|This article needs additional or better citations for verification. (February 2010) (Learn how and when to remove this template message)|
|Broadcast area||South Shropshire, north Herefordshire and north Worcestershire|
|Frequency||105.9FM, 855KHz AM & Online|
|First air date||18 October 1992|
|Owner||Murfin Music International|
|Sister stations||Sunshine Radio (Hereford)|
Sunshine Radio in Ludlow dates back to the late 70s when they used to broadcast every Bank Holiday weekend on 239m (1242 kHz), and by 1981, 249m (1179 kHz). Around this time, negotiations took place with the IBA with a view to bring local radio to the area, bearing in mind at this point there was no BBC or commercial local radio in Shropshire, Herefordshire or Worcestershire at all. Two groups emerged, with the "Wyvern" group campaigning for Hereford and Worcester and Sunshine for Shropshire. In the end the IBA said Ludlow was too small to support a local radio station, so the franchise was advertised for Hereford and Worcester and was subsequently awarded to Wyvern.
Many of the Sunshine team were involved in Wyvern, but despite this, they decided to not only continue their pirate broadcasts, but to expand them. A permanent broadcast site was obtained at Villa Farm, Greete and a studio set up in an old granary above a garage. A new, more powerful transmitter (100 Watts) was installed in time for Christmas 1981 on a new frequency of 954 kHz, 319m. The station was also on at Easter 1982 and these broadcasts were the real breakthrough, with the station really capturing the publics’ imagination with many phone calls being received. They were back again at Whitsun, but with Wyvern due to start on 954 in the autumn, Sunshine would have to decide on what to do next including finding a new frequency.
By this time, some London pirates had found loopholes in the law and were broadcasting 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Sunshine’s owners made a visit to London to see how it was done, and then from February 1983 started to broadcast every weekend on 1017 kHz, 299m. This regular schedule and the fact that they were now actively selling advertising meant they were able to grow and improve quite rapidly. There was the odd visit from the authorities, but nothing too heavy, so from September 1983 they started to broadcast 7 days a week. The first Midlands pirate to do so.
Following the visits from the authorities the station was summoned to appear in court on 8 December 1983, but they carried on. There were always improvements being made to the station. In November 1983 an ADR compressor was introduced which really "beefed up" their sound and later in 1984 a new transmitter was installed which was 500 watts. By now, Sunshine was seen as THE local station for Shropshire, with many people not realising their legal status. The local vicar, councillors and police missing persons list appeared on air, along with vacancies at the local Job centre. Everywhere you went, Sunshine was on, and they were featured on television and in newspapers numerous times as an example of one of the biggest pirates in the country at that time.
There were more visits from the authorities, so Sunshine started to be more discreet about their location. To make it look as if the studio had moved the phone number was changed. In reality, the studio was still in the farm outbuildings, this time in the barn. There was another court appearance in April 1984, but the station kept getting bigger. This was despite the 1984 telecommunications act that gave the authorities more power to raid stations. Indeed, by November 1984 the transmitter power was around 750/800 Watts on medium wave covering a large part of the country, and an FM service was introduced on 103.5 from Clee Hill village. The studio by this point had been moved to a garden shed in Ludlow, which was linked to the two transmitters by a UHF link.
As 1985 dawned, people were beginning to ask why Sunshine and other large pirates had not been raided when the authorities had the power to do so. They would not have to wait long. In February 1985, both KFM in Manchester and Radio Jackie in London, which, like Sunshine had been left alone, suffered massive raids. It was obvious Sunshine would be next, so they switched off without warning. On Wednesday 20 February 1985 at 8 PM, Sunshine closed with their usual, "We’ll be back at six in the morning". But the next morning there was nothing, apart from media frenzy. The story was big enough to be the lead item on the next days Midlands Today and Central News.
It was thought that Sunshine would get one of the planned community radio licences later in 1985, but the Government then scrapped their plans. In 1986, the 60-minute Sunshine Story was produced on cassette and sold in shops around Ludlow and later that year, with no licence on the horizon, plans were made to return to the air.
