October 26, 2015
Here are the minutes from the past couple of weeks in my realm*:
1. I was recently on the lovely BBC Radio 3 show The Verb. The theme of the episode was ‘backwards’, so I was talking about false etymology and reverse linguistic engineering. There was also wrestling, and those backwards satanic messages in songs. AND they gave me four kinds of cake and free books. It was a great day. Here’s the show on the BBC’s site, but you can also search for it as a podcast.
2. I’m currently in the midst of a spate of weekly Allusionists, each in collaboration with another Radiotopian. Hrishikesh Hirway from the wonderful Song Exploder and charming veteran songwriter Tony Hazzard joined me to talk about vocables – the non-word words in songs like ‘la’ and ‘doo’ and ‘zig-a-zig ah’. You can hear the special Song Explusionist here. The week before that, Roman Mars popped up to talk about his beloved eponyms, so James Ward (founder of the Boring Conference and author of Adventures in Stationery) appeared to talk about the eponymous pens Bic and Biro. Hear here. Three more Radiotopial episodes are in the pipeline. The Podcast Broadcast interviewed me about all this Radiotopianism, which is happening because…
3. It’s Radiotopia fundraising time! A year after the record-breaking Kickstarter that made it possible for me to start The Allusionist, we now need listeners to step in and support the collective long term, with small monthly donations. (One-off donations are also extremely welcome. Even £1 is very useful.)
I don’t want to repeat what I’ve written about the fundraiser here and also last year, during the Kickstarter – those points still stand, but I will update to add that my excitement then at the prospect of becoming a full-time podcaster has only increased now that I am one. This has been the best year of my professional life, and The Allusionist is the most demanding and creatively fulfilling job I’ve ever had. I’d love to be able to carry on making it for as long as possible, so if you are able to chip in anything at radiotopia.fm or Paypal, I and the twelve other shows will be Very Grateful Indeed. And we’ll use your money very wisely. Promise. (Conceals order for platinum exoskeleton.)
Just one more thing: I’ll be doing a Reddit AMA this Thursday at 7pm UK time, 3pm ET, 12pm PT, middle of the night most other places. Please come along and ask me about Allusionist stuff, Answer Me This, or any old thing that’s on your mind. You know I live for it.
Here’s my AMA proof, as IF anyone would aim so low as to masquerade as me**:
* which is slumped in front of a screenful of edit software for 12-15 hours per day, LIVING THE DREAM yes yes
** Seriously. Have some self-respect. At least go for someone who’s on telly.
June 19, 2015
Most of this week passed in a jetlaggy fugue state: I just got back from California, where I got to hang out with all the delightful Radiotopians, AND attend MaxFunCon, which is a mountain-top holiday camp for podcast enthusiasts. In front of a very energetic audience, Dave Holmes, Paul F Tompkins, Janie Haddad Tompkins, Nadia Kamil and I recorded this ridiculously fun episode of International Waters. (Which, obviously, the UK should have won. But YOU try slagging off Sesame Street on the away team’s turf.)
Just after I got back, I was called in for The News Quiz to replace an ill panellist. Thanks to jetlag-brain, I can only remember a single word, and I’m scared to listen back to it, but if you want to, it is here and also on Radio 4’s Friday Night Comedy podcast feed.
I also made a tiny cameo on this week’s 99% Invisible about Sigmund Freud’s couch. See if you can spot it.
The big task this week was shunting out the latest Allusionist, which is all about emoji. I don’t use them myself, but having heard about their place in 5,500 years of linguistic history, I have new respect for them. Listen via theallusionist.org/emoji. Content warning: penis trees.
May 30, 2015
Finally, a job my mum can tell her friends about: I was on Radio 4’s News Quiz yesterday! With Jeremy Hardy, Rebecca Front, Francis Wheen and of course presided over by the almighty Sandi Toksvig. The episode is here, or available on the Friday Night Comedy podcast feed.
Here we are on stage at the Radio Theatre, looking studious while Sandi gives Jeremy Hardy an antihistamine.
