Building a sense of community through the airwaves

James Cridland speaks about creating a sense of community

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Building a sense of community through the airwaves

Creating a sense of community


This episode of Our Voices focuses on the power of technology to create a sense of community. James discusses the ways in which key individuals in his life have been able to achieve this.

Idyllic surroundings

James begins by talking about the value that radio had to him as a child. He used to live in a sleepy village in Somerset in an old building called Monk’s Dairy.  His house was situated in a valley amidst beautiful rolling, green hills.

The downside, however, was that the area was susceptible to floods. Describing the impact of one of the floods James experienced as a child, he says 

“water lapped up into the dairy. We couldn’t go anywhere because the entire house was surrounded by floodwater and it would get into your boots if you tried to walk outside.”

Love of radio


The flooding was so severe that James and his family were unable to leave the house for days. The only things he could do were watch television and listen to the radio. The latter proved to be a particular comfort to James as the BBC had created a special broadcast for those who had been affected by the floods.

Listening to the presenter’s voice, he felt a deep love of radio which came from a sense that the whole community was listening to this same broadcast and that they were in it together.

Being able to create a podcast community.


A geeky friend

Technology’s ability to create a sense of community was also evidenced in James’ school life. James went to a boarding school in a remote valley in the north of England. The imposing design with its towers and turrets made it somewhat reminiscent of Hogwarts Academy. 

It was at this school that James would meet his first role model, a fellow pupil named Michael. Describing Michael, James says he “was very, very geeky.” James is no longer in contact with his school friend but he speculates on what the adult version of Michael would be like. 

“If he’s a professor in a university, he would be the person with the dishevelled look, and the trousers that aren’t long enough.”

An intricate prank


Michael was four years above James when they became friends. But, along with the geekiness, James was drawn to the maverick side of Michael’s personality. He was particularly taken with his friend’s attempts to use technology in subversive ways. An example of this was when he attempted to make an FM transmitter in order to bug the headmaster’s office. 

The motivation for this was that a pupil had got into trouble and the school was keen to hear what the headmaster’s reaction would be. 

“What Michael did in just a day is, he went to the electronics room at school and built an FM transmitter with a little microphone. It was an FM transmitter with a little antenna, which he ended up sticking onto this thing so that it would transmit the audio. He then stuck it into this guy’s top pocket so that it would end up broadcasting the headmaster shouting at this guy and it would end up on the FM waveband across school.”

Had this technological prank come off, it would have been certain to create quite the stir. But unfortunately, or fortunately, perhaps, events did not go to plan. “The wire needed to be straight, I think, in order for it to work. And, for whatever reason, the wire ended up bending.” So there would be no school broadcast. Nevertheless, James was inspired by the attempt.

love for radio


Bringing people together


Michael would go on to start a technology club, an example of technology bringing people together. In this case, it helped to unite the school’s “outsiders”. He would share his passion and show people how to build electronic devices, creating a very unique sense of community in the process. 

He also started a pirate radio station, something which James would take over when Michael graduated.

 “I was very aware that I was doing something illegal, because you’re not allowed to broadcast on FM. Although, if you are in a valley in the middle of the North Yorkshire Moors, probably nobody’s going to care.”

An influential colleague

A few years later, James began working in radio in a legal capacity at a local station called The Pulse. Here he was able to take a role at the forefront of creating a sense of community. This occurred as a result of meeting the second person who inspired him, a man named Steve Martin.

Describing Steve, James says he “looked like the sort of person that would work in a council doing bus timetables”. He also describes Steve as “incredibly introverted”. Yet, despite his introversion, he saw enough of James to recognise that he had potential. Consequently, he gave James his first role as a radio presenter.

 “I remember him putting me on for a week just to try me out on the afternoon drivetime show, which was a pretty big show…” James’ trial proved to be successful. “So he ended up giving me a job. And I ended up doing the afternoon drive show for a year, followed by the evening show for a year.”

The importance of praise


Recalling his time at The Pulse, James particularly appreciates the way in which Steve encouraged him to take a professional approach to his work. Comparing radio DJing to musicianship and painting, Steve believed it was important to practise and prepare constantly in order to do one’s best work.

