Government guidance for people to stay at home during the Coronavirus outbreak has brought some surprising positives for one South Leeds podcaster.
The Light on Leeds podcast, which celebrates its one-year anniversary this month, has seen audience numbers soar.
“Downloads for the podcast have doubled since the lockdown began”, reports Beeston-based founder and producer Hazel Millichamp, who runs the podcast in her spare time.
Having lived in Leeds for 16 years, Hazel was inspired to create the podcast by people she’d met here. “I love Leeds, and I wanted to share the stories of the people who make things happen here.
“It all started in South Leeds,” Hazel explains. “I had participated in a creative writing course at the Community Cultural College run by Holbeck-based theatre company, Slung Low. I loved how they were developing the community hub there and I wanted more people to know about it, so I invited artistic director Alan Lane to be the first Light on Leeds guest.
“I chose Alan because Slung Low epitomises what the podcast is about – all of the amazing things happening in the city and the fantastic people making them happen.”
Since that first podcast went out in May last year, Hazel has interviewed guests for 31 “pre-Coronavirus” episodes. Guests have included sports people, social activists, singers, artists, playwrights, a twice BAFTA winner, fiddler player, podcast hosts, actors, photographers and people involved with mental health initiatives and charities. Every episode also features a track from a Leeds-based band.
Hazel is keen to reflect the whole of Leeds geographically, showcasing a diverse range of topics and voices. “My son, for example, is a huge sports fan. So that led to me interviewing Leeds Rhinos and Women’s Super League rugby star, Danika Priim.”
Previous podcast interviewees have also included Geraldine Mongomerie and Fe from Leeds Arts, Wellbeing and Health network; award nominated mental health activist and founder of Keep Real, Kimberley Robinson; and founding chair and curator of BasementArtsProject, Bruce Davies.
The Coronavirus lockdown has brought many challenges, not least logistically.
“I used to invite guests to my house and record the podcast there. I took advice from local musician Emelia Quinn, who suggested using the Cleanfeed system to record interviews remotely. The audio files are then downloaded and sent to John Boocock, who edits them for me.
“Our lives have completely changed since lockdown began, and I was struck by the resilience of people who have quickly adapted,” Hazel explains.
She began producing ‘The Corona Bloody Virus Extraordinary Episodes’ to record the community’s response to the virus.
“I’m now covering the great things people are doing to get through the current situation, how Coronavirus is affecting them personally, plus helpful advice and resources that are being created, for example around mental health.
For example Moortown deli owner Iris Silverman (AKA Ira B) who is now delivering food to families across the city as part of a Leeds Community Healthcare Trust initiative, and artist Yusef Arjo (@artbyarjo on Instagram) who has switched from craft markets to online auctions to sell his work.
Listen to the Light on Leeds podcast www.lightonleeds.com or if you know of someone who would make a great guest, or a band has a track they’d like included, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.