After hearing The Last Bohemians recommended on a episode of our Pod Bible Podcast, our new Online Editor Jordan Rizzieri (aka The Lady J) reached out to journalist and podcaster Kate Hutchinson to discuss the creative process behind the women-focused show and her approach to series 2, which is out now on The Last Bohemians website and everywhere you get your podcast content. Check out Jordan and Kate’s socially-distanced chat:
Pod Bible: Why did you start The Last Bohemians podcast?
Kate Hutchinson: There are many levels to this question: I wanted to explore the wildness of women; women who’d been part of significant scenes and movements in the arts and culture but who don’t get asked about it as much as men; women who’ve carved their own paths. I wanted to do [it] because older women are amazing and overlooked but also because I was going through a severe bout of anxiety after leaving a job and by talking to women that didn’t give a fuck and did things their own way, it helped me build my confidence back up. I was also frustrated at how the audio industry was increasingly obsessed with basic ideas and piggy-backing on influencers’ numbers in terms of backing podcasts with any kind of budget and the BBC felt like this big old Fort Knox who make it almost impossible for individual creators to pitch. And so I thought I’d just do it my own way – bring on a team of producers to do an episode each, so that I get to work with as many brilliant women as possible and so they get to use that episode to do whatever they want creatively, maybe doing sound design for the first time or whatever. I’m so proud of the work they create and I’ve learned so much from all of them. The thing that I really love about podcasting as a platform is how punk it is: you can completely create your own universe and there are no rules; episodes can be as long as you like or as short as you like, you can be free and experiment with narrative and sound; it’s not rigid at all, it’s so exciting.
PB: What did you learn from Series 1 that helped to inform Series 2?
KH: Series one was such a wild, incredible ride. I’d never made a podcast before and there was a lot to think about in terms of strategy, roll out, editing and how to create an engaging narrative out of just one interview for each episode. One of the most interesting things was seeing how listeners reacted to series one and what they got from the stories and how inspired they were, and so I think I wanted to try and cater to that aspect as much as possible four our second run and just do more. This time we stepped it up with two extra episodes and some follow-up interviews in places, and I also brought a sponsor onboard, Mr & Mrs Smith, who I felt were a really brilliant fit. We’re also releasing series two weekly instead of in a Netflix-style box set dump like series one, and it will be interesting to see if that makes a difference in terms of reach.
PB: What feedback did you get from listeners that really surprised you?
KH: I was really encouraged to hear that people felt that these stories were as necessary as I did. I’ve had messages from university and college teachers saying that they’ve played the series to their students. I’ve seen countless lovely things on social media saying that they want to “think more like Molly” or that these bohemians are giving them a bit more confidence to care less what other people think in this anxiety age we’re living in. People loved to hear about how they still create and are artistic into their later years and that’s something we definitely explore more with series two.
PB: What made you decide to change the way you released the episodes to weekly drops instead of one whole-series drop?
KH: Honestly, that’s a case of timing. The first series took something like two and a half years to complete, this time I’ve only had a year and I have to work as a freelance journalist to make an income to pay for it, too. I still haven’t recorded the final eighth episode and we may have to think how to do that differently now that the world is in self-isolation mode. Dropping series one like a box set gave it time to build over a year but now, by dropping it weekly, I can vaguely work out the number of subscribers better and then, hopefully, when series two is completely published, in April, it’ll be ready for a whole new wave of listeners to binge over spring. But you know, who knows what will happen; now that we’re in a global pandemic it’s really hard to tell anything that’s going to happen.
PB: How did you choose the producers for Series 2?
KH: It’s a lovely jumble of people I’ve met through doing various radio bits over the years, recommendations and research. I’m looking for people who have an interesting take on audio, are doing cool things with sound design, who are keen to have a different creative outlet outside of their jobs and whose work I enjoy. I’m not looking for the most experienced people, I’m after the producers who love the vibe of the series and what I’m trying to do with creating a platform that didn’t exist before (some people have simply just expressed interest and I’ll certainly be working with them for series three). Most podcasts have the same one or two producers but this is more like a punk collective, I think!
PB: Do you pair producers with subjects intentionally, based on availability, or at random?
KH: It’s a bit of both. I’ve worked with some of the producers again from series one because I felt they were the right people to take on episodes with bigger names or to take on a job abroad (we went to Dublin to interview film-maker Vivienne Dick for series two). I thought that Mae-Li Evans’ creative sound design would be great for an episode where we go on a journey (Gee Vaucher’s “open house” in Essex). For the last interview of the series, with Maxine Sanders, the witch at the centre of the 1970s witchcraft boom, I put out a Twitter request looking for a producer with a particular interest in the occult and magic and found Hannah Fisher, whose grandfather had been a magician and written a book about witches. It was perfect!
PB: How collaborative is the creation of each episode between you and your producers? Are you working as a pair the entire journey, or do you come together and part periodically?
KH: I like to try and be as collaborative as possible. Sometimes producers want more autonomy, sometimes less, and I try to be flexible for that. As a general outline, though, I’ll draw up a huge doc of research and then build the script with input from the producer. At the end of the recording, too, they usually chip in with anything I’ve missed or anything to follow up on. I’m interested in what interests them as much as what interests me – I can’t know [everything] and I do miss details so having the producer research just as deeply really helps. I think it’s just more exciting when you both know the subject, too. But you know sometimes you’ll turn up and a producer will be recording some ambient stuff and then they’ll turn that into a killer intro that you would have never thought about or they’re reacting to the sound in a space. It really helps that I’ve got room to concentrate on the interview and the producer can concentrate on making it sound as good as it can. In the edit, I’m not very technical, but I do understand narrative flow from years of being a writer and editor and and so sometimes I can help when things get sticky, and vice versa. Sometimes I want to do something, or put something here or there, and it’s not possible and I need to be told! But I always find that it’s good to find a solution together and that four ears are better than one.
PB: The diversity of both subjects and producers is such an important part of The Last Bohemians. How important did/do you feel creating that environment was when you were starting the show?
KH: It’s everything. I really try to put diversity at the forefront of everything I do, especially as the media and audio landscape is still, like so many industries, so white and male. I’ve been inspired by groups like Sound Women to try and give other women a platform, sort of like an audio coven. On a personal level, though, I just find it really powerful and exciting to work with large teams of women. I used to run a charity jumble sale called Rumble In The Jumble with a group called The Music Circle featuring women from all over the music industry – there’d be women DJing, women on the stalls, women everywhere. I met some of my best friends that way. When we turn up with an all-female team to interview The Last Bohemians, they love it, too. It creates a more relaxed and nurturing atmosphere, and I feel like hopefully you can hear the difference in the episodes.