Have You Heard? is a series in which the team from Pod Bible meet the people behind the podcasts you may not have heard of yet. While the Oh. My. Pod. section in the magazine gives a quick shout out to shows of that ilk, Have You Heard? aims to go deeper in an effort to spread awareness for shows that deserve more exposure! We recently spoke to playwright Vickie Donoghue. Vickie is one of the writers on The Piper, a new narrative podcast on BBC Radio 4.
Who are you and what’s your podcast about?
I’m Vickie Donoghue. Natalie Mitchell and I are playwrights from either side of the Thames estuary who also write for screen and radio. Our podcast drama is a thriller set in Kent about The Pied Piper returning to contemporary Britain. It’s about a detective and her daughter uncovering a terrifying force and their battle to discover the truth. It’s an unnerving, spooky story enhanced by an incredible soundtrack by Bat For Lashes’ Natasha Khan.
What was the first podcast you ever listened to?
I’m still a bit of a podcast novice (having two small children has helped that!) but the first one I listened to was by Simon Stephens for The Royal Court Theatre in which he interviews a different playwright in each episode. I absolutely love it as I am such a nosy person and I adore hearing how each writer works, their process, and even how they set out their working day. It’s the little secrets that come out that is so engaging and the rapport that Simon has with each fellow writer. It’s very inspiring.
As a writer, why did you decide to write for the podcast format?
With both of us having previously written drama for Radio moving to tell stories in a podcast format seemed very natural. The story of The Piper and it’s connection to music leant itself to the audio form. In fact, music was absolutely key for us. We always knew we didn’t want a physical embodiment of The Piper, and wanted a haunting motif. Getting someone of Natasha Khan’s calibre who totally got and nailed the brief was amazing. The music is a character in it’s self. We were also really excited to get stuck into long form storytelling because as a writer opportunities like that don’t come up very often.
Tell us about the process of writing and producing your podcast?
The Piper was produced by Somethin’ Else and directed by Kate Rowland who has years of experience in producing and directing Radio and was previously Head of Radio Drama for the BBC. The idea for The Piper came to us quite a few years ago but once Kate had successfully pitched it to Something Else, Natalie and I only had a few months to write it before we went into an intense week of recording it. Kate likes to record on location rather than creating soundscape and atmosphere in a studio so it was a cold week in December 2019 that we got the series completed (my god the actors were incredible!). Kate and Steve Bond (our Sound Designer) then got the first edit done, but then the first lockdown happened. The process was then slowed up, however, on reflection, coming out in the Autumn of 2020 was perfect as it’s a Halloweeny, spooky thriller and a podcast that you definitely want to snuggle up and close the curtains for!
Which podcasts do you take inspiration from?
As I said, I’m nosy, so any podcast where I can hear about an artist’s process is a winner for me. I love learning from other creatives. I’m also a bit of news junkie so love the BBC’s Newscast. It’s really interesting watching journalists that have very serious roles on our televised news programmes being a bit looser and a bit more honest about what’s going on politically in the world. Hearing them actually laughing is so weird! I also love supporting my mates and their fantastic podcasts – Funny Mummies, Hardcore Listing, Hoovering and I love anything by Fearne Cotton – Happy Place or even Sounds of the 90’s (where I can relive my youth!).
Where can the Pod Bible readers find out more about your podcast?
Head to BBC Radio 4 or BBC Sounds and search The Piper, where the trailer and all episodes are now available to download and listen to. Enjoy!