Birmingham is famous for a wide range of things. As well as being the UK’s second largest city, it is the birthplace of heavy metal (Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin and Judas Priest all hail from the region) the setting of Peaky Blinders, and it has one of the best shopping destinations in the UK. But for podcast fans, Birmingham recently made the map as the setting for one of the biggest podcasts of last year – The Trojan Horse Affair. So it made perfect sense to us when we heard about a new podcast event taking place in Birmingham this April.
The Birmingham Podcast Festival 2023 is a one-day event organised by Soundtruism that embraces the power of podcasting that removes barriers to entry. The event aims to be an inclusive audio space, a place to share top tips, skills and knowledge from a truly diverse range of professionals. The amazing line-up of podcast experts and audio professionals is representative of both the city and industry (a key aspect of the Equality In Audio pact we don’t always see at podcast events). As well as headliner Sangeeta Pillai from Masala Podcast, people heading to the festival can expect to hear experts from Spotify, the BBC, and many independent podcast production companies.
We believe that this is as celebration of podcasting not to be missed. Of course, we wanted to learn more and caught up with festival instigator Nina Robinson…
PB: I was so excited to see this launch! Can you tell us how this festival has come about?
NINA: I’d been thinking that Birmingham needed a Podcast Festival for like over a year! I was seeing all the events going on in London and there was very little going on to improve skills and inspire the podcasting community in the Midlands. In the end, I just thought let me do it, as I had a lot of contacts in the audio world from my background working in the industry and I had been working with Birmingham City University who are our partners. I’d been running podcast masterclasses and they were so well received and the innovative ideas that came about also convinced me that we needed a place to share expertise. I have been encouraged by a brilliant advisory board and my lead producer Dylan Hayward- so this all led to Birmingham Podcast Festival 2023 taking shape.
Birmingham is now a super diverse, minority-majority city – how has this shaped the festival?
A lot! Ofcom did a podcast survey last year, which showed that minority populations are nearly all significantly more likely to be podcast listeners than the white population. For me, this is not completely surprising as these are audiences that have been largely under served by mainstream radio in the past. Having worked in an elite part of the industry, namely foreign affairs journalism – as a South Asian female with a Birmingham accent, media representation has been an important issue that led to me doing research for the Sir Lenny Henry Centre for Media Diversity when I left the BBC.
Birmingham is a young and richly diverse place, these are all reasons why it is a perfect flourishing ground for podcasting. There are no barriers to entry, anyone can enter this media space and it is important to provide a platform for successful podcasters and entrepreneurs such as Spotify Original podcaster, Sangeeta Pillai and CEO of podcast production company Bernard Achampong, Media Diversity expert Marcus Ryder MBE, author Jade LB signed to Stormzy’s #Merky Books (and many more) on the line-up to encourage and inspire others whilst at the same time offering some key skills and insights for new and established podcasters in the region.
The city of Birmingham became a bit famous in the podcasting space after the success of The Trojan Horse Affair – how was the podcast received there?
From the people I know and from my own perspective, The Trojan Horse Affair podcast by Serial Productions was incredible. It was a global number one hit and an investigation that delved deep into the insidious core of Islamophobia as it exists in British institutions including in journalism. It rates as one of my all-time favourite podcasts. (The other one is a New York Times podcast called 1619). My ambition is that one day, an investigative podcast series of that calibre, using local journalists can be produced by Birmingham-based podcast companies. I’m hoping that my own media production company, Soundtruism might play be able to play a part in making that a reality. When I DM-ed the co-host of The Trojan Horse Affair Hamza Syed, who is from Birmingham, I told him about the Birmingham Podcast Festival 2023 and he said that he wished that there had been an event like this one when he was here, which was really heartening thing to hear from him
and gave me a lot of encouragement.
What do you love about podcasting?
I just love the fact that it breaks the rules and anyone can do it! I love that you can find a podcast to suit your mood and frame of mind. I love how intimate it is and how your favourite podcasters can feel like your friends – this is how I feel when I listen to The Receipts podcast. I love the possibilities that it offers to companies and individuals to connect with different audiences – this is one of the areas I want the Birmingham Podcast Festival 2023 to tap into, one of the panel discussions is on ‘The Power of Podcasting for your Business or Brand’ and we’ve got the brilliant Richard Miron from Earshot Strategies who has worked with brands such as Airbus and the European Investment Bank on their podcasts and he has so many amazing insights to share.
Podcasting is such a great media to work remotely – how do you see that shaping the future of the industry?
Having worked through Covid and making documentaries for the BBC World Service from my upstairs loft room in Birmingham during that period, I feel that remote working through podcasting makes the world that much smaller and more accessible. I listen to many US, Indian and Canadian podcasts and this makes it easier to share expertise and have cross border conversations. The tech is easy to use which means you can get crystal clear broadcast quality audio from someone in a remote part of the globe and it can sound like they are sitting right next to you.
I’m excited to visit Birmingham for the first time! Aside from the festival – what’s your best insider tip I must see or do before I leave?
Digbeth! It’s right on BCU’s doorstep and there’s a new BBC building about to open (the old Typhoo tea factory) and other media professionals are moving into the area. It is an upcoming media hub. Have a coffee at Fazeley Studios – You have to push an unmarked door (kind of light blue colour) to get in. It closes at 2pm.
For food after: Meat eaters should try HANBAO on 46 Floodgate Street Food Menu.
Vegans and Vegetarians should try THE WAREHOUSE CAFÉ food and bar (closes at 10pm) – it’s @thewarehousecafe on Instagram.
Bars to try:
- Dig Brew Co. (43 River Street) – this one’s a brilliant microbrewery, try the stout.
- The Ruin (92 Floodgate street) – they have outside upstairs bit,
- Dead Wax Digbeth (28 Adderley Street) – edgy
- The Old Crown (High St B12 0LD) – really old like the oldest pub in Birmingham I think.
- Or if you want somewhere really near New Street station, go to Cherry Red’s Café Bar on John Bright Street your little home from home (cherryreds.com)
Anything else you’d like our readers to know?
Get your tickets for Birmingham Podcast Festival 2023 via the website birminghampodcastfestival.co.uk. We are also giving away 2 x podcast microphones (courtesy of @guitarguitaruk) with all the accessories in the box on socials so please follow @soundtruism on Instagram or my own profile on Twitter @ninarobinson01 or follow #BhamPodFest23 and we will be announcing the winner at the Festival on the 22nd April, 2023.