The podcasting revolution reminds me of the one that hit music in the late 1970s. Punk rock showed that for a band to succeed it didn’t need truckloads of paraphernalia, it just needed a couple of guitars and an attitude. You could change the world from your front room.
Modern audio equipment means that the solo podcasting effort doesn’t have to sound rough and ready. A certain naturalness is never undesirable, but my Podcast of the Week this week is a good example of the quality one person can achieve with a simple idea, a powerful vision, and a clear aesthetic.
The podcast is called Everyone Else. It’s put together by radio freelancer Eva Krysiak, and it began when she found herself, as she puts it, “chasing people in the street”. The project consists of first-person testimony that falls broadly into the category of oral history, but with the subjects presented in such a way as to create a mood that puts you on the edge of your seat.
The latest edition is a good example. It’s called “Decision”. We hear the voice of Marco, and we discover that he is 58, about to lose his stall selling olives in Borough Market in London — and that he has cancer. The podcast lasts 20 minutes and its atmosphere is haunting.
A trawl through the Everyone Else back catalogue reveals such stories as a woman talking about her persona as a stripper, a jeweller discussing how the death of her brother impacted on her work, and a man describing what happened when he embarked on a trip from London to Cape Town by motorbike.
“What I’m trying to do is humanise strangers,” Krysiak explains. “To make us more open to and curious about the people we do not know, those who look different, or who are living lives very different from our own.”
The results are spectacular. The podcast opens up human experience in a really remarkable way. I’ve never believed that everyone has a novel in them but through a combination of sheer curiosity and — I’m guessing — enormous trustingness, Krysiak elicits stories that have a novel-like shape and depth and meaning.
Much of that effect is achieved in the editing, and the use of music — the sonic backdrop to the words being spoken — is also crucial.
There’s a whole other element to the podcast which you need to visit the Everyone Else website to appreciate. This is also a photographic podcast. There’s a portrait of every subject, mostly the work of the very gifted Tori Ferenc, and all of them are striking.
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Everyone Else bears comparison with both Radio 4’s Short Cuts and Radio 4’s The Untold, all three of them figuring at this year’s British Podcast Awards. But only one of them was the work of a lone operator, her idealism matched by her skill.
There’s something about 2017 that has thrust the lives of ordinary people into the forefront of the nation’s consciousness. It’s partly recent tragic events, and partly the way the political weather is changing. In this context Everyone Else really resonates.