MondayBlogs: How to create a literature radio show

writelion logoThe WriteLion Literary Podcast is now broadcast at the end of each month when LeftLion magazine is published. It’s recorded in the NG Digital studios, a wonderful cavernous building that feels like a cross between a Manhatten Apartment and a squat. NG Digital is the brainchild of Jason Loftus, who I first met a while ago when he was running Trent Sound. Like lots of things that happen in Notts, they’re really open to suggestions for themed programmes. So if you’ve got an idea, just say hello and I’m sure they’ll be more than happy to accommodate you.

If you’re thinking of putting together a literature show, here’s how it works. First, get a variety of presenters. This means you don’t have to do everything, the listener gets to hear a variety of voices and approaches to interviewing, and the marketing takes care of itself as people and guests are usually keen to plug their own work.

One of our presenters is Chris McLoughlin. He’s a member of Mouthy Poets and a lot younger than me, so he’s able to bring in audiences and guests I’ve probably not heard of. Mouthy Poets are an incredible collective of young people who, uniquely for a literature organisation, both mentor each other in terms of creative output but also offer professional and business development so that they can make money out of doing the thing that they love for a living. I’ve mentioned in previous blogs my disappointment at attendance of literary events in Nottingham. Mouthy are an exception. Their events always sell out way in advance and so there’s a lot we can learn from them. Hopefully some of that audience will come our way too…

Chris is one of our presenters because he had the balls to email me and offer to be the resident LeftLion poet. As is often the case in life, his timing was perfect. I couldn’t justify a resident poet in LeftLion magazine but he was welcome to have free rein on air.

Our second presenter is Stacey Wylie, a second year Creative Writing student at Nottingham Trent University (NTU). I advertised this through NTUs Humanities at Work placement scheme and had to positively discriminate to ensure we got a female presenter. I’ve asked Stacey to try a kind of literary Bridget Jones style approach to her slot. In the Bridget Jones novels (I have read them. I did enjoy them. So there), each chapter starts with a list of cigarettes she’s smoked, weight she’s put on etc. This could be adjusted for literature in terms of books read, rejection letters for submitted work, etc. She’s just done an interview with Dr.Teika Bellamy, who recently won Women in Publishing Award for Best New Venture for her niche publishing concept Mother’s Milk Books. This will feature in our March podcast.

I also spoke to four writers from Nottingham Playhouse and offered them a bespoke spot exploring writing and drama but so far they haven’t recorded anything.

With regards to planning shows, it’s easy. Jason sets aside a few hours each day. I check availability with guests. We book them in. I try to book in as many guests at once, preferably so that I’ve content for three shows in one sitting. This means it doesn’t eat too much into my time which is the reason the original show stopped after nine episodes.

Once in the studio I have a little chat about what we’re going to cover but nothing too prescriptive. It’s more a case of focussing on a particular theme and checking the guest is happy to cover certain subjects. Then we sit down and chat. My aim is always 10 minutes (making the overall show 30 minutes)  but it always spills over (usually 45 mins).

My approach to interviewing is simple. Let the guests speak. They’re the ones who have something interesting to say and given our time restraints, listeners don’t need to hear me waffling on like it’s The Late Show. If there’s something urgent I want to say I wave my hand about, enabling the guest to bring their comments to a natural conclusion, rather than butting in. And I am waving, not drowning. This is a simple technique to control the flow of conversation without turning into John Humphrys.

When the show is recorded, NG Digital top and tail it and then stream it through their website. The audio is then sent to LeftLion and someone uploads it through our podcast channel. Independent radio stations are gagging for content. The more diverse their output, the more listeners, the more you can charge for advertising. Simple. This is why it doesn’t cost me anything, other than a few hours of my time each month.

Selecting a variety of guests is important as is subject matter. I want the show to provide advice from experts in their respective fields in order that listeners might try similar. It’s important to dispel the myth that writers were born writers and only kryptonite can stop them producing bestsellers. It comes from hard graft and occasionally serendipity.

Here’s what we’ve done so far or have lined up for future shows.

  • Writing for computer games

  • How to create a digital audio trail using fremium software

  • Kickstarting a project

  • Life of a freelancer

  • Writing historical fiction

  • Setting up a publishing house.

WriteLion 10

In our latest broadcast Christopher Phelps talks about his co-written, political book Radicals in America, that looks at the history of left-wing movements. The ever so charismatic Miggy Angel gives us some prose poetry in the form of Kiss of Death, and talks about his weekly creative writing workshop for people suffering from drug and alcohol abuse. Chris McLoughlin introduces poetry from three of Nottingham’s Mouthy Poets – Beccy Shore, Patrick Spring, and LeftLion’s Bridie Squires.

Listen to WriteLion 10 here

UNESCO Nottingham: Home of books, burgers and balls


I’ve left Nottingham five times but somehow always ended up back here. Now is a good time to be living in our little ode factory town because the place has absolutely transformed over the past two years. On one level, it would appear we’ve all grown four stomachs as we’re awash with restaurants. Where there was once a cinema on every street, now there’s a gourmet burger bar. It’s only a matter of time before the powers that be convert the Broadmarsh Centre into a giant vat of curry so we can swim and fart our way into the centre.

Three significant things have happened this year. We were named City of Football which will mean a lot of new sporting grounds pop up so you can burn off all of those burgers. The City of Football title also means a lot will be done to address gender equality in sport, something I’ve written about for their blog and linked to gender inequality in the arts.

On Friday 11 December, Nottingham was accredited as a UNESCO City of Literature. Instead of shouting at other people and telling them what they’re doing wrong, we’ve finally decided to stand up and shout for ourselves. The effect has been immediate and so I’m delighted to announce I’ve restarted the WriteLion literature podcast. It’s going to be co-hosted by Mouthy Poets, the Nottingham Playhouse and me and will be broadcast on the last Friday of each month to tie in with the publication of Leftlion.

Our new monthly literary podcast to celebrate the City of Literature accreditation.

Finally, Dawn of the Unread won the Teaching Excellence Award at the Guardian Education Awards in March, further validating our literary history. I was also shortlisted for the Outstanding Individual Award at the Education Investors’ Award in November. But more of that in a future post if I get time.

To celebrate the City of Football and City of Literature successes I’ve created my dream literary football team for the December issue of LeftLion. I’ve been meaning to do this for ages but finally had a valid excuse. I didn’t include DH Lawrence because he would be ranting at the ref and would get sent off. There was no place for Byron either, those tight shorts would have been too much of a distraction and I can’t imagine he’d have been much use with that club foot of his. Sillitoe is absent, too, as he didn’t like football and his only football related story, The Match, sees a Notts County fan take his frustrations out on his wife.

One person I had to include was Ioney Smallhorne who produced the video above. I got really upset last time I met her as she shared her frustration of being unable to find work as a film producer in Nottingham after having great success in Jamaica. Ioney perceives this may be due to institutionalised racism and I think she has a point. Racial equality will be one of the key areas I’ll be addressing through the City of Literature board as well as in other projects next year, having learned so much through the final issue of Dawn of the Unread where we met George Powe, George Africanus and the Nottingham Black Archive.

Chris Richardson is the author of City of Light, one of the greatest historical accounts of Nottingham ever written and so he was another immediate selection in my literary team. I hope more people google this polite and unassuming man and pop a copy of his account of Chartism, Socialism and Trade Unionism in 19th century Nottingham into their xmas stocking.

So here it is. Notts very own literary football team with a typo in Sweeper. My captain is Michael Eaton, a real inspiration with an unbelievable knowledge of his home town.