Roy Stannard and Worthing’s Radio Heritage 1985-2018
The Time Machine has a tendency to veer towards the counterculture (and it always will!). However, music touches lives in many more ways than punk, psychedelia, rave and all that good stuff, and often on a much wider scale. This applies to Worthing as much as anywhere, and a man who knows all about it is 61 year old Roy Stannard, much of whose career has been motivated by a belief in the power of local, community and hospital radio.
“My career grew out of a love of music,” Roy explains, “out of introducing music to people, talking to musicians, getting people involved. Music can be tremendously therapeutic for people in hospital, people living on their own, people travelling, people in difficult jobs working long anti-social hours. Radio is a companion and a mainstay.”
Over the course of four decades, Roy’s biography is interwoven with radio stations that have become part of community life, dating back to his days as a student at the University of Sussex, where he had a show on Radio Falmer, the campus station, followed by a stint on an early ‘80s Brighton pirate station. As a young man with an interest in “independent music, acid jazz, elements of soul, nothing particularly mainstream”, he became a teacher at Tarring Boys School (now Worthing High) where he developed a coterie of like-minded souls interested in music.
Hearing that Chris Burns, then Chairman of the Worthing Hospital Radio Association, was looking to set up a new service, he and a group of people that included technically-minded friend David Cunningham volunteered. They launched on the 11th April 1986, initially working from “a broom cupboard off the A27 at Swandean Hospital”. The response was great and, due to Cunningham’s skill at microwave signal linking, they grew to an eight hospital network as Worthing Hospital Radio, then Coastway Hospital Radio, now Seaside Hospital Radio. But surely the demands of hospital radio conflicted with Roy’s own musical tastes?
“On hospital radio you can’t be self-indulgent by playing only stuff you like,” he explains, “I quickly learned to research and understand all sorts of different types of music. We were playing Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, the staples our mature audience loved.”
Along with David Cunningham, Roy branched out into commercial radio with month-long projects based around local festivals, starting with the 1993 Adur Festival. They took over premises in North Street, Brighton, an old newspaper distribution warehouse lent by The Argus, which they turned into a two floor hub for their operations. The presenter team gathered in Brighton was an incubator for radio talent, and reached its apogee with the 1996 Radio Festival FM project (for that year’s Brighton Festival). However, when Roy’s group bid for a more permanent licence, they missed out. Older but wiser, Roy returned to the advertising sector as a director for the next five years.
However, there’s a happy footnote to Roy’s 1990s Brighton adventure. Roy’s group, New Wave Broadcasting, sublet the Brighton studios to Burgess Hill Radio, who also tried and failed to win the Brighton licence (the successful bid eventually came from an outfit called Surf, led by Daniel Nathan and Eugene Perera, which, in turn, became Juice FM). Roy and David Cunningham eventually headed up a bid to win a licence for Worthing and in 2002 the Radio Authority agreed there was a demand. Five bids went in but the one Roy was part of won and on 5th May 2003 Splash FM was launched from offices in the Guildbourne Centre in the middle of town.
Then in 2008 the two groups who’d originally bid for the Brighton licence joined forces, when Media Sound Holdings led by Allan Moulds (who had won the Mid-Sussex licence as Bright FM in 2001) merged with Splash FM. Later this marriage grew to include the Sovereign and Arrow stations in East Sussex and Isle of Wight Radio. The Group’s Sussex-based radio activities are now known by the handle More Radio.
“I was MD of Splash FM from 2003 to 2006,” Roy remembers fondly, “which led me to meet a number of musicians, including Keith Emerson of Emerson, Lake & Palmer, who was a good friend and a great supporter, and Leo Sayer, who was from Shoreham originally. In fact, we hired Leo Sayer to play Steyne Gardens in 2004. It was sponsored to enable free entry and still has the record for Worthing’s largest ever outdoor concert audience. We stopped counting at 12,000. The annual More Radio Garden Party every July grew out of that.”
Skip to the present and the Guildbourne Centre office, including its Operations Director, Roy’s old pal David Cunningham, still plays a key role. Roy is back with More Radio too, after 11 years away, and is looking forward to the launch of their DAB digital service across Sussex in February next year.
Meanwhile his programme The Whole Nine Yards has gone to air every Thursday for the past five years on Seahaven FM 106.3 between 7.00 and 9.00 PM. The show invites a notable guest to choose 20 tracks and talk about their lives. Showcase guests have ranged from the late politician Lord Denis Healey to local star musician, Mike Kerr of Royal Blood. Roy, however, is shy of taking too much credit for his work over the years
“No, it’s not about me,” he states, “It’s always been a collective effort, especially with the charitable projects I’ve been involved in. The hospital radio teams rely on trust and goodwill, whilst true local radio has to have deep roots in community. In the early days we’d even walk around the shops and venues and help people retune their radios to a local station…”
He continues to enthuse about current and future projects but, for the Time Machine’s purposes, we’ll leave it there. Roy’s life casts a spotlight on the story of Worthing’s seedbed local radio scene and, as he suggests, if you want to get involved, just volunteer and email a CV to your local hospital or community radio group. You don’t need to be experienced, just have a desire to get involved. Pretty much as he always has.