Hey, listen, something is happening! How BA Design students started a radio show

Logo of the podcast with text: Hey, listen, something is happening
The podcast logo, designed by Marta Company, Yena Kim and Luke Radcliffe-Moore

Our final year BA Design students are running a podcast to promote this year’s graduation showcase, but also to fill in the gaps that an online degree show can’t fill, giving a voice to as many of this year’s class as possible. Jack Lowerson and Stan Bidston-Casey, who initiated the project as podcast producers alongside their classmate Emily Blake, talked about the thinking behind its development:

On how the podcast started and why:

“We had the idea for a radio show early in the third year. There aren’t many ways in which process is recorded at Goldsmiths Design, people outside the department are only exposed to finished products; other departments can’t engage with what the students do here. Even though there is a lot of emphasis on experimentation, testing and process in the department, nobody gets to see it, or to hear the very particular dialogues about work happening in the design studios, they get lost. So we wanted the podcast to showcase that.

However, the first three months were just us sitting in a pub saying ‘we should do a radio show’. The idea was nearly dropped. The podcast wouldn’t exist if Juliette (Kristensen, Programme Lead for BA Design) hadn’t said: ‘I know what you can do!’ She suggested to use it as marketing for the show. We had initially gone to her office to say we’d dropped it, luckily she wasn’t there!”

On how the COVID-19 quarantine affected the project:

“When we pitched the podcast to the rest of the year, many people were willing to give it a go even if they were slightly uncertain of it. Even we were still quite uncertain of it! But many people signed up anyway, and during recordings it was very much trial and error. It’s a credit to the inquisitive minds of the Design cohort in general and their willingness to experiment that they gave the podcast a chance in those early days.

We had recorded ten episodes before lockdown, and when lockdown happened, we were downhearted by the loss of the studio atmosphere and the physical degree show, but we still felt optimistic about the potential of the podcast. We got a lot of encouragement from the department, they handed us audio equipment to take with us and said ‘These are the things you can use to keep your work alive’.

Post-lockdown, we thought, now we had the opportunity to really try to give voice to people’s work beyond their space at home. We explicitly sat down and asked ourselves: ‘What was the show going to provide for people? How can we fill that gap now that the show is not available?’ It’s all gone through a lot of rewrites and through the process of grieving the loss of studio spaces.”

On how the podcast format and tone developed:

“A physical degree show helps people demonstrate their employability, putting them into contact with potential employers and showcasing their skills. After lockdown happened, we sprung into action to try and infuse the podcast with these traits as well, a kind of ‘audio CV’ presenting people to industry. Before it was part of the show promotion it was also meant to function as an experimental place for people to work with audio, such as creating soundscapes of people’s work or audio collages. Juliette would constantly ask us: ‘What’s this for? Who is your user here?’ We had a choice at the beginning of lockdown: to offer a very rigid platform or to be as flexible as possible. We chose the latter, to keep engaging with everyone’s mood, even though it’s the more difficult option.

We have two series going simultaneously, individual showcases and group podcasts. The group ones are for playing with collaborative design thinking, concepts and discussion, rather than something too heavily project based. The individual ones were initially quite BBC-like in tone, we gave people a list of prompt questions  to talk about their practice, so that others can hear the ‘what’s of finalising the degree work, and a time limit.

People are still making them in that mould, but we’ve opened it up; through four or five rewrites of the format we whittled away all the things that were perhaps making people intimidated, such as asking them to describe their projects before they even knew what they were. Now they can record as many individual podcasts as they like, as long as they’re ten minutes or less and they relate to their work in some way. If you want to talk about your project, great, but it can also be about something you’ve read recently, an audio piece you’ve edited etc.  So individual podcasts may become more abstract and experimental over time.”

On what the future holds for the Design podcast:

“We haven’t really spoken about this in a while, but we wanted it to be a legacy project to be passed on to producers in the years after us. We thought we would build a format that people could take up in following years, a department-backed thing that would happen every year. It wouldn’t necessarily need to carry on with our voices when we graduate, it needs to be a representation of the new graduating class.”

All episodes of the podcast are available on Spotify.