Why Audio is Important

Given the state of the world at the moment, I’ve been putting off starting this blog. It seemed like there was no place to start, or, for that matter, stop. A couple weeks ago, before we were all told not to leave our homes, I was doing some freelance work as a broadcast assistant down in Brighton, and got chatting with the studio manager. He mentioned offhand that he sometimes felt like his work in the media wasn’t perhaps as important as doctors, nurses, etc; a sentiment which I’m sure is shared by many folks in the creative industries. But times being such as they are now are a reminder of how important media and art is, especially freely accessible fiction like the radio play on which we were working.

A kind of belated introduction to this whole thing, then. I’ve been interested in radio for about as long as I can remember. I was raised in a house that has always had BBC Radio 4 on in every room, and on different types of radios too, so they all had about a second’s delay between them. If you missed part of a sentence in the kitchen you could run into the living room and hear it again. When I was about ten my dad loaded the entirety of the Hitchhiker’s Guide radio series onto my little ipod, back when they still had actual buttons you had to press, and I listened to them religiously every night, despite being a bit young to get some of the jokes. I was even one of the few people who both listened to children’s radio show Go4It and happened to be in its target audience, and actually ended up appearing on the programme in 2009 with a really embarrassing eleven year old interview about politics.

The point of all this is that I was a bit of a dweeb. And frankly, still am. Though I don’t mean that in a derogatory way. It just means that I am lucky enough to have always known what I wanted to do and to have been wholeheartedly obsessed with it for the past eleven years.

Something I realised as I got older, though, was how important radio and audio storytelling can really be. My late mother – save the awkwardness, we all came to terms with it a long time ago! – was bedbound for a long time due to her MS. Moving got more difficult until she couldn’t pick up a mug or raise her head. Now I don’t say this for pity points – trust me, she was happy and cared for and we are all coping just fine! But radio was everything for her. She’d listened to it all her life, especially the Archers, which most of my peers’ parents are also addicted to. When she couldn’t sit up or focus her eyes to watch television, radio was there to keep her entertained. My dad, little sister, and I would go sit in her room in the hospice and listen to the afternoon play with her. It was the thread of normality and entertainment that sewed everything together.

That’s one of the things I think I’ve always liked about radio, which I was never able to put into words when I was a kid. (I’ve finished the dead parent talk now, don’t worry.) It’s simultaneously so intimate – a little voice talking directly to you, right into your ear – and communal. I remember sitting up late at a sleepover when I was about fifteen listening to the newest Welcome to Night Vale episode. Six excitable teenagers, the night before comic-con, sitting in total silence. Which I’m sure any parents reading this will call a miracle. 

The rest of the posts on this blog will be less depressing, but I’ve been inside for a week and a half now and I felt like I had to at least mention what’s going on out there in the world. But largely I want to use this space to collect thoughts and updates on the various radio-related projects I’m working on. So everyone stay in, wash your hands, and listen to audio fiction. 

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