Podcasts are having their moment, aided in part by the pandemic when we searched for entertainment and intellect outside of our screens. What, perhaps, is even more surprising is how quickly the next generation have taken ownership over this medium, using it to share their opinions, interests, jokes and concerns. The creative nature of podcasting means it is open and available (with an investment) to anyone of any age, and young Irish podcasters are successfully finding their voice with the mic.
KidCast (Apple, Spotify, Google), is an Irish podcast for kids made by kids. Currently recording season two, host Céire O’Donoghue is joined every episode by a young co-host and a cast of up to 20 kids who take part in different elements of the show – including interviewing guests, reporting child-friendly news, teaching fun facts, and creating a fun and entertaining podcast for kids. With one season under their belt, it was shortlisted in the inaugural Irish Podcast Awards. “It’s nice for the children to be recognised for all their work on KidCast,” O’Donoghue says.
As a voice-over artist, O’Donoghue has a home studio. Blending this with her expertise as an actor and her work as a kid’s drama facilitator, KidCast was born. “It kind of came to the fore when we were mid-pandemic at home and looking for other things to do,” O’Donoghue says. Like many of us trying to get off tablets and looking for other ways of learning, O’Donoghue and her kids enjoyed listening to podcasts. “I thought, okay, there’s something missing here in terms of children being creative,” O’Donoghue says, “not just for the listenership, but also for kids to get in on the act and be a part of this massive boom because podcasts really came into themselves the last few years”.
O’Donoghue successfully applied for an Arts Council Agility Award and went on to gain a diploma in Radio and Podcasting from the Today FM School of Radio. The seeds of KidCast grew.
“One of the biggest things that came out of it for me was engaging with children who never would have put themselves forward for anything where they would find themselves in the limelight,” O’Donoghue says. “And yet they were very comfortable with doing this because they were sitting at home with their parent’s mobile recording with their mam or dad on the phone in their kitchen.”
“It was so much fun talking to different people,” eight-year-old Fia Walsh says, “especially the Taoiseach. I was a bit nervous at first, but it was actually easier than I thought and fun playing games, telling jokes, and riddles.”
There is much more to learning the ropes of creating and managing a podcast than simply talking into a mic. Solo podcaster Logan Kelly (11) has mastered these skills over the years, gently supported by his parents, Eimear and Brian, as well as little sister Elise. They have all had an influence on the development of Logan’s books and music podcast, Logan Sounds Off (Apple, Spotify, Google), and his parents happily manage the Logan Sounds Off website and social media accounts. The young podcaster rhymes off bands as far back as the 1960s as being some of his favourites. “Probably one of my biggest inspirations at a younger age was The Clash,” he says. He throws in Pink Floyd, Kate Bush, The Gorillaz, Queens of the Stone Age, Portis Head and The Duckworth Lewis Method into the eclectic mix.
Logan borrowed a CD player from his grandad to play his dad’s CDs, which kicked off his love of music. Around this time Logan also started recording mixtapes and recording songs off the radio. There are not many 11-year-olds who would even know how to do that, but Logan brings a retro style to enjoying music. His growing vinyl collection is testament to his appreciation of good quality sound.
Logan started his own music show with a tape recorder, which quickly morphed into a YouTube channel as this generation and technology rapidly combine, and continued on to Spotify with Logan Sounds Off, which offers a mixed blend of book reviews, album reviews, and interviews.
He has garnered a keen response from the public as he interviews artists, musicians, and music lovers such as Irish singer Mary Coughlan, author of Tall Tales: the official biography of The Horslips Mark Cunningham, and fellow podcaster Steven Cockcroft, host of Nothing is Real, which is a podcast all about the Beatles.
“I’m really enjoying it,” Logan says, “because of the reaction and response on social media where people talk to me about the songs I’ve rated and the interviews I have”.