James also found Steve to be very encouraging. He would offer praise when it was merited and helped James to recognise the ability that he possessed.

building a sense of community through the airwaves


Joining the podcast community


James now lives in Brisbane, Australia, where he edits podnews.net, a daily newsletter about podcasting. James has taken the subversive values he learned from Michael and the professional attitude he learned from Steve into his approach to his current role.

For example, talking about a recent press release from Spotify, he says “it was the dullest legal statement that you’ve ever heard. But I felt that I had to get it into the newsletter.” However, when putting together his podcast, Steve reported the release with an irreverent twist “I’d speeded up that boring legalese by 30% just to make it sound even more ridiculous and legal.”

Building communities


Reflecting more generally on his newsletter, it is clear that he has contributed to the sense of community he knows that technology can achieve. In joining the podcast movement, he has become a part of one of the most modern ways of achieving this. 

“There are lots of people who are reading this, who are consuming the same thing. And there is a bit of a community out there. Building the community around it is something that I really enjoy doing.”

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Laura is the mix engineer for the Our Voices podcast. She has a BA in Music from Nottingham University and an Advanced Diploma in Music Production and Sound Engineering from Abbey Road Institute. Alongside working for Our Voices she is a freelance sound designer and technician. Her highlights include sound design for JK Rowling audiobook ‘The Christmas Pig’, and sound effects editing on The Outlaws, on the BBC.

For the Our Voices podcast, Laura is typically provided with a Voice Over and interview. She then cleans the dialogue, integrates the podcast intro and outros, chooses the music that will add to the storytelling and pacing of the episode, then bring all the elements together in the mix, followed by mastering and then delivering the final edit.

 

Experience in Industry: 3

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Hobby: Music

Favourite Book: Northern Lights

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I’m the community manager at Our Voices. I spend most of my time focusing on the implementation of our marketing strategy, achieving goals and KPIs, and the rest of the time listening to the amazing stories of our guests from all around the world. What I love most about working for Our Voices is the impact it has on peoples’ lives. It requires a lot of courage to tell your story out loud so I make sure these stories are heard by as many people as possible.

 

I was born and raised in Pakistan and I’ve been living in Hungary for over two years now. I have a Master’s degree in Marketing and I live for mastering the art of digital marketing.

 

Industry experience: 2.5 Years

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Favourite Food: Biryani – introduced by the Mughal rulers in the Indian subcontinent; this dish is an absolute delight. Also, can never say no to a good burger – extra cheese!

Favourite Sport: Cricket – I grew up playing and watching cricket with friends and family.

Favourite Show: Stranger Things – I love how an odd group of friends fight against challenges bigger than themselves.

Favourite Movie: Harry Potter – The only movie I can watch over and over again!

Favourite City: Prague – Absolutely love the Baroque and Gothic vibe of this city.

Hobby: Netflix, Travelling, and Eating- I want to try different cuisines from every country once in my lifetime!

Favourite Book: The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown – A fast-paced thriller that keeps you hooked from the first page to the last.

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I run Fascinate Productions, the production company behind the Our Voices podcast. I’ve had a wide variety of roles in media, from underwater videography, to live televised sporting events around the world. But since listening to my first audiobook in 2016, I’ve been all about audio and jumped in with two feet. Podcasts are enabling the world to democratise its most valuable information. They’re about spreading messages, and sharing ideas, and it’s my mission to help those holding the knowledge, to distribute it far and wide.

When Alex approached us with the idea of making a short stories podcast, with a big social impact, he got our attention. As the producer of the show, I’ve heard his guests’ highest highs, their lowest lows, and the moments of change that made them who they are – it’s been a privilege helping to craft their most intimate experiences into stories for you to enjoy.

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Favourite Food: Ice cream. It’s just the greatest culinary invention.

Favourite Sport: Rugby. I played from the age of 5 until 26 when a dislocated shoulder put me out of action. Still like to watch now though.

Favourite Show: The 100 – I love those ‘what if humans nearly got wiped out?’ type shows.

Favourite Movie: Gladiator

Favourite City: London. As a country boy from Yorkshire, I never thought I’d enjoy living here.

Hobby: Listening to podcasts while on long walks with my dog Alfie.