April 6, 2015
Today, I had the ridiculous joy of appearing on Woman’s Hour‘s craft special. They asked me to teach Jane Garvey how to sew something on air; as the shops are presently full of diaphanous kimono-style bed-jackety garments, I decided we’d make our own, using three vintage square scarves from my ever-expanding collection (a few months ago I did try to count them, but stopped at 70).
I worship Jane Garvey, but ‘interest in craft’ is not one of her strong points. Watching her wield huge scissors and adopt the unconventional ‘Look, no hands!’ approach to machine sewing, I felt like a novice lion tamer on my first job.
Click here to hear the programme, and click the photo below to zoom in on the tutorial for making one of these very simple garments. I promise they are a lot more straightforward than we made them sound.
Here’s one I made earlier, flapping about in a high wind. There are French horns on the front, medieval men on horseback on the sleeves, and a massive striped Z on the back.
September 3, 2014
I love the latest Sound Women podcast, which this month is news-themed. There’s a despatch from Sky News Radio about how they make almost all commercial radio’s hourly news bulletins; podcast regular Ruth Barnes met Jo Carr, who edits Radio 4’s PM, Broadcasting House and iPM; and I spoke to the formidable Petrie Hosken, who doesn’t get phased by much on air at LBC seeing as she used to report from warzones. When you’ve dealt with the threat of being kidnapped on your way to work, you’re pretty much unflappable.
If you’re keen to learn how to podcast, you can still get a ticket for the Guardian podcasting masterclass on 20th September, in which Bugle producer Chris Skinner, Guardian podcast producer Jason Phipps, software developer Drew White, Radio 4’s Film Programme producer Craig Templeton Smith and I will teach you everything we know about the medium. Book tickets HERE.
April 12, 2014
Planning the documentary the high-tech way
I have no recollection of how I marked my own tenth birthday, but I’ll certainly remember how I celebrated a decade since the word ‘podcast’ was born, because Olly and I made a Radio 4 documentary about it! Here is Part 1 and here is Part 2. If those links aren’t working for you, go here, but don’t say I sent you.
We spoke to lots of interesting and inspiring people to make the show, including (but not limited to):
Ben Hammersley, who invented the word although doesn’t seem too happy about it; one of my favourite podcasters, Flight Attendant Betty; the mighty Marc Maron; our former adversary Richard Herring; Theresa Thorn of the excellent One Bad Mother, and one half of the podcasting power couple behind the Maximum Fun empire; Nate Lanxon, editor of Wired.co.uk; Adam Curry, who was podcasting way before ‘podcasting’ even was named; Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor, who begat the stratospherically successful Welcome To Night Vale, though it does not seemed to have turned their heads at all; Keith and the Girl, whose fans are so devoted, they cause themselves permanent flesh wounds; Roman Mars, who Kickstarted a shitload of money to fund 99% Invisible because the show is fantastic and so are podcast fans; Pete Donaldson of the refreshingly non-blokey (for a sports show) Football Ramble; and Producer Chris*, John Oliver and Andy Zaltzman (yes my brother) of The Bugle.
There were numerous more excellent contributors, so rather than take my word for it, you’d better listen instead.
*Fun fact: initially Chris missed our interview, because he was recovering from surgery and fell asleep doing a 1,500-piece jigsaw of a map of the world. I can’t be mad at that.
April 2, 2014
Here’s the April episode of the Sound Women podcast, in which I speak to Kate Murphy of Bournemouth University about teaching radio degrees, as well as the women working at the BBC during a surprisingly gender-liberal spell between the World Wars. Cheeka Eyers reported on the work of Podium.me – Olly and I spoke at one of their events last year, and it left me wishing there’d been something like that around when I was interested in, but fundamentally clueless about, journalism and radio.
