THE VOICE of the learning disability community will be heard like never before, when Heart of England Mencap starts broadcasting its very own radio show next week.

Radio Mencap is a new hour-long show taking over the airwaves between 11am and 12noon every Friday on Welcombe Community Radio.

It will be devised, presented and run by local people with learning disabilities supported by the charity and its day activity service, Mencap Pathway.

The show will come live from Tyler House Hub, where Welcombe Community Radio now has a broadcast studio, supported by Stratford Town Trust.

A mixture of music and talk, Radio Mencap will include pre-recorded interviews and features out and about at local events, as well as live studio time.

Helping to run the show is Val Rainbow, Arts Coordinator for Heart of England Mencap, and somewhat of a seasoned pro.

“I have done community radio in the past – but this is hugely exciting, we don’t know of anything else like it,” Val said.

“We’ll be going out and recording interviews, doing a weather report, coming up with our own jingles. Our customers at Mencap Pathway are really enthusiastic – this was their idea, and this is very much their show.”

It has all been made possible thanks to the fundraising efforts of one man.

Last April, Gary Stokes, from Long Compton, took on the Coventry Way Challenge, aiming to raise as much as possible to support Heart of England Mencap by getting sponsorship to run the gruelling 40 mile route.

Gary had spent a day volunteering with the charity through his employer, Warwick-based National Grid.

He knew the Pathway customers he met wanted to set up their own radio show – and set about trying to fundraise the £1,500 needed to make it happen, to pay for staff, studio time and outdoor broadcast equipment.

Gary completed the challenge and reached his target, helped by match-funding from National Grid.

Now he’s been back to Heart of England Mencap to meet the radio team and see them in the studio.

“To see what my fundraising has actually made possible is just incredible, and not something you usually get to do,” Gary said.

“It’s so rewarding to see how excited everyone is about the show – and I can’t wait to tune in and listen.”

“We can’t thank Gary enough,” Val added.

“Pathway is all about providing meaningful activities for our customers, and the chance to get involved in our own radio show; the skills, confidence and enjoyment that will bring, is just fantastic.”

To tune in to Radio Mencap – go to www.welcomberadio.co.uk