Favourite Book: I love to read anything business/startup related… One of the most recent great ones was Good Strategy/Bad Strategy by Richard Rumelt

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Richard Willan is the CEO of Fascinate productions, a podcast production and promotion company. Before starting Fascinate, he worked an audio engineer, mastering tracks for artists on major and independent labels.

He is an executive producer for ‘Our Voices’ where he assists with production, creative direction of the show, and marketing strategy.  

 

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Favourite Sport: I enjoy watching combat sports like MMA – Isreal Adesanya is my favourite fighter at the moment, due to his Tae Kwon Do base and speed. 

Favourite Show: Succession – an American satirical drama. The character development is incredible, and the writing is top notch. 

Favourite Movie: True Lies. I find it amazing that someone who can’t act (Arni) has so many great films.

Favourite City: London, because it is a melting pot of culture and the music scene is amazing. 

Hobby: Making music, going to gym and eating out. 

Favourite Book:  The Secret History by Donna Tartt. I love the world she created, and the incremental path the characters take into darkness. It’s amazing.

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I am responsible for writing blog articles for the Our Voices podcast. I have the privilege of listening to fascinating stories on the topics and issues that are of greatest relevance to our society today. Once I’ve done this, I create articles that provide an overview and description of the conversations in order to help spread them to the widest possible audience. My job is to make these articles as engaging as the conversations themselves.

As an English teacher who has worked with students from all over the world for over 10 years, I have got used to successfully communicating with those from different backgrounds and cultures. This has helped me to appreciate the value of connection across borders and boundaries. It has also helped me to appreciate that we are all able to learn from each other’s experiences.

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Favourite Food: Chocolate. It’s an indulgence, I know, but it tastes so good. I particularly enjoy dark chocolate for its richness and smoothness. 

Favourite Sport: Football.Unfortunately, my local team (Nottingham Forest) is not in that top league but I hope that one day it will be.

Favourite Show: The Wire. 

Favourite Movie: The Godfather. 

Favourite City: Reykjavik. I had the pleasure of spending two weeks there a number of years ago and I loved the place for its beauty, culture and calmness. It’s rare that you can be in a capital city and experience genuine space and peace and quiet. There’s also a black sand beach to walk along, although, due to the cold, I wouldn’t recommend bathing in the sea!

Hobby: Watching films. I love films, foreign films, classic films, contemporary films, just all good films.

Favourite Book: “Into the Wild” by Jon Krakauer. 

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Favourite Food:  In a word, sandwiches. The possibilities are endless.

Favourite Sport: Show jumping. When I was little I wanted to be a professional horse-rider, and I still get a kick out of watching the pros in action.

Favourite Show: Fleabag: the writing and acting create a thrilling kind of intimacy I haven’t seen anywhere else.

Favourite Movie: Victoria is an incredible German thriller that’s all shot in one take – it’s a real trip. Plus it’s beautifully soundtracked by Nils Frahm.

Favourite City: Very hard to choose, but it’s got to be Barcelona. The food, the pace of life, the winding streets – there’s nowhere else like it. 

Hobby: exploring city streets on my bike – preferably while listening (safely!) to a podcast – is when I’m at my happiest. 

Favourite Book: Bernadine Evaristo’s Girl, Woman, Other is a stunning, utterly unique portrait of womanhood, race, ageing and the principles we choose to live by.

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I am the host of Our Voices. I help to find the guests that have a powerful voice to share and then I speak to them and help to tease the stories out of them that will have a positive impact on the listener. 

While running Swoosh English, an online English school from 2013 – 2021, I had the opportunity to meet people from all walks of life and many of these people had incredible stories. This inspired me to start ‘Our Voices’ because I wanted to give these people a platform to share these stories with the world.

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Favourite Food: Avocados – an incredibly delicious fruit that can be used in so many dishes. My favourite is guacamole with nachos!

Favourite Sport: Boxing and football (couldn’t choose one!)

Favourite Show: 2 comedy series: Alan Partridge and The Office (UK version). I just love English humour!

Favourite Movie: Shawshank Redemption: An unbelievable journey full of twists and turns.

Favourite City:  New York – Living there for a year in 2008 changed my life. It made me believe that anything in life was possible if you want something badly enough.

Hobby: Football, boxing, reading, learning Spanish, travelling and watching fascinating conversations on Youtube.

Favourite Book: Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts – a book about an incredible journey.