OPENING to a Beatles tune, the reverend Bob King’s Thursday service is pitched at a different audience.

“I keep sex, politics and religion out of it,” he said, from behind his microphone. “But I go near them.”

One of the team celebrating 40 years of Hereford Hospital Radio, Mr King hosts guests and cues up the playlist each Thursday for his 2pm show.

The station is, in many respects, a local institution, and among the longest-running in the country.

Started by Dave Heggie and Roy Romerill as a student-run station, HHR now attracts as many listeners via its iPhone app outside the wards as it does within.

Hospital stays have become shorter, and patients have more of their own ways to pass the time.

ABBA, however, still tops the request list.

“Always ABBA,” said Mr King.

However those requests now come in via text message and through the station’s Facebook page, with Mr King selecting tracks within seconds and adding them to the running order between jingles from Gavin and Stacy’s Matt Horne.

“I play a huge variety of music – we can play what we want, that’s the beauty of it,” said Mr King – who met the TV star wedding he was officiating at, and approached him for a soundbite.

Scrolling through a seemingly endless database, ‘Eat, Sleep, Rave, Repeat’ briefly flashes on screen as the DJ King – a vicar in Herefordshire for 20 years – searches for ‘Sugar, Sugar’ by the Archies

But that sense of creative freedom also extends to his interviews; with Antiques Roadshow presenters and MPs among those to have stopped by the studio.

Each show guests spend around 20 minutes talking all things great and small with Mr King, with conversations looking at what’s happening in Herefordshire – in the vicar’s words, “people still like a bit of local.”

“I will interview anybody,” he said.

“My life’s always been about communication.

“I can touch on subjects and reach a lot of people I wouldn’t reach on a Sunday.

“It’s a good ministry – but I don’t treat it like it.”

Based in the corner of one of the hospital’s older buildings, HHR’s impressive set-up features two studios – so DJs can pre-record late-night shows while the station continues to broadcast live – its own green room and obligatory ‘On Air’ light.

Headed up by Chris Hughes, the entirely voluntary enterprise – supported by the local Lions club – manages to broadcast seven days a week, mornings, afternoons and evenings.

Alongside the likes of Bob King and local ‘mobile disco’ DJs, it has become a place where talented youngsters can cut their teeth, using the facilities and working with mentors to learn the basic of broadcasting through a trainee programme.

It is where many will go live on-air for the first time, and hopefully will return one day as volunteers, to help bring on the next generation.