With this week marking the 75th anniversary of the arrival of the HMT Empire Windrush in Britain, it’s a perfect time to launch a podcast that celebrates Caribbean history, heritage and culture in the UK. Objeks & Tings is a collaboration from Message Heard and Museumand, The National Caribbean Heritage Museum, and hosted by Museumand founders (and mother-daughter duo!) Catherine Ross and Lynda Burrell.
The series uses family possessions – objeks and tings – to explore the ways Caribbean culture has flavoured British life. From the Dutch pots (affectionately known as “Dutchies” among Caribbean people) used at family gatherings, to the “grip” suitcases of the Windrush generation travelling from the Caribbean to the UK.
As the trailer says, this podcast will hold significance for people with Caribbean heritage, but “you’re sure to be charmed” by the stories, no matter your background. We caught up with Catherine and Lynda-Louise to find out a bit more…
What was your introduction to podcasting as a listener?
Lynda-Louise Burrell: I kept hearing about Table Manners with Jessie Ware and her mum. Not just because she works with her mum like myself but also as we are working on a Caribbean food project. Their podcast has nothing to do with Caribbean history, heritage or culture but it is joyful, as all life should be.
Catherine Ross: I have only listened to one made by Black people in Britain more concerned about music and how it reflected and impacted on Caribbean life. I just knew that I wanted ours to be a laugh a minute with lapses into patois and being able to tell our stories and truths unfettered. I wanted our podcast to be like having a chat in a room with your mates.
Which podcasts do you take inspiration from?
LLB: To be honest, I’ve taken just as much inspiration from podcasts I don’t like as from podcasts I do. There are many that I enjoy but these don’t tend to be ones covering the type of stories we wanted to share. And then the types of podcasts you tend to hear from my sector – small, not for profit organisations – are often ones where people do everything themselves and as a result, the sound quality often suffers. So we did have to wait to find the right production company to work with us that were as passionate as we are and wanted to work with us to curate a show we could all be proud of, and spoke to different types of Caribbeans.
We wanted to share their stories and views. We wanted people of differing ages, as usually with anything black, you tend to get the same types of stories from the same types of protagonists keeping us all in this metaphorical box – that all black people are the same. We wanted to capture multiple Caribbean stories of differing people to show that we are not a monolithic people.
CR: I love the podcasts of Black American women such as Michelle Obama, Meghan Markle and Oprah. When I listen to them, I come away inspired, confident and ready to step back into the affray of life.
Why did you decide that audio was right for sharing these stories?
LLB: I used to work in fashion and I am a natural creative. So working in museums now I try to keep things fresh and current to capture the public’s imagination as most exhibitions are rather dull, staid, and let’s face it, boring. In this day and age with social media, fast paced lives, and only seconds to draw people in before they move onto the next thing, I try to ensure our work as a museum draws people in and captures and holds their attention. We take exhibitions around the UK to different museums, art galleries and art spaces so have to keep our work fresh to engage with different types of people wherever they are. This way we get such a variety of different types of people engaging with our work from young people to those in their late 90s; from Caribbeans to white British, to Americans, and Eastern Europeans, all peoples from different communities.
Podcasts were becoming so popular that I thought – if this is how people are now spending their time, they can binge or dip in and out, listen at their convenience while working-out, driving or walking to work etc. so why not let them get their fix of Caribbean culture this way also! A quick convo filled with fun, laughter and a teachable moment, whether through the guest you can reminisce, reflect and connect or reconnect with your culture or explore a different one, it’s all good. I want through this podcast to connect with more people of Caribbean descent, help them reconnect to their culture while sharing our culture with others.
This will help us connect with more people, new people and different people and as a Creative Director that’s what I want through this creative conversation and am sharing my cultural heritage across the global one convo at a time.
CR: People on the move can access this mode of info sharing. I can listen by dipping in and out, and don’t have to listen to it all in one go! I can listen anywhere, which is just as well, as at times the content is so good I laugh out loud and sound like a mad woman or I take exception to what is being said and have a raging row with a machine!
Heritage and family is a massive part of the show, and you work together a lot. But did you discover anything new about each other from making the show?
LLB: I don’t think I discovered anything new about mum but the show just highlighted things such as:
-A retired English teacher will always be an English teacher! She goes through the scripts with a fine-tooth grammar comb. Yes, this is a loosely scripted convo believe it or not but mum will correct everyone’s English before reading it through
-All the world’s a stage… well certainly mum thinks so! She always reads things out in a presenter’s voice. She even does this with emails, again English teacher mode!
-She knows a lot about a lot
-She is extremely funny!
CR: I realise my daughter is quite clever and can take on anyone!! In fact, I sometimes worry for those who cross her. I suppose that’s the confidence of this generation. As a member of the Windrush Generation I hold things back. She knows so much about so many things she’s just right for a show like this, her life experiences of working in some difficult industries, and 13 years of working abroad has equipped her with not just views but strategies for dealing with most things. When people quote her, or refer to her in publications, I want to shout out to the world, “that’s my girl, that’s my baby, look at her go!”
What have you enjoyed most in making this podcast?
LLB: I have really enjoyed the process of making a podcast. It’s more than just speaking down the mic. However, talking is tough, with things to cope with like alliteration, not sounding like a kid’s TV presenter, or a news broadcaster. When a mic is pointed at you, or maybe just mum, your voice does strange things. It’s really bizarre. Just to let everyone out there know, I sound much better LIVE and direct.
But on a serious note, doing my day job as the Creative Director of The National Caribbean Heritage Museum, Museumand, one of my biggest pleasures is talking to people across the UK on a daily basis. Getting to know them, helping them share their stories to enrich Caribbeans and non-Caribbeans everywhere. So on the podcast, getting to meet more people, sharing info that we can instantly then share through the airwaves is a real honour and privilege and doing it this way through a podcast, more people get to hear this info much quicker than through our exhibitions. It does the same service in a different way.
CR: Meeting so many wonderful people who are generous in sharing their stories and experiences. I love hearing from others and feeling reassured that I am not the only one who has gone through certain experiences. It’s great having gaps filled in my cultural knowledge too.
What do you think listeners will enjoy most?
LLB: I think we have a really good, interesting group of guests with interesting stories to share and through our wonderful hosting skills, and mother-daughter dynamic, our fun Caribbean personality seeps through. Hearing Caribbean stories and quips straight from people of Caribbean descent, and of those you usually hear from non-Caribbeans speaking of Caribbeans.
CR: We as a family love sayings, and Caribbeans as a whole tradition, live on sayings, so we end each episode with one and make the end of a show a fun teachable moment. We also in places lapse into Patios. A language we need to keep alive but I think the listeners will enjoy as our sentences can flow beautifully from Standard English to Caribbean patios. The camaraderie, and fun of learning and laughing as we make discoveries about our culture and ourselves. The podcast will help people make sense of their life experiences, history and heritage.
Where can the Pod Bible readers find out more about you?