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    It has already been a good year for audio. Since producing a Woman’s Hour item on the podcasts to look out for in 2016, I had the good fortune of chatting to Helen Zaltzman (of Answer Me This! and Allusionist fame) who told me about Podclub. It’s a bookclub for podcasts. Anyway, our first podclub session round my kitchen table was a triumph, and without it I would never have listened to Hilary Clinton on Another Round or have discovered the joy that is Starlee Kine – Starlee produces Mystery Show and I am now devoted: I order you to listen to Belt Buckle and Britney. My swanky new Xmas headphones are too big for my handbag and are so hyper sensitive that I can hear the impact of my feet hitting the pavement as I walk, plus podcasts are still stopping me reading books which I miss. However, on the plus side I now listen to loads of writers talk about their work. Zadie Smith and Miranda July are always interesting in interview I think.

    I’m excited to finally publish The Chain and Women in One on my website. It’s been such a privilege to pitch these ideas to Woman’s Hour and then get to travel around the UK speaking to so many women. With Women in One I am constantly surprised at how open people are, even if they look nervous of the mic at first, it’s not long before we’re having a relaxed chat. Abergavenny Market was increcible for that, everyone offered me a stool and said ‘ask what you want’! A dream job if you grew up wanting to know what people were really thinking and were always told off for asking too many questions. It’s been fun watching Children Talking and listening to Denis Mitchell and Studs Terkel – it’s definitely time to expand the demographic and develop this further over the coming months. The recent Radio 4 documentary People Talking was fascinating and totally up my street, I recommend a listen.

    The Chain has been great fun to do and it’s so exciting waiting to hear who will be nominated next. I had no idea starting out that Samantha Morton would lead to Annie Lennox, but it is an interesting series to produce as each guest has such a different background and profession. Watch this space for some more chains coming soon. I am also working on a podcast series with a friend, which is lovely as I was in need of some collaboration and someone to bounce off.

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    Women in One on BBC Woman’s Hour

    Thank you for listening to my ‘Women in One’ series on Woman’s Hour recently. I really enjoyed speaking to women I accosted in Kirkgate market and Roundhay Park in Leeds. I was amazed at how many women were up for talking to me and really appreciated how open they were. Plus, Roundhay park is stunning and as my brother-in-law reminded me it is one of the biggest city parks in Europe. Thanks for all your lovely comments and I can’t wait to start recording the next series and visit places I’ve never been to before. In the meantime please check out my latest interview with the actress and writer Phoebe Waller-Bridge, last seen in Broadchurch and currently writing ‘Crashing’, an E4 comedy series. I spoke to Phoebe after her brilliant performance of her one-woman show ‘Fleabag’ and enjoyed listening to the advice she had for her sixteen year old self (‘Get a really good friend and take over the world together’).

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    The Lives of Others: A Maternity Leave Spent Wondering

    After my second son was born, I pounded the same streets of London, rocking my baby to sleep in his buggy. Every day I walked past the same market stall holders, grandmothers, childminders, gardeners, bin men, teenagers. In my sleep-deprived state I was keenly aware that no one talks to each other in London, or more specifically I don’t utter a word to some of the same faces I see every day. But the magic of a tiny baby is that they connect people.

    Soon I was talking to more and more locals and frankly I appreciated the chat. It wasn’t long before my staring (a problem since childhood) was out of control and I longed to ask people questions about their lives. I decided to do something I would call ‘The Interview Project’. A quick google revealed that David Lynch had got there first. However, Lynch filmed his interviewees and had not asked as many personal questions. Armed with a baby and a microphone I wasn’t sure whether people would be up for over-sharing with me, but I was certainly up for asking probing questions. So here is what I learnt:

    1. If you want people to say ‘yes’, be confident.

    On Day One I couldn’t have been more apologetic when I stopped people. I squirmed and apologized and this gave people the space to refuse. After three straight rejections I knew I had to give the baby to my Mum (childcare and radio don’t mix) and stopped apologizing. Getting people to talk to you is the same as dating: play it cool and they will come to you.

    2. Most people are living a life they didn’t plan for or imagine as a child.

    The majority of people were surprised by the life they were leading: their personal life or job had taken an unexpected turn.

    3. The world is divided in to people who were loved by their Mother and people who weren’t

    What’s your relationship like with your mother? This was the question that had the greatest impact – the joy or the sadness visibly changed people’s faces and at times it was incredibly moving to witness.

    4. You never fully get over a divorce.

    The people who had experienced divorce seemed shattered by it.

    5. People want to talk about their feelings.

    My fear was that people wouldn’t want to discuss their emotions but the opposite is true. I started to understand that few people actually get asked about their childhood, their fears, their relationships and what makes them tick. We think it’s rude if we probe too deeply and ask personal questions but my argument is people will always say ‘I don’t want to talk about it’ if they feel it’s inappropriate. I’m conditioned to be polite and cautious of others emotions but actually people were more than willing to open up. I only wish I had been bolder with my follow-up questions. I had to spur myself on to ask the really private questions so when I was given a revelatory response I retreated and felt it only polite to not push further. This is a mistake – the best interviewers are exceptional listeners and their follow-ups are always on the money (check out Anna Sale on Death, Sex & Money, Kirsty Young on Desert Island Discs and Marc Maron on WTF podcasts).

    6. You only ever hear the same voices on the radio.

    I wanted to talk to people who were different from the same white male voices I hear on the radio every day. Where are the Black, Asian, Ethnic Minority voices, the working class, the teenagers, the elderly, the unemployed? In my job, stories are usually plucked from newspapers. But newspapers predominantly focus on the opinions, achievements and stories of middle-class, white men, hence the cycle continues. I felt it was time to search for stories in a new way. When I pitched the idea, another radio producer said ‘but you always need to start with the cast’. Surely by entering different spaces and meeting new people, not like you, you can cast from a wider, more diverse pool and find stories there?

    7. Britain is class-obsessed

    I live in one of the most extreme boroughs of London: severe poverty lives next door to the 1%. I fussed about seeming like some kind of middle-class tourist poking about in the personal lives of the less fortunate. I needn’t have bothered wasting precious months not starting the project because I was frozen by paranoia. That’s more patronizing. Class difference, racial difference, age difference: it all becomes meaningless when you make a connection with someone, laugh and share in something. There is so much fear and ignorance and certainly in my borough this could change if people just spoke to each other for one second.

    8. You will fail, so embrace it.

    An old classic, but true. The whole project took so many more months than expected and had to be done at night and during baby’s naptime. Editing my own voice is awful and I kept trying to cut myself out entirely. I still cringe at bits and there is always more to learn about listening, knowing when to shut up and when to ask a damn follow-up question. It’s all good learning and I think it is time to be brave and get on with it.