I also sought lessons learnt by radio pals during their careers, so it’s a very educational episode:
There was also a bonus edition of the podcast last month to coincide with Radio 1’s all-female line-up for International Women’s Day. Since a whole month has passed, it seems timely to tell you about it. Features Annie Mac, Monki, B.Traits and Hayley Clarke:
September 2, 2013
One of the boons of making the Sound Women podcast is that I get to interview people I think are very interesting. Before even starting the series, I had Woman’s Hour‘s Jane Garvey in the crosshairs, so I was utterly delighted to stick a microphone in her face for SWP5. Naturally she did not disappoint.
Also on the episode: Amazing Radio‘s Ruth Barnes and Rachael Devine, and head of Sound Women regions Lucy Duffield. Dose yourself with the show via iTunes and SoundCloud.
This week is the third birthday of BBC 5 Live’s Saturday Edition, on which I’m continually delighted to have a weekly gig. In its podcast form it is known as Let’s Talk About Tech, and on the 31st August episode I contemplate the Huffington Post’s decision to abolish anonymous commenter accounts, and the mother-daughter team who make over $1m scamming online daters.
I have to admit, I’ve been feeling a bit of ‘seven-year itch’ about Answer Me This! lately – but nonetheless I think the show has been on rather good form recently. It is available for your attention at answermethispodcast.com.
July 8, 2013
Owing to the aforementioned holiday, I’m behind schedule posting about the latest Sound Women podcast. But it’s here! You should listen because everybody could do with more Miranda Sawyer in their lives.
To respond to listeners’ questions about the radio industry, I deployed producer Laura Parfitt, maker of many excellent radio programmes. What I admired about the advice she gave was the stringency, the perfectionism and intellectual rigour. ‘Do it, and do it properly’ is a simple message that bears repeating.
Incidentally, while I was interviewing Laura in her living room, it sounded like she was emitting low growls every couple of minutes. This really threw me, until I realised her little dog was hiding behind her in the armchair.
Also on the show: Ruth Barnes of Amazing Radio and The Other Woman podcast interviews Adele Roberts about going from Big Brother 3 to BBC 1Xtra; and Emma Jane Bradshaw reports from the final act of this year’s Sound Women mentorship scheme. I’ve been thinking that I need a mentor, but really what I need is somebody to kick me up the arse metaphorically. Any takers? Never mind.
The Sound Women podcast is available at iTunes and SoundCloud; find out more about Sound Women’s excellent work at soundwomen.co.uk.
June 1, 2013
Behold, here is the Sound Women podcast episode 2:
Attack of the Clones featuring numerous exciting people who spoke at the recent Sound Women Festival, such as Fi Glover, Anita Anand, Angie Greaves and Jo Good. By all accounts the festival was an excellent day, but, alas, I didn’t get to go; it was my husband’s birthday, which he commemorated by walking from Rotherhithe to Crystal Palace via many of South London’s unloveliest industrial wastelands.
If you want a lovely walk through South London, though, I wholeheartedly recommend the Green Chain route. And naturally I wholeheartedly recommend subscribing to the podcast via iTunes or following it on SoundCloud.
May 1, 2013
I’m very excited to say that I’m making a new podcast!* It’s called the Sound Women podcast, because I’m making it with the Sound Women network of women (and men) in British radio. Ergo, the podcast is about women and radio, and if you’re interested in either of those things, I hope you like it.
In Episode 1, I interviewed the inimitable Lauren Laverne, who told me how to get rid of earworms and what Jamie Oliver keeps in his toilet; I also spoke to Nicky Birch of Somethin’ Else, who suggests not being a pain-the-arse slacker if you want to get ahead in radio, and Maria Williams to find out why she set up Sound Women in the first place (clue: because the radio industry is sexist, innit). Plus dispatches from SRAcon by Emma Bradshaw, and Ruth Barnes found out from Sinead Garvan how to get to be a reporter at Radio 1’s Newsbeat.
Oh, and Martin wrote the theme music, what a gent.
Have a listen at iTunes or SoundCloud.
*Don’t worry, I haven’t dumped Answer Me This!. I’m just cheating on it with another podcast.