In the summer of 1986 a special event radio station for the Stoke-on-Trent national garden festival occupied the 1017 kHz frequency, so Sunshine decided to use their old FM channel of 103.5. This time the transmitter would be right on the top of Clee Hill, and in order to gauge the reaction from the DTI, transmissions would be on Sundays only and be completely automated. A machine was purchased into which 5, 120 minute cassettes could be loaded giving 10 hours of programmes. This could be set up in the week to switch on at 8am the following Sunday. The whole operation was placed in a building with no windows and a heavy steel door and following a test on Friday 22 August, the station returned on Sunday 24th at 8am.
This version of Sunshine had a slightly different sound, with a more music format and little speech, although there were still plenty of adverts and what’s ons. There were some new DJs, alongside old favourites like Roger Matthews and Mike Johnson. The station quickly built an audience on Sundays, partly helped by the huge signal. 130 Watts from right on the top of Clee Hill meant it could be heard all over the Midlands and also down to places like Bristol and Oxford. They started to advertise for DJs, newsreaders and sales people and this obviously worried other stations, so complaints were made to the DTI. On only their 5th broadcast they were traced. The following Sunday, 21 September, the DTI returned and smashed their way through the steel door and took all the equipment.
It was to be 12 months before Sunshine was heard again, and this time it would be a more familiar sound. They were back on 1017 with the transmitter at Villa Farm and the studio back in the granary! The famous transmitter caravan had now gone, so this new transmitter was installed on a small island in the middle of a lake. The DTI would need a boat to get to it! There were tests in August 1987 before the return at 7am on Sunday 13 September.
This time, it sounded more like old Sunshine with familiar DJs like Alan Jones, Rob Randall, Mike Willis, Mike Johnson and Jeff Brown. Once again though, the local legal stations complained and a raid was expected, so after 5 Sundays, broadcasts were suspended. Despite this, many of the stations advertisers received letters warning that they may face prosecution if they continue to advertise! There was the odd test over the next few months, sometimes announced, sometimes continuous music, but the next proper programmes were for 3 days over Christmas.
The Government once again announced plans for community radio licences in 1988, so Sunshine continued to make test transmissions, despite not actually having a licence yet! Sometimes these tests would end up with a DJ on, usually Mike Johnson but sometimes James Harding. This arrangement continued throughout 1988 including Boxing Day with James Harding and Roger Matthews. The odd broadcast was made in 1989 before making their last pirate transmissions on Christmas Eve and Boxing Day 1989.
In 1990 the Sunshine management formed a new company, South Shropshire Communications Ltd. They were granted a test and development licence, essentially to train people who were operating RSL stations. These ‘T&D’ licences are usually only used to test transmitters, but in this case the transmitter was left on 24/7 on 1512 kHz carrying test tones and announcements under the call sign G9CFD. The transmitter and aerial were the same "lake based" system that had been installed since 1987 and the 1-watt signal could be heard over a large area.
Finally in 1992, the Radio Authority advertised a licence for Ludlow and South Shropshire. South Shropshire Communications Ltd applied and won the licence finally taking to the air on 18 October 1992 as Sunshine 855. The new transmitters were still at Villa Farm with studios in a converted house in Ludlow. The Managing Director and Salesman were the same team who had run the station in its pirate heyday and many former pirate DJs had a go at doing their shows legally.
In 1997 the company was subject to an unwelcome takeover by Muff Murfin, owner of nearby Classic Hits 954/1530. In 2006 he sold both stations to Laser Broadcasting. In April 2007 the new owners extended the Sunshine name to Classic Hits 954/1530, and on 14 December 2007 they launched a new station for Herefordshire and Monmouthshire also using the Sunshine name.
In 2013 Sunshine Radio won a broadcasting licence to take the Ludlow version of the station onto the FM band. The South Shropshire station can be heard on both 105.9 FM and 855 AM, whilst the Herefordshire and Monmouth stations are on 106.2, 107 and 107.8 FM. The Hereford 106.2 FM frequency can be received in Ludlow.
The South Shropshire and Hereford & Monmouth stations are separate stations and have their own locally produced shows, news and adverts for the area they cover.
The Ludlow studio is located on the Burway Trading Estate, just off Bromfield Road in the north of Ludlow.
Presenters include Nick Jones, Liam Cash, Dave Englefield, Gary King and Mike Hollis. Shaun Moore is Group News Editor.
- 855 kHz AM - Villa Farm, between Ludlow and Tenbury Wells
- 105.9 FM - Woofferton transmitting station, south of Ludlow