The Pod Bible gang wanted to bring podcast producers out from their editing bays and research caves to tell you why they’re passionate about creating podcasts…
Despite having no children to listen with, I’ve recently stormed through the catalogue of creation stories pulled together on In The Beginning. The show is made with children in mind (and with children in the cast!) and children will enjoy the playful way of connecting to other cultures through the sound design, acting and storytelling. But Producers Lucia Scazzocchio and Hawa Khan have created a show that is also perfect for adults wanting a light-hearted snippet of global culture in their podcast playlists.
I sent some questions over to Lucia to find out more about how the team pulled this show together…
What were the origins of this podcast – take us back to the Beginning of the show!
In the Beginning… Hawa Khan my co-writer/producer and I created a new family audio tour for the Tower of London where historical events are experienced through the eyes of two child ghosts. We had so much fun writing and producing together that we decided we would like to something else. Hawa is a natural storyteller and we are quite passionate about traditional stories and myths. We both come from quite mixed backgrounds and realised that many of these stories aren’t that well known in the UK. We wanted to tell these stories in a way that fully represented multi-cultural Britain in voices and styles of speech familiar to young audiences.
We pitched the idea to all the children’s networks we could think of, but kept hitting a wall. We then applied for an Audio Content Fund and partnered in Fun Kids who backed the idea from the start. We applied three times before the project was finally funded.
Did you take inspiration from any podcasts in particular before you started?
Not directly, I listen to many, many different podcasts and I did immerse myself in audio drama, especially the more immersive productions from QCode or Gimlet. There are some children’s podcasts that possibly inspired on a subliminal level, like Wow in The World, Radio Lab for kids and I was an avid listener of audio books when I was child. I bought by niece a Yoto player and rediscovered many of the stories I had listened to on cassette.
The show was originally a radio show and made into a podcast – can you give us a little insight to how it worked between yourself as Producers/Writers and then the actors/the Fun Kids radio station.
The radio show and the podcast are the same format. I would say the big difference when producing for a radio station is that everything has to fit exactly into the time allocated, which isn’t the case for podcasts!
The process was: Hawa and I first selected, then researched the stories, gathering as much information as we could about the people and places these stories come from.
Many of these stories are from ancient indigenous cultures and have been passed down over generations and some are still very much part of religious and cultural life. We wanted to make sure we properly acknowledged the people who these stories belong to and spent a lot of time researching the names, places and religious aspects.
Leona Fensome did a brilliant job helping us contact academics and indigenous elders to make sure we used the correct language and terms.
The next stage was writing the scripts. Hawa and I co-wrote each script by trying to embody the characters, Hawa is a brilliant voice artist so she developed the characters as we went along, deciding what accents, intonation and personality each character would have. We had decided from the outset that the voice of each character would be decided by their personality rather than from where the story is from. This means a Chinese dragon has a West Indian accent, or the Taino Sun is based on an Indian Raj. Hawa then worked with the children and adult actors to develop their characters and give them voice. The children played themselves, but the adult actors are all experienced in channelling diverse accents and characters so they really brought that into the studio when we recorded. We had already worked with some of the children and actors on the Tower of London project so this was helpful.
Once everything was recorded I worked on the pacing and sound design. Fun Kids helped us hone the original application and concept but they didn’t intervene during production. They trusted us to produce these stories in our own way. The final addition to this series becoming a podcast, was the creation of the artwork by Delphine – each episode has its own image which is gorgeous.
One of the things I really liked in the series was the children’s voices in the show. How important was it for you to have that?
Children love listening to other children and the children’s voices provide a narrative thread through the series. The children in the series are being told the stories and ask the kinds of questions that children listening might also ask. There is also a little life lesson in each episode that connects to the children’s interaction at the beginning of each episode.
As Producers, how did you find doing that aspect? (Never work with children or animals comes to mind!)
Hawa Kahn is a creative school facilitator so she is very used to working with children and firing their imaginations. The children in the series aren’t professional actors and the script was written around them – they are two sets of siblings. Time and patience is the key, with plenty of breaks. These children were superb to work with and incredibly literate. The youngest were 5 when we recorded and they were all just amazing.
Have you seen a difference in the reaction from listeners since it became a podcast?
Fun Kids has a very specific audience – children! The difference now that the series is a podcast is that it can reach audiences beyond Fun Kids and I think adults will enjoy listening just as much.
Do you have any advice for budding producers for Children’s audio?
Test your concepts and ideas with children first. They will tell you if it’s good and engaging. We got the children involved to read through the scripts, they were quite vocal if they thought something didn’t make sense or wasn’t funny.
Do you have a creation story you haven’t told yet but would love to?
There are so many! I think we will have to do another series. For example closer to home is the ancient story of Queen Albina and her sisters who was exiled from Syria to an uninhabited island which is now Britain.
Lastly, is there anything we didn’t ask that you’d like to add?
It was important for us to have a space to share more detail about the creation stories so In The Beginning.. now has a bespoke website inthebeginning.world where you can learn about the different myths, where they are from and more about the people they belong to. We have also transformed the artwork into a colouring book and postcards.
And finally I would say have a listen, you will hear stories from all over the world, told in a very unexpected and humorous way by an incredibly diverse and talented cast.