DUNCAN BARKES: Tony’s a real-life angel but he needs another...
Tony Smith is a pioneer, but very few will be aware of what he does or his achievements.
In a society obsessed with celebrities and reality TV, people like Tony rarely get given the exposure they deserve. Tony is a friend of mine and he needs some help.
I have previously written about a remarkable radio station called Angel Radio.
For the uninitiated this is no ordinary radio station.
Angel is a lifeline for the elderly population. It broadcasts on FM, digital radio and via the internet.
The station is a registered charity and broadcasts under a community licence.
It is entirely staffed by volunteers, all co-ordinated by Tony himself in a full-time voluntary capacity.
He gave up his career in 1998 to run the project.
Since then he has been living off his savings, which ran out around Christmas last year.
He has even been selling off his treasured nostalgia collection to make ends meet.
Earlier this year he suffered two strokes, the results of which have rendered him disabled. For the first time in his life he is claiming benefits. However, following a medical test, the government has deemed him fit for work.
His full-time volunteering may well now come to an end. This would devastate the tens of thousands of senior citizens across the south and beyond who rely on Angel Radio for information, companionship and nostalgia.
As with many charities, Angel gets no government funding. It also does not get any money from the licence fee, despite doing the job of a public service broadcaster in a part of England that has a high elderly population. Relaying local and relevant information, Angel only plays music recorded before and up to 1959.
Tony is not just responsible for a radio station. Angel is a project dedicated to supporting those who feel lonely or isolated because of their advancing years. Angel also organises days out and regularly holds social events for its elderly listeners.
It brought a lump to my throat to read a note from a lady whose Mum suffered with dementia. She said that listening to Angel was the only thing that gave her mother a connection with the real world and that made her smile.
Tony needs help. He is looking for a sponsor so that he can carry on this vital work. Since 1998 he has dedicated his life to providing a service that should be government or council backed.
If you are in a position to assist Tony, please contact him at the station on 0800 0141955. Or visit www.angelradio.co.uk to find out more about the station.