Real Lives

Connecting through radio: Sunny Sessions transmit joy in Surrey

The Sunnybank Trust is a charity that works with and for adults with learning disabilities across Surrey. The charity provides a range of services including social clubs and activities, an Advocacy service and a transition programme for young adults who have left education and are starting out in the world. The charity has been operating for over 30 years and offers essential support to the learning disability community.

Before lockdown in the UK, Sunnybank’s first-hand experiences had shown that people with learning disabilities had to fight harder than anyone else to participate in everyday life. Their partners faced barriers at almost every turn; when shopping, making friends, visiting the GP, accessing the benefits system, navigating public transport, making sense of official letters filled with jargon, to name a few. As the pandemic swept the nation, it became evermore apparent that those with learning disabilities were disproportionately affected by the restrictions, Covid and the new way of living.

As a result, Sunnybank adapted its services to ensure that no one was isolated at home. This included the launch of a twice-weekly radio show aptly named Sunny Sessions, in collaboration with Surrey Hills Community Radio. Through these shows, isolated members of the community were given the opportunity to connect, receive important information and advice in an easy-to-understand format as well as having some great songs and conversation along the way.

The launch of the Sunny Sessions radio show has been key in the charity’s aim to continue supporting the learning disability community throughout the pandemic. The radio show’s weekly themes reflect the real issues experienced on the ground by the Sunnybank Advocacy team who support members daily with their healthcare, housing and financial needs. A true collaboration that has allowed the Sunny Sessions show to react quickly to deal with real issues in real time; the beating heart of the learning disability community.

Two years on and the radio show has proven to be so much more than just a response to the pandemic, it continues to grow from strength to strength and has regular listeners from all over the country.

Dorothy Watson, Sunnybank CEO, said,  “It has been wonderful to see how our show has grown. For some, it has been a real life-line when other essential support services and people have been withdrawn.

It really has become such an important part of many people’s lives and we encourage everyone to tune in and get involved. We like to call it the happiest hour on radio, because that’s just what it is. Pure joy!”

The Sunny Sessions radio show is aired on Surrey Hills Community Radio every Monday and Thursday from 11am to 12noon. On the first Monday of each month, Sunny Sessions Extra airs live from the studio at 9pm.


Edel Harris





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