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Radio Merseyside stalwart signs up for UK’s first dementia-friendly DAB radio station

Ex-BBC Radio Merseyside presenter Roger Phillips is to join Liverpool-based Merseyside Dementia Friendly Radio (MDFR) when it goes live on DAB later this year.

Phillips, who left the BBC in 2022 after presenting for more than 40 years, returns to the airwaves after being “highly impressed the ambition and imagination” of station founder Nat Gavin and his team.

“Everyone knows someone who is affected by dementia via either a sufferer, a carer, a family or a professional care worker so this is a much-needed service which will bring joy and support to thousands of people and it’s wonderful that it’s yet another first for Merseysid,” he said. “It will be great to be back on air for such a ground-breaking radio station – I can’t wait.”

Phillips will present a weekly programme having been approached by Gavin in February.

MDFR launched online in April of 2020, but is now making the transition to Digital Radio with a community radio licence from Ofcom, making it the first dementia-friendly DAB radio station in the UK, and possibly the world.

A building has been earmarked in Everton and work will begin shortly on a new studio which the station hopes will be ready for broadcast in the summer.

Founder Gavin first conceived of the idea of setting up the station when helping to care for his grandmother in her later stages of dementia and noticed at there was no broadcast media specifically catering for people with the condition.

His mum, the late Gina Shaw, who also had dementia, was an internationally-known activist and ambassador for the Alzheimer’s Society.

“I’ve been really plugged into the needs of people with dementia for some years through my mum and grandmother,” said Gavin. “We had a really good response to our internet radio service but that platform isn’t really suitable for dementia sufferers for obvious reasons so I was delighted when Ofcom awarded us a DAB licence as we can reach a much wider audience and all listeners have to do is switch on their radio and we’ll be there, loud and clear with programmes tailored to their needs.

MDFR promises content specifically designed for dementia sufferers, with no news bulletins or “disorienting” shows and a selection of music from the 1930’s up to the 1980’s.

“There’ll be no adverts” added Gavin, “which can be distressing for people with dementia. There’ll be no ‘sonic clutter’ either with lots of fast edits and clashing sounds that you get on most radio stations. There’ll be lots of reminiscences and self-care reminders where we gently remind people to eat and drink as regular intervals or get ready for bed.

“We’re a not-for-profit radio station driven by compassion for people with dementia and their carers. Our goal is to make life a bit easier and more enjoyable for people, it’s as simple as that. We’ll be on air 24/7 offering real companionship and good music. And we’re looking for presenters too – particularly people with experience of dementia in their family or profession.

“Getting Roger Phillips on board is a wonderful start.”

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