HRH The Duke of Edinburgh’s Creative Visit to Leatherhead

Mar 8, 2024 | General, Members

HRH The Duke of Edinburgh takes part in a puppeteering performance and co-presents a radio show during a creative visit to Leatherhead.

As part of The Duke of Edinburgh’s big birthday week celebrations, His Royal Highness joined The Lord Lieutenant, Michael More-Molyneux, and representatives from the Orpheus Centre, Bloomin Arts and DAiSY (Disability Arts in Surrey) for the event organized by Freewheelers Theatre & Media Ltd. at their new home at the Lighthouse, (The Leatherhead Parish church Hall), before heading off to Surrey Hills Community Radio who are celebrating their tenth year on the digital airwaves, taking over the mic with the presenters being the guests for a change!  Both of these Leatherhead organisations are thriving and consistently advocate for the promotion of arts accessibility. Despite encountering obstacles, they have maintained their dedication to fostering community creativity and engagement.

Image credit: Dawn Cozens

Freewheelers Director Carl and DAiSY Trustees Laura and Viv talk to HRH Duke of Edinburgh

Image credit: Andy Newbold (co-founder of Surrey Hills Community Radio)

DAiSY Member organisation, Freewheelers Theatre & Media Ltd, recently relocated to the Lighthouse after the closure of the Bridge Centre in north Leatherhead in October due to building safety concerns and this will be the first time the company receives visitors to their new home.

During the visit The Duke and guests were invited to view a display of tintype photographic portrait prints recently created with photographer Emma Brown as part of a project called Us & Them.  Eight Freewheeler artists who, with support from Surrey History Centre’s Julian Pooley and Dr Alana Harris from UCL, researched nineteenth-century wet-plate collodion photographs and glass-plate negatives that were originally generated in Surrey’s psychiatric (and learning disability) institutions. By re-staging and provocatively ‘pairing’ portrait images of Freewheeler company members with the original Victorian photographs, these heritage objects are re-purposed for stigma-dispelling and restorative justice purposes and celebrate our experiences and agency in making and sharing art. Following introductions to members of staff and students from the Orpheus Centre, Bloomin’ Arts and DAiSY, the Duke was invited to join Freewheeler company members in three ‘Wonderdusk’ workshop activities, based on a Surrey Hills Arts community celebration hosted by the National Trust and led by Freewheelers during the autumn equinox last year on Box Hill.  Company member Nick Russell invited the Duke to join the first of these activities – making paper decorated bird puppets, mounted on bamboo canes.


Next it was across the road to the beautiful 1,000-year-old parish church, to join a music workshop, which in stark contrast to its ancient surrounding is based on the use of modern iPad technology enabling Freewheeler wheelchair users to create and compose their own music and soundscapes.  Following on from the music workshop, The Duke was invited forward to the front of the church by Abi Williams, a member of the Freewheeler dance company to join the Wonderdusk murmuration dance, which involved use of the bird puppets made in the first workshop accompanied by sounds and music made by musicians from the second workshop.

The visit culminated in a brilliant participatory performance of the Wonderdusk murmuration dance involving all of our guests followed by a rousing rendition of happy birthday to The Duke, ahead of his 60th birthday on Sunday 10th of March.

Surrey Hills Community Radio was founded in 2014 after many discussions by local people eager to have a radio station in the town. The co-founders were particularly keen to ensure that the station offered opportunities for a diverse as possible cross section of the community to be involved in order for it to be more than just a radio club. During the past ten years with many challenges along the way that vision has been the blueprint for what it is today, largely made possible by a core of dedicated volunteer presenters, an expert technical manager and the ever hardworking Dave and Kayleigh – it is very much that big joint effort, which has enabled Surrey Hills Community Radio to succeed.


The Duke arrived at the station on North Street and among the people he was introduced to was the owner of the property – Chris Dyer who has enabled the station to survive by charging an affordable rent.  Station Manager – Dave Smith then introduced The Duke to volunteers including the youngest presenter Lucy Stile aged 16, before Deputy Station Manager, Kayleigh Arunasalon invited His Royal Highness to join a table of presenters who shared their experiences of being part of the station where they talked about why it was special to them.  One of the presenters – Shay Young,  is blind (one of two sight impaired presenters) and he explained how equipment had been sourced to help him to be independent as a presenter.


Studio One was the next stop on the tour where The Duke met the longest serving presenters and discussed what life was like for a presenter ten years ago in the original studio before the station crowdfunded to build a second facility. At this point he joined seasoned presenter Mark Batchelor to co-present the recording of a show which will be aired on The Duke’s birthday – Sunday 10th March.

His Royal Highness was then invited to take over and lead a discussion with the Studio Managers, Dave Smith & Kayleigh Arunasalon and Aaron Tatham, a presenter who joined the radio station in 2015 after attending a work experience summer scheme for young adults with disabilities.

They also discussed the range of different charities and local organisations – including work placements with The Orpheus Centre of which The Duke is Patron, The Sunnybank Trust and the Mole Valley Employment and Skill Hub, and Mark B and The Duke talked about the visit with the Freewheelers earlier in the day.

Finally  – back in guest role The Duke had the chance to introduce a piece of music, but in typical radio style, you will have to listen in on Sunday 10th March at 9am to find out what His Royal Highness selected!

(To tune in visit and use the listen live facility. Alternatively, search for Surrey Hills Community Radio on the TuneIn app on your mobile device.

Freewheelers Theatre & Media and Surrey Hills Community Radio would both like to thank HRH The Duke of Edinburgh for highlighting the importance of the arts during his birthday week Even with financial pressures all art institutions are facing, the arts allow expression, inclusion and unity and should be supported to continue to develop their role in communities. We can all play a part in supporting the arts by attending local events, sharing good news stories or picking up a new hobby within the arts. Here in Leatherhead we think we do that rather well!

All image credits: Andy Newbold (who is also co-founder of Surrey Hills Community Radio)