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Permission to make some noise (and finding inspiration at the London Podcast Festival)

The Noisy Hajar at London Podcast Festival


Permission to make some noise (and finding inspiration at the London Podcast Festival)

When lockdown hit, Hajar J. Woodland didn’t just lose her income, she felt like she’d lost her voice. Here, she writes about how podcasting has helped her find it again…

About a year before the pandemic, I made the very sensible decision of spending all my savings on a creative writing master’s. Despite a long freelance career that straddled the corporate and creative worlds, I wanted to narrow my focus and instead at least try to commit to a more creative life. I was a professional singer with a residency at a London hotel and after completing my MA, I decided that singing would be my main source of income while I worked on my novel and other creative pursuits of podcasting and standup comedy.


When lockdown hit, I didn’t just lose my income, it felt like I lost my voice.

I started a podcast with my boyfriend in 2019. The Dabblers’ Book Club was a simple couple’s hobby, built around the fact we both loved to talk and we both liked reading. Well, he loved reading, I always needed a bit of a nudge. The pod forced me to read a book every fortnight and to clarify my thoughts on it by talking it through. We reviewed novels and would laugh at one-star reviews on Amazon. It was a modest podcast but it was fun and it gave me the opportunity to connect with a range of people for interviews – it felt like a permission slip to approach people I admired and respected for a conversation. A particular highlight was interviewing the wonderful author Douglas Stuart about his Booker winning debut, Shuggie Bain.

In the early stages of lockdown, despite the chaos in my head, The Dabblers’ Book Club gave me a sense of purpose and even identity. I’m undeniably an extrovert but growing up in a strict religious household instilled a sense of shame in me about any traits that might be deemed unladylike; I knew from a young age that I was ‘too loud’ and that anything I said would be subject to intense scrutiny. So when it came to podcasting it wasn’t the chat, but the edit that felt like a battle. I started out cutting huge sections of what I’d said in case the logic was even slightly flawed or ill-considered; I’d take out jokes I’d found funny at the time; I’d edit out every ‘umm’ to the point I sounded like a robot; and even though there was no clipping or distortion I’d cut out the occasional foghorn that was my laugh. I simply couldn’t believe that not everyone was listening to tear me apart. That some people do actually want to hear what you think and will allow you your flaws. The inner critic is hard to silence. As schedules changed, reading got harder and we let the podcast fizzle out, but I’m determined not to let my voice die with it.

So, I’ve given myself permission to be too loud again or – as anyone who’s not my dad would call it – to have conversations in public. Lots and lots of conversations, in fact, with brilliant people, covering everything from love, loss and grief to travel, creativity and identity. To get me through this post-pandemic lull and make some noise, I’m launching The Noisy Hajar Podcast, a weekly podcast where I’ll invite guests to talk about absolutely anything they want. As a judge at the British Podcast Awards, I should know better than to dive in without a clear structure or plan, but that’s also the beauty of podcasting. Just as some of best lines in TV comedy history came from hours of improv, you never know what gems you’ll find just by talking things through. To get some inspiration (and bag some future guests) I’ll be heading to some of the brilliant live podcast events at the London Podcast Festival this month. Here are my picks.

Halfies: A Live Podcast
Thursday 8 th September | 9.30pm | £9.50

If you’re dual heritage like me and have never known which box to tick on a diversity form, this one’s for you. To talk about the funny side of growing up a ‘halfie’, I’ll be joined by razor-sharp comic and fellow Anglo-Iranian Darius Davies and ‘the best British-Surinamese, Irish-Palestinian duo on the circuit’, Shirley & Shirley, aka Joanna Carolan and Pascale Wilson. Buy tickets >>

A Gay and A NonGay
Friday 9 th September | 7pm | £9.50

I saw James Barr’s brilliant ‘Straight Jokes’ show at the Edinburgh Fringe and I know this live podcast, nominated in the Best Interview and Sex & Relationships categories at this year’s British Podcast Awards will deliver just as many laughs. Expect audience interaction, a safe space for Dan to ask questions to the LGBTQ+ community in Things That Dan Cannot Say, and a laugh-out-loud look at the differences between Gay and NonGay people. Buy tickets >>

Sunday 11 th September | 7pm | £14.50

Grief isn’t something we seem to have a particular language or culture around in the UK, but luckily people are trying to change that. This podcast has been a lifeline for some of my friends who’ve experienced the heartbreak and aching loneliness of loss. Comedian Cariad Lloyd is joined by Karen Hobbs, Marcus Brigstocke and Saima Ferdows to talk all things grief and death and to plan their own funerals at the same time. Buy tickets >>

Chart Music: The TOTP Podcast
Sunday 17 th September | 2pm | £12.50

Now that I’m 36, a good Friday night in consists of a bottle of wine and 90s Top of the Pops, so this is right up my street. For this special live episode, host Al Needham will be joined onstage by David Stubbs, Sarah Bee and Taylor Parkes for a concentrated, 90-minute blast of putting the trainers to the anus of an episode of our favourite Thursday night pop treat. Buy tickets >>

90 Minutes Or Less Film Fest Fest: Dan Schreiber on Naked Gun 2 1/2 – The Smell of Fear
Sunday 18 th September | Noon | £9.50

I loved the Naked Gun films as a kid, and still have Priscilla Presley’s three-point flashing dress emblazoned in my memory, so this is a must-watch for me. For this live edition of the show, Sam Clements will be joined by Dan Schrieber to watch the film and then chat about it after. A pretty perfect Sunday afternoon. Buy tickets >>

Read more articles about the London Podcast Festival or head to the Kings Place Website to buy your tickets!

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