Pod Bible is regularly contacted by people sharing their new podcasts, and the submissions range across every sector and industry. But one sector we’re always interested in spotlighting are podcasts about social issues that take on a role of outreach. We get to highlight one such podcast in the Good Samaritan section of the magazine, but occasionally something comes into our inbox that is too timely to wait for the next issue.
Our Voices in the NHS podcast shares the untold stories of doctors and nurses working in the NHS during these incredibly tough times. It’s a weekly podcast, with short episodes around 10 minutes long that combine first-hand monologues with beautiful sound design. We asked host Alex Melia to tell us how Our Voices came to be.
Where did the idea for Our Voices come from and why did you decide to do it as a podcast?
I’ve always been fascinated by the untold stories of real people. I think the kind of people who often feature in ‘reality’ TV shows for instance really don’t reflect real life. I felt that podcasting was the best format to enable these stories to be told and heard and for them to hopefully impact people in some way.
One of my sisters, as well as my father, work for the NHS, and I’ve heard some amazing stories from them so I was passionate about concentrating our efforts on medical professionals to begin with. This has turned out to be timely with so much positive sentiment for them right now when people want to get a real glimpse into their lives. Most of the NHS professionals are from overseas, enriching our country so much, and I wanted to bring attention to them.
What was the collaboration process like between yourself and the producers?
It’s been quite a long process, which has so far spanned around 4 months. We began by having strategy sessions where we talked about the values of the podcast and what we wanted to communicate to our audience, in addition to what sort of audience we were looking for.
Fascinate have worked day and night on this. It’s not uncommon for us to be exchanging messages at midnight, and I love the fact that they are as passionate about this as I am. Fascinate also have an excellent track record of producing podcasts which have gone out to tens of thousands of listeners, and the beautiful sound design is just one example that they know how to make this podcast the best that it could possibly be.
The podcast is formatted as short stories. Why did you choose this rather than a Q&A or interview format?
As human beings, our lives are dictated by the stories we tell, both to ourselves and to others. This podcast is all about allowing people to share their stories so a Q&A just wouldn’t have done it justice. Also, this podcast is less about me and more about the guest. I wanted to be the facilitator of great stories rather than playing the ‘host’ in a traditional sense.
Personally most of the podcasts I love (and are the most meaningful) follow a narrative structure, and I think this is reflected in the general listener population. There’s a lot of Q&A style podcasts out there and we wanted to try something different. It’s great to be able to distil the story in the way we do which makes things more engaging, more concise and more accessible for the audience no matter where they are or what they’re doing whilst they’re listening.
It’s obviously much more of a time investment our end but we think it’s worth it!
Did you take inspiration from any other podcasts in particular?
I was particularly inspired by NPR and Gimlet, who both produce incredibly high-quality podcasts. There was a particular podcast on NPR’s ‘This American life’ called “24 Hours at the Golden Apple’, where people were interviewed in a diner and they talked about their everyday lives, which I found fascinating –both mundane and enlightening stories. There’s also a podcast made by Gimlet called “Heavyweight”, where the interviewee talks about a particular event which has happened to them in their lives, and they then provide their reflections afterwards.
We usually ask if you have a dream guest for the podcast, but I think in this instance it is more poignant to ask: do you have a dream listener? Who do you think needs to hear these stories?
I think my dream listener would be Peter Kay. I got the book ‘Dear NHS’ by Adam Kay who collected stories from 100 notable people from the world of entertainment where they spoke about their experiences with the NHS. One story from Peter Kay struck me where his character from the TV programme, ‘Car Share’ went into hospital to have a brain scan. As I read it, it struck me that he embodied the values we try to represent in this podcast: warmth, authenticity, humility, empathy and a small bit of humour thrown in for good measure. He’s from the same area that I’m from too! Even with success, he’s stayed true to himself and lives a very normal life in the area he grew up in.
What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learnt so far from making the podcast?
Well, as an interviewer I’d say: don’t try to fill the silence, as that’s often where the gold is. When you give someone space in those moments, sometimes they’ll recall something which even surprises themselves.
Is there a particular interview or story that has really stuck with you?
Yes. I spoke to a doctor from Libya who was working in her home country during the civil war and she found herself in the position of having to care for patients who were from the militia which had killed people from her own community. I was struck by the level of compassion and bravery that doing that must have taken, especially as she was threatened with her life as the militiamen all kept guns under their pillows. One of the militiamen warned her that if she failed to care for the men properly, she would be shot and killed immediately. There was no hint of anger or resentment when she told me this story which was staggering; she had this calm sense of acceptance about it all.
Where can the Pod Bible readers find out more about you?
They can either go to our website: ourvoicespodcast.com or they can go to Apple, Spotify or whether they listen to their podcasts. Fascinate Productions can be contacted at www.fascinateproductions.co.uk.
Listen to Alex on episode #075 of the Pod Bible podcast.