I’m super excited to be producing a podcast series for the Women in Revolt! exhibition opening at Tate Britain in November. The show will be all about about Art, Activism and the Women’s Movement in the UK, 1970-1990. My job gives me the huge privilege of interviewing some truly remarkable and inspiring women (like the performance artist Shirley Cameron, pictured) whose groundbreaking work has been largely overlooked and undervalued.
I grew up in Lewisham borough in the 70s and 80s but knew nothing of the thriving LGBT pub scene there. So it was a real adventure to find out all about it from former regulars and bar staff. The emerging picture was wonderfully colourful, delightfully grubby, at times hilarious but also profoundly moving. It became obvious that what was going on locally in Lewisham was part of a much bigger story about finding community; supporting each other through tough times; pubs as safe spaces away from prejudice and hate; and what we lost when those – and so many other – pubs closed.
I wove the interviews together to create this 2-part podcast. It was commissioned by Bijou Stories and made as part of In Living Memory: A People’s History of Post-War Lewisham.
It has been an immense joy to work on ‘Rebel Dykes: the podcast’ these past few months. It’s a one-off feature about a remarkable community of outsider lesbians living in London in the 1980s, the work of amazing film-makers and curators to present this lost history, and why this all matters so much. (Now also available on Spotify!)
I was approached by Paul Green about producing something back in June. He had recently launched Bijou Stories: a project to create a LGBTQ+ history through collaborations between artists and communities. He had seen the Rebel Dykes documentary film at BFI Flare in March and was blown away by it. When I saw it, so was I! It’s a marvellously entertaining punk portrait of dykes living outside mainstream society and disapproved of by other feminists and lesbians. It appealed to my own rebellious streak and felt startlingly fresh and inspiring. (If you haven’t yet seen it, you must! It’s currently on general release and available on BFI player.)
Paul and I met with Siobhan Fahey, the woman behind the Rebel Dykes history project and the producer of the film. She had also been wanting to commission a podcast, so we agreed to make it a joint production.
The challenge for me was to produce something significantly distinct from the film which depicts the 80s Rebels so brilliantly (and has gone on to win multiple awards). Instead, I focused on the fact that this was a community whose stories might have been lost. That was the reason why Paul had developed Bijou Stories. And it’s what had originally motivated Siobhan – herself an 80s Rebel Dyke – who had been astonished that their history seemed to be being overlooked by academics and film-makers.
It also turned out to be the driving force behind the Rebel Dykes art and archive show held in London’s Gallery Space Station 65 over the summer. As Atalanta Kernick, one of the co-curators, said to me:
I believe that lesbians we’re separated from our own history, culture and iconography. And if you don’t know where you’ve come from, it’s hard to know where you’re going.
Her words rang so true when I spent two days in the gallery interviewing visitors. Many of the younger people knew nothing of the stories and imagery from the 80s. In fact, some had never spoken to an older lesbian before (yes, really). I was privileged to be able to capture their powerful, moving responses to the exhibition and their sense of relief and excitement at seeing imagery of people like themselves.
Working on the podcast and interviewing people (Siobhan, the film directors, exhibition curators, visitors and artists) was an incredible journey for me. I learned so much not only about the 80s Rebels (including fabulous stories that are not in the film) and the rich body of art from that period; but also about the new generation of Rebel Dyke artists (yes, the rebel spirit lives on!); about how three people who had never made a feature film managed to produce something so good in their spare time with no funding; about the challenges of curating a massively ambitious show during lockdown; about how the gaping hole in lesbian representation in films and exhibitions affects us all; and about how meaningful it is to discover the stories, history, culture and imagery of your people. It’s all in the podcast – and more!
There was something very healing and uplifting about the gallery show, where I spent a lot of time over the summer. It served both as a mirror on an under-represented community, and as a space where lesbians and queers of all ages could congregate and make new friends. And after the isolation of lockdown it’s what we all so badly needed.
It was wonderful speak to business improvement consultant Michelle Dove at her home in-between Lockdowns 2.0 and 3.0. I was there to interview her for this short ‘About Me’ piece for her website. We talked about her work over the years as a specialist in Lean thinking and how she can help the film and fashion industries improve their processes, reduce costs, increase profits and become more efficient. To find out more about Michelle visit her website.
I spend a huge amount of time listening back over recorded interviews when I’m working on Spoken Portraits and podcasts. Once I have organised and cut the ‘tape’ into a flowing, engaging story, there’s the question of all those hesitations. There can be hundreds of ‘ums’, ‘ers’ and long pauses in a lengthy interview, adding up to several minutes (I make no criticism here: I’m a big ‘ummer’). I love capturing the way people sound when they speak naturally. But there’s a balance to be struck between realism and holding the listener’s attention!
Here are a few ‘ums’ and ‘ers’ salvaged from the cutting room floor that I’ve mixed together. I like to think of it as the sound of people thinking.
We spent a glorious morning in Poole Harbour last week, foraging for seaweed with fisherman Pete Miles. The trip was for one of the ‘Meet the Maker’ podcasts that we’re producing for LUSH cosmetics who use the weed in their face masks. Fascinating to find out all about ‘toothed wrack’ (pictured) against a rich sonic background of Brownsea Island sandwich terns, splashing water, engine noises and seagulls.
By way of an update to this post, you can listen to the finished podcast here.
This is the first in a series of ‘Meet the Maker’ podcasts that we are producing for LUSH cosmetics, in collaboration with Cathy Haynes. The aim is to give a sensory rich insight into the craft of making.
Here, we follow Master Paper Maker Gary Fuller at Frogmore Mill, Apsley as he produces a new kind of packaging paper using banana fibre. When the machines were rolling the Mill was incredibly noisy! The challenge for us was both to capture Gary’s voice as cleanly as possibly, and to record and mix in the mechanical sounds so as to give the listener the feeling of being inside the Mill as the paper was being made.
A fascinating day last week listening to the hums, ticks and whistles of a 100 year old paper-making machine at Frogmore Mill, Apsley. We were there to interview master paper maker Gary Fuller as he produced a special ream of packaging paper from banana fibre. It’s for the first in a series of ‘Meet the Maker’ podcasts that we are producing for LUSH cosmetics, about their suppliers.
This is one in a series of ten podcasts that we produced about a newly commissioned children’s opera by composer Kate Whitley and writer Sabrina Mahfouz. The podcasts follow the production of the opera Paws & Padlocks, from writing and fundraising through to rehearsals and the final performance. You can listen to all ten podcasts in the series on Soundcloud.
Paws & Padlocks was commissioned by Blackheath Halls with support from the Arts Council England and a number of other charitable trusts. It premiered at the Blackheath Halls in April 2017. You’ll find more information on the Blackheath Halls website.
This short podcast introduces The London Ear: one of the surprising London walks led by Dotmaker Tours. We produced podcasts for each of the walks for Dotmaker Tours to post on their website and publicise by social media.
For more information about Dotmaker Tours visit www.dotmakertours.co.uk.