Insights into Manchester Part 6: Radio Lollipop and the Power of Play at Manchester's Children's Hospital
Covered in drawings and playful colors, I wondered what lay behind the door marked Radio Lollipop. I had walked into the Manchester Children’s Hospital earlier that morning to visit a friend volunteering in one of the hospital wards. In my explorations, I had come across the door and upon further exploration and curious questions to hospital staff, I was told to come back that evening to find out what lay behind it.
At 7:15pm that evening, I made my way back to the hospital. The hallways were considerably less crowded. I listened to all that could be heard: faint footsteps of lingering visitors and a distant vacuum noise cleaning the remnants of a long day. I rounded the corner and suddenly, the door was no longer closed.
With happy expressions, a group of people in red t-shirts filed out of the Radio Lollipop room carrying balloons. Watching them felt energizing. I approached John, one gentleman in the group and he told me about Radio Lollipop. A volunteer for the past 22 years, he told me all about this incredible organization that encourages play through radio. Radio Lollipop brings together “volunteers providing care, comfort, play and entertainment for children and young people in hospital”. And I was lucky to catch up with him because volunteers of the organization are only in after hours. Below is part of my conversation with John.
Gabrielle: What differences do you feel the presence of Radio Lollipop has made in the Manchester children’s hospital?
Mr. Rogers once said, ”Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning. But for children play is serious learning. Play is really the work of childhood.” One of Radio Lollipop’s signature taglines is Serious Fun. Play and the positive impact it can have on the morale and creativity of children is something to be taken seriously. Another beautiful aspect of play for children is that it can be one of the best forms of therapy. Through play, a child can find security and stability. Experience has shown that a happy, motivated child can respond faster to treatment. Radio Lollipop initiatives “help normalize a young person’s day, support their psychological well being, and reduce the emotional challenges of a hospital stay” all through play and entertainment activities run by passionate volunteers.
When I’m listening to something I really connect with on the radio, I feel momentarily as though the people on air are speaking directly to me, even thinking of me, and responding to my ideas. That feeling of intimacy never loses its novelty. Every patient in Manchester’s Children’s Hospital has a radio next to their bed. At any moment, they can tune in, experience that same feeling of connectedness and know that they are not alone. Radio Lollipop is now in more than 30 hospitals in the UK, Australia, New Zealand, the US, and South Africa – working after hours and broadcasting the power of play on air 24/7.
A service such as Radio Lollipop in Canada would be brilliant. Children possess an innate sense of curiosity that deserves to be encouraged and stimulated in all circumstances, especially in illness. The pursuit of curiosity leads to creativity and children deserve the freedom to pursue their ideas with their unabashed curiosity. In his article “Enhancing Creativity”, Raymond Nickerson describes the characteristic of “childlike naïveté” that is common among great scientists – including Albert Einstein. As Nickerson recounts, the famous logician Bertrand Russell once praised Einstein because he did not take familiar things for granted. In an interaction between Russell and Einstein, Russell noted Einstein’s expression of “surprised thankfulness” that four equal rods can make a square. It is dazzling to imagine Einstein marvelling over the components of a square because it is something that seems so commonplace. However, it is just the faith in those moments of surprised thankfulness that lead to the persistence and realization of creativity.
The innate playful curiosity that children keep and protect in their earliest years is often taken for granted. However, Radio Lollipop is a guardian for children and their parents in hospitals across the world, providing them with the tools to pursue their interests and desire for play regardless of the circumstances. Having worked with over 5 million sick children with over 100 000 hours of volunteer time every year, Radio Lollipop continues serving patients with an open door – encouraging children everywhere to play on.
For more information on Radio Lollipop, visit their website
Nickerson, Raymond S. “Enhancing Creativity.” Handbook of Creativity, edited by Robert J. Sternberg, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1998, pp. 392–430.