” says Christina. “I’m a barrister, so for me this is a completely different world.”