PodUK 2020 - A Retrospective

I've been at a loss for the past couple of days. A loss for emotions, for words - because how can you describe something like Saturday? I'm scared to write this blog post because despite the praise, the outpouring of love, the sheer joy in the atmosphere on the day, I'm scared that somehow, that wasn't the reality of it, and someone will call me out on it when this goes up. (And please do, if that's the case.) I'm scared to sound too conceited, too immodest, too; too; too; --


But then again, I truly think myself, Bret and Chris managed to create something special. So I'll give it a try, and hope for the best. Here we go.

For my money, every part of PodUK is created with the following ethos (ethoses?) in mind:

- Creating a space for independent podcasters to showcase their work

- Creating a fan-friendly, safe and inclusive space where fans feel free to celebrate their favourite media, to meet new people, and to be themselves

- Create an environment where people can have experiences that will stay with them for years to come.


From where I'm standing, I feel like PodUK 2020 ticked all those boxes. And not for a lack of trying - hundreds of hours were poured into the creation of this event, all dedicated to ensuring that those ethos were adhered to every step of the way. Even so, you can never, ever tell whether it'll truly be the case on the day. (And it's always mad to me that all this planning is for one day.) There's always something you've missed; someone that, despite best efforts, you've forgotten to reply to... So I'm thrilled to say that people have thanked us for giving them a space to be heard. People have talked to me and told me they felt safe expressing themselves as themselves in ways they never have before. People have told me that the experiences they had are some of the best they've had. So. I think we hit the brief. I like to think so, anyway.


It's impossible to actually know that you've hit it until the day, though. The planning process is filled with pages and pages and pages of lists, email after email after email, countless PDFs & Excel sheets for every aspect of the event filled with every single detail you can possibly think of that will, hopefully, make everyone's life easier and streamline the process to the point where on the day, it just happens. But there's absolutely no guarantee of that, so it's all the more surreal and wonderful when it does go exactly how you hoped.


With that in mind, let's break it down a bit:


The Show


There were four key components to PodUK 2020: Live shows, panels, workshops, and the Podcaster's Promenade. We ditched the Platform meet n' greet format after last year as mostly it just became one big social hangout - which is great! But proved that we needed to find a better way to facilitate this socialising in the first place. So along came the Promenade. This actually came to fruition after many people asked us for more tables in last year's feedback forms, and I have to thank everyone who suggested it. The atmosphere on the Platform was incredible - 30 tables of podcasters showcasing their work, speaking to attendees, selling merch; it was one big social event all on its own. Had I actually had any time to look around it I'm sure I would be able to write a blog post all of its own about it! But I hope the Promenade table holders all got a positive experience out of it - we'll be sending feedback forms round so you can tell us how it went.


[Some of our Promenade tables, photos generously provided by Michael Hudson of the Audio Drama Hub]


The panel room was also new - a way to balance out live shows and panels, and it seems like it worked very nicely. It was a source of anxiety in the planning process for various reasons but I needn't have worried; the volunteer team made sure everything ran smoothly, and in the end the transitions between panels seemed fairly easy. The panels themselves have gone down very well from the Twitter feedback I've received so far. From an organisational perspective the only thing I can think to try and change would be the ticketing system. It's impossible to get word out to everyone when the reserve tickets go on sale, so I'll be looking at potential ways to streamline that.


The Audio Drama Panel

That said, it sounds like everyone who didn't reserve a ticket but still wanted to see a panel did get in, so maybe the system isn't so bad? I designed it with overflow in mind, and I'm glad I did.


Like last year, I spent a majority of the time watching the event unfold around me without having to stress, or worry about timings - everything went to plan. If something ran over, it was okay, that had been accounted for in the planning. Even the KFAM meet n' greet, which I had allocated a grace period of 30 minutes for just in case, (I have been to so many meet n' greets in the past, I know how easy it is to get caught up and go overtime!) ended bang on its 'official' end time, which I'm particularly proud of! The crew were incredible and invaluable in making sure everything ran as it did.


The King Falls AM Meet n' Greet [Taken by Clockwork Prism]

Millennium Point were, as always, a joy to work with, always ready to help with any request I had and working hard behind the scenes to keep everything tidy and provide for our attendees. Special thanks to the MP AV crew who flawlessly ran the Acast Panel Room for the day!!! And to Abbi, who was our primary contact for the day and a fantastic help all round. It's truly a gorgeous venue, and we love holding PodUK there <3


Hi friends, Bret here. And just...wow. I’m still in disbelief about the whole darn thing. It happened. Like I said on stage, I’m not great with words, so I’ll keep this brief. Until the day of the event, PodUK is a concept. It’s all spreadsheets and psd files and e-mails. Seeing it happen, seeing it really happen is always incredible. It starts with the banners. I always get giddy seeing physical versions of my designs.


But then seeing the Platform filled with people, filled with smiling faces and deep conversations and elated fans. It was wild. It became real in the best possible way. Every person I spoke to, be them behind a stall, or coming out of a panel, workshop or show had only positive things to say to me, even before they saw my white lanyard.


I don’t have a lot to say about the running of the event, because running was mostly what I was doing during the event. On the day I had to make sure that all the performers, panellists and worshoppists were where they needed to be, when they needed to be there. Which mostly resulted in me running to the green room, finding none of the people I needed and then running to the relevant room to find they’re all already there and ready to go. So thanks to all the performers and speakers for being on the ball. You did wonders for my Pokémon Go Eggs!


Our Performers


After the success of PodUK 2019; after having such fantastic performers bringing their absolute A-Game to Birmingham, it was difficult to decide how to go about doing it all again. Thank you to everyone who applied to perform, and sorry we couldn't have all of you, much as we would like. Choosing performers when you only have 7 - 8 slots and talent coming at you from all angles is exceedingly difficult, and a whole lot of different factors go into deciding. Does this podcast have a fanbase? What genre are they? Do they fit a 'fan' convention? What's the live show pitch? Etc etc.


Thank you to all our performers this year - in order of performance..


The People's Polygraph - everyone I've heard from absolutely loved the show and the unique format it brought to PodUK. We're glad you could bring something a bit different to the table, and we hope you enjoyed your first live show! And that colour coordination? Fierce.

Escape Artists - A fantastic, wonderful group of people. Margeurite and Alasdair, thank you for believing in our project - I truly look forward to working with you in the next few months! And oh my god, those sugar cookies??? Flintlocks & Fireballs - We had to have you guys perform after you were so supportive of PodUK 2019, and we're so glad we did. It was fantastic seeing the stowaways turn out to cheer you guys on, and kudos for getting the liveshow completed on time - as with How We Roll last year, we're sure it can't be an easy feat for an actual play podcast!

Shedunnit/Words to that Effect - I've heard so many people say they're fascinated by your podcast concepts and that they've picked them up since we announced you guys, and you deserve it! Wonderful humans, brilliant knowledge - thank you for coming along.

Dashingly Quirky - I'm delighted to have been involved in this process from inception to performance! I'm truly pleased to be able to bring new writing to the stage, and to be able to promote the LGBTQ+ community in the process? Amazing. The work