Looking through the podcast charts, it’s not surprising to see the most popular podcasts are hosted by celebrities, or made by big players like BBC Sounds. It’s completely understandable – the best celebrity podcasts give an intimate insight on the famous people we often only see from afar. But it’s also great to see an independent podcast break through every now-and-then. Banged Up is one such podcast.
Banged Up is a chart-topping series hosted by prison lawyer Claire Salama and two former inmates (entrepreneur Rob Morrison and former professional footballer Mike Boateng aka Boats) who were each convicted of fraud and match fixing, and met in the gym of Wandsworth prison. Wildly entertaining and hugely thought provoking UK podcast Banged Up, about the reality of going behind bars the most honest and darkly comic podcast out there about what prison is really like. After features in newspapers like The Independent, it has found its way onto many ‘best new podcasts’ lists (including our own!)
We asked the hosts how this podcast about prison came to be. Plus, Boats gives some first-hand advice about background noise for podcasters…
Some of the people you interview are speaking about very personal stories in an honest way. What do you think the secret is to being a good podcast interviewer?
Rob: Let them talk (something I have to keep reminding myself – Claire and Boats help too!). I think also by keeping the conversations generally pretty relaxed and light hearted.
Claire: Not being judgmental; I think we have avoided focusing too much on our opinions of matters relating to the criminal justice system and given the guests their chance to say what they think.
Boats: Sharing our own stories, our vulnerabilities, bad decisions. Especially in Season 1, when we went in-depth about our experiences, how we got to be in prison and how we found it, our reflections about our own actions, shows others that we have something in common and can relate.
Why podcasting? What is it about the format that appeals to you?
R: I like that it’s long-format and you don’t have to condense answers or stories down into short soundbites.
C: I think there is great access to an audience. The fact you can multitask when listening to a podcast means that people can engage on a topic while going about their daily lives, that they might not otherwise have time to sit down and read a book about, or watch a documentary. Plus, the episodic nature means you can keep things entertaining and light.
If you could go back to before you started podcasting and give yourself one piece of advice, what would it be?
R: Talk a bit less and a bit more slowly!
C: Enjoy meeting up in person as you will soon have to do this through a computer!
B: To always be yourself and don’t act up for the camera/microphone because you’ll get found out…
C: You mean, don’t watch football in the background while recording because you’ll get found out!
B: That! and be prepared to do interviews and sound like a broken record.
Which episode of your podcast means the most to you?
R: Ep 1 of the second series – Laura AKA Babs. We were really good mates and then lost contact while we were both inside and I wasn’t sure how she was getting on. Hearing her talk in the episode in such a funny way was just really enjoyable.
C: I really enjoyed Ep 4 with the prison governor, Andy. In my job, I am usually only in contact with staff when things are going wrong, chasing them for things that haven’t been done or raising concerns about a prisoner’s treatment. It was great to hear how empathetic the officer was, how he understood the importance of good governance and a reminder of how hard it is, not just for those locked up, but for those doing the locking up.
B: Episode 7 you’ll hear from a victim of serious violence. It’s not something Rob and I have really had to think about much before, there not being a direct ‘victim’ to our offences. His experience was mad and he doesn’t hold it against anyone, he manages to still recognise how important it is we treat people who have committed offences well.
Do you have a dream listener for the podcast? Who most needs to hear these stories.
R: Anyone who has formed their opinion of the prison system based on news articles in the Sun.
B: I would have liked to have heard these stories before going into prison myself.
Which podcasts or podcast hosts inspire you most?
R: I love Joe Rogan because he is a brilliant interviewer and the range of guests he gets on. Also How to Fail w/ Elizabeth Day for the same reasons. Malcolm Gladwell (Revisionist History) and Michael Lewis (Against the Rules) because of their ability to look at stories with depth and a different angle.
C: I’ve always been a fan of Louis Theroux as an interviewer and I have really enjoyed his ‘Grounded’ series over lockdown.
R: Boats, you can say Rob
You recently had a group photoshoot and described the results as ‘the World’s Worst Band’ – what would the band be called??
R: Rough Justice
B: (laughs and shakes head)
C: I don’t think Boats would be seen in a band with us! And it would certainly be a bad one with my lack of musical talent.
Finally, what is your current favourite podcast you would recommend to readers?
R: 1. Banged Up 2. Quickly Kevin will he Score – the 90s Football Show
C: Let me guess Boats, you don’t listen to podcasts?
B: Haha, correct!
C: He hasn’t even listened to ours!