The podcasting industry is growing at a massive rate, but the number of top-performing podcasts hosted and produced by women is still shockingly small. The Skylark Collective is a new initiative hoping to change that in a really positive way through membership and the bursary schemes. We caught up with Founder, Naomi Mellor, to learn more about the collective, and the first ever International Women’s Podcast Awards.
Tell us a little bit about yourself and Skylark Collective – what’s your elevator pitch?
I started my first podcast, Smashing The Ceiling, back in 2018 as a challenge to myself after having a bit of an unsettled time in my professional life as a vet. Things were a bit up in the air work-wise, so I decided to set myself two personal goals instead: to launch a podcast and to run an ultramarathon. Sarah Williams, founder of the Tough Girl podcast, was my mentor and taught me everything I needed to know. She helped me to get started in podcasting and prepare for the ultramarathon, and things have gone on from there.
I’ve recently founded the Skylark Collective, which is a global collective for women in podcasting. Skylark is a place for women to connect, collaborate and celebrate their achievements, with the aim of raising the profile of female podcasters worldwide and levelling the playing field in the industry. There are womens’ networks across the UK in a range of different sectors – Women in Film & TV, Digital Women, Women in Football to name a few – and I thought it was time to start one for women in podcasting too.
Tell us about the name – why ‘Skylark’?
I spent AGES coming up with a name! I was torn whether to choose something obvious and quite ‘Ronseal’ like ‘Women Who Podcast’. But I really wanted to incorporate the word ‘Collective’ into the name, as what we’re building is an incredible community of like-minded women, with a passion for collective action and co-operative enterprise. After going through various iterations, I landed on using the name of a bird – I live in the countryside and I love to listen to the birds when I’m out walking the dog or running in the hills.
The skylark seemed like an apt choice, as they reflect the kind of women I wanted to attract to the Collective: they might look unassuming, but they are strong, they soar high in the sky, and their voice is clear, powerful and distinctive.
Who is the Skylark Collective for?
The collective is for women who have a vision for their podcast – whether that’s more listeners, recognition, opportunities or earnings. Membership is open to anyone who identifies as a woman and is involved in podcasting; whether you’re a host, writer, editor or producer, if you’re looking to find your tribe to accompany you on your journey in podcasting then Skylark is the place for you. It doesn’t matter if you’re a novice podcaster learning the ropes, or a seasoned professional with a background in audio, we are here to support you, and we would love to hear your work for the International Women’s Podcast Awards.
One of my passions in life is meeting new people and connecting others, and I’m aiming to create a place where women meet like-minded friends and contacts for collaboration and quite honestly, a bit of fun. I think we all need that post-Covid!
The International Women’s Podcast Awards – what is it and who can enter?
I am so excited about this! A significant part of our offering at Skylark is the International Women’s Podcast Awards, which is a unique event celebrating the work of women in podcasting, both behind the mic and behind the scenes. I really believe women have important things to say, and that they deserve to be recognised and championed, and currently there are no awards anywhere in the world exclusively celebrating the work of female-led podcasts.
The International Women’s Podcast Awards are open to women from all over the world in five categories, and entries are now open – the ceremony is at the Allbright in London in September 2021 and entries are open until mid-June so there’s plenty of time to put your podcast into the mix. We very much encourage self-nomination; after all, if you don’t put yourself forward in life then other people rarely do either!
The categories are a bit different to those you’d usually find. How did you decide the themes?
To me, the joy of podcasting lies in the atmosphere created between the host, guest and listener, and in the moments of incredible sensitivity, humour or honesty that keep people engrossed. I talk all the time about these intimate moments, and decided that rather than rewarding genres or categories of podcasts, we would make the awards about individual moments of brilliance. You might not be the most well-known or most successful podcaster out there, but you may have captured that one piece of audio, that one moment in time that deserves recognition because it’s so brilliant. That’s what we’re after.
The categories for podcasters are based around four intimate moments: raw emotion, comedy gold, cliff-hanging drama and touching honesty, and there’s one separate award for editors, producers and writers for ‘Moment of Behind-The-Scenes Brilliance’ which rewards a moment from any of the other four categories that a woman has masterminded from behind the scenes. I felt it was important to recognise women working quietly away from the limelight as well as podcast hosts themselves.
What are you most excited about with Skylark Collective going forward?
I’m so excited about developing the bursary scheme, which will launch later this year. It will be open to young women aged 16-24 to pitch an idea they have and take it forward to production. It’s so interesting to me that the GenZ demographic haven’t yet adopted podcasting in the same way that they have TikTok and YouTube, and I think there’s a large pool of untapped talent there.
I’m also very excited about our first in-person events, which will be happening once restrictions lift – I’m so looking forward to meeting people and getting back out there as the Collective grows and develops.
Is there anything else you’d like to share with readers?
We are launching the Skylark Collective membership very shortly. for We’re looking for 100 founder members initially, who will be key to shaping and influencing the direction that the Collective takes. Whilst we’re inviting women from across the industry, we would love to hear from anyone that is interested in joining – we’ve been delighted with the amount of support and interest we’ve received so far but are very open to new members and would love to welcome anyone that would like to be part of our community!
Where can people find out more about you?
Our website is www.skylarkcollective.co.uk and we’re most active on Instagram where we’re @theskylarkcollective. I’ve also been on Clubhouse for a few months and have found that a useful place to network with other podcasters, particularly in the US – I’m @naomimellor on there.
Apply for the International Women’s Podcasting Awards on the Skylark Collective website now.
Naomi’s podcast, Smashing The Ceiling, has just returned for its third season, and you can listen now on Spotify, Acast or elsewhere. Naomi also hosts and produces two veterinary podcasts, Veterinary Woman and Borborygmi: Noises From The Veterinary World.
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