WaveLength Charity

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WaveLength is a charitable organisation in the United Kingdom, set up to work with people experiencing social isolation.


WaveLength is a British-based charity founded by the BBC and the Rotary Club of St Pancras in 1939.[1] Both the BBC and the St-Pancras Rotary Club remain involved to this day. The purpose of the charity is to provide TV sets and radios for isolated people living in poverty - usually the elderly, disabled or those who are chronically ill. More recently it has also given equipment to centres helping victims of domestic violence and refugees who have suffered torture. It is the first ever charity to have its own Theme Tune created for the charity by Andy Cato, of Groove Armada. This was released in October 2011 as a free ring tone available from the charity's website.[2]


The charity was founded after Charles Stonebridge gave an address to his local Rotary Club in 1938, following a recent visit to Manchester where he had spoken to an organisation there which was providing radios (wirelesses) for people of limited means. The Rotary Club joined forces with the BBC to found a charity helping similar people living in London, the Greater London Society Providing Wirelesses for the Bedridden. Key founding members included HG Brewster, AJ Pilgrim, FW Lovell, C Stonebridge, W Cady and the BBC’s John Underdown.[3] By 1953, the Rev. Alfred Pilgrim was the only original founding member still involved with the society. He remained on the board until his death in 1968 and received an MBE in recognition of his work, becoming the driving force within the charity. In his obituary in the charity’s newsletter, editors wote that he hated all unhappiness and suffering and "strongly believed that the well-being of each should be the concern of all."[4]

The society went into hibernation during the Second World War and re-emerged in 1945. In 1946, it changed its name to Wireless for the Bedridden Society to reflect that it planned to extend its services to the whole of the United Kingdom.[5] The charity remained based in central London until 1979 before moving to Upminster in Essex and then to its current headquarters in Hornchurch, Essex. Traditionally, WaveLength has had the Archbishop of Canterbury as its president.

Modern changes[edit]

As its original name became outdated, the charity became known as W4B, before taking on a larger name change in 2010 to become WaveLength. This name ‘better describes the types of technology provided’, as it applies to digital as well as analogue devices and a possible move into internet provision.[6] WaveLength’s overall aim is to fight loneliness and isolation, especially as it affects the most vulnerable and impoverished people, and it has branched out from helping the elderly, disabled and long-term ill to include other projects as well. WaveLength has worked with Women's Aid and Welsh Women's Aid to give TVs, radios and DVD players to domestic violence refuges in North Wales and Liverpool. It also provides free TVs to centres helping victims of torture.

Another aim is to provide a voice to vulnerable people through advocacy. The charity is involved in several consumer forums including the Consumer Expert Group, and has testified before the House of Lords on the UK’s digital switchover plans.

Places on the board are held by representatives of the BBC, UTV and the charity's sister organisation Wireless for the Blind, and the Rotary Club of St Pancras among others.

As of 2014, the charity had started providing tablet computers to lonely and isolated people living in poverty, as well as radios and TVs.

Charity theme tune[edit]

In 2011 WaveLength became the first UK charity to have its own ringtone theme tune, or 'audible signature'.[7] This was created and donated by Andy Cato of Groove Armada. This is available as a free ringtone that can be downloaded from WaveLength’s website.[2] Cato calls music the 'universal language', and says that he created the ringtone because it was a chance to make a 'specific contribution' to a cause.

According to an interview with Andy Cato, the tune 'conveyed a sense of hopefulness. It was then a question of adding a melody, which has the potential to be emblematic in a short space of time.' [8]


  1. ^ ['BBC written archives Charity minutes', letters to the BBC and internal minutes, 1938]
  2. ^ a b www.wavelength.org.uk
  3. ^ ['Charity minutes', internal minutes, 1938]
  4. ^ ["Bedside world", Vol.1 No.21 Christmas 1968]
  5. ^ ['BBC written archives, Charity Commission and Charities minutes', letters to the BBC, revisitation, internal minutes, 1938]
  6. ^ ["Charity Commission", letters to the BBC and internal minutes, 1938]
  7. ^ WaveLength Press
  8. ^ Interview with Andy Cato