“John Creedon has always been my idol,” he says, as he vies for an opportunity to interview the RTÉ Radio 1 broadcaster on his podcast. “He got me into radio, and he mentioned me on the show. I’ve got two of those mentions on tape. I put a star on them to make sure I never record over them and punctured the holes on the top.
“We always think he’s an old timer,” Logan’s mum Eimear says. “He’s been here before. I think people are always surprised when they talk to him because he has so much knowledge of music. There’s a nostalgia there for our age, which creates that connection with him.”
Logan’s interviews fit around his schoolwork and once he is happy and not under any pressure, his parents gladly encourage their budding wannabe DJ. Having toured the 2FM studios, thanks to an invite from Keith Walsh, Logan most certainly caught the bug as he moves forward with his podcast.
When comedian Emma Doran asked her 19-year-old daughter Ella to join her in making a podcast, she first said no. Gentle persuasion led to the wonderfully relaxed, often funny, and brilliantly relatable podcast, You’re Grounded (Apple, Spotify, Google). Ella is now in college, but at the time, she was in the middle of her Leaving Cert, which perhaps wasn’t the most ideal time to start a podcast, no matter how low key it was. Emma still wanted to create something with Ella and left the idea floating once the exams were behind her.
“It’s nice to set aside 40 minutes or so to talk about what’s been going on in our lives,” Ella says. “I found out the other week that she was on a talent show and she thinks that I know everything about her, but I had no idea what she was talking about so it’s nice to learn things about each other.”
While Emma and Ella figure out a topic every week, with certain issues off the table and fake names happily used, there’s a wonderful natural flow to their chats and an infectious laughter that would brighten anyone up.
“Ella has a social life,” Emma says, who begins an Irish tour of her new show Mad Isn’t It in March. “She has a job and she’s in college, so before lockdown I was the parent of a teenager, and now suddenly she’s an adult. So, getting to chat without distractions at the kitchen table for that period of time is lovely, but I’ve yet to find out some juicy gossip.”
It’s daring enough to record a podcast with a parent, especially one who is a natural performer, but Emma and Ella have a close bond. Their connection and understanding of each other is evident in between the laughs and the chats about chips, peeling skin, and napping.
“There used to be this big barrier between you and your parents,” Emma says. “I remember we found a photograph of my dad back in the day of him at a wedding with a woman who wasn’t my mother, and we were all shocked that he had a life before he met my mam. So, I think it’s good that your kids know that you’re a real person as well. And you can tell them embarrassing stories and stuff.”
Finding a good co-host for a podcast is not always easy but the Sustainable Sleepover Club (Apple, Spotify, Google), has a cohort of six anchors. Along with her co-hosts, Amy O’Brien (17), became involved with the Future Generations project co-ordinated by the National Youth Council of Ireland where she and her fellow podcasters were introduced to climate justice. Their interest was piqued as they learned more and more, and together their conversations became a notable talking point, which they successfully aimed to share with a wider audience. The peer-led discussions from the group of 15- to 18-year-olds includes everything and anything from movies to gender equality, snacks to climate justice, TV shows to trans rights.
“We found that as young people we learn so much from talking to each other and having relaxed conversations about things like climate justice and sustainability,” O’Brien says. “We wanted to open that up to other young people, because it’s kind of hard to wrap your head around these really big topics.”
The teenagers are conscious of hearing from other voices and interview guests about some of the major topics that affect all of us. The podcast is centred around the Sustainable Development Goals, which are explained by guest Jamie McElwain, a sustainability youth activist. The all-encompassing nature of sustainability was reintroduced to the teenagers as rightfully being more than our environment, encapsulating how we treat people, human rights, climate change and more.
With children acutely aware of the climate crisis from a young age and eco-anxiety rising for all generations, the young podcasters are aware of balancing these hard-hitting discussions. “It’s been interesting,” she says, “because the more we’ve learned about the state of the world, we could have gotten more scared and anxious about the future. But because we’ve been learning about all of this in a community and with each other, we’re supported by friends. It’s less scary when you know that other people care.”