Community communications in the town have received a huge boost after American film and TV star Whoopi Goldberg agreed to be a patron of Swindon 105.5 community radio.
She joins Lord Joel Joffe, one of the Nelson Mandela’s legal team at the Rivonia trials, who now lives close to Swindon, who represents the community, and also Simon May, composer of the award winning Eastenders theme tune representing music.
With Whoopi from the world of arts, the three key areas of the station’s ethos are covered said station manager Shirley Ludford.
105.5’s profile received national attention in March when Shirley was featured on ITV’s Surprise Surprise programme.
At first she thought the film crew were making a feature about community radio; by the fourth visit she discovered her son James had sneakily nominated her for a surprise.
Asked by the producers who she would like to meet, Shirley said she had always wanted to chat to Whoopi Goldberg because of her sense of style, humour and forthright point of view.
Shirley said: “I was amazed when recording Surprise Surprise in the ITV studios and Whoopi appeared on a live link to say how valuable 105.5 is to Swindon and invited me to visit her in New York. I couldn’t believe what was happening.”
Shirley interviewing Whoopi at the ABC studios in New York. Below, Shirley and James at The View recording
James joined Shirley on the five day trip, during which they went to see a recording of ABCs daily women’s discussion show The View where Whoopi is a panel member.
Afterwards they met up Shirley said: “Whoopi was really warm and friendly and talked about being so proud to have just become a grandmother, and arranging a special birthday party for her daughter.
“She was very complimentary about my work reaching into all aspects of the local community over many years and through Swindon 105.5.
“I then dared ask whether she would be willing to lend her name as a patron of the station and she readily said yes.’
"After a VIP tour of Radio City, a walking tour of the Rockefeller Centre, a cruise on the Hudson River and a couple of Broadway shows, I was delighted to return to Swindon and tell volunteers the news that Whoopi was now our international patron.
"She was just as I had imagined and hoped; she’s just as lovely and natural off-stage as you see her on screen.
“She even gave me some tips for a special royal event I will be attending in June.
"I would like to thank ITV and ABC Studios – and also James – for all their help in making some very special memories for me.
"I am proud to continue supporting Swindon’s communities and activities in any way I can."
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Licensed by OFCOM, the non-commercial, not-for-profit community broadcasting service is entirely funded by grants, donations, corporate support, fundraising events and support in-kind. Launched in 2008, it broadcasts 24/7 and is operated by 120 volunteers.
The only paid staff are Shirley and a new weekend manager who are funded for a total of 30 hours to coordinate the station’s output as well as volunteer training and development.
In March outgoing High Sheriff of Wiltshire William Wyldbore-Smith, presented an individual award to Shirley and has also nominated 105.5 to receive the highest award possible for a community organisation.
Shirley is now calling for greater support from businesses in the town. “105.5 has accolades outside Swindon, but we want our community to acknowledge how we’re helping the people of the town become involved in producing and presenting their own radio programmes.”
The Bentley Centre
Swindon SN1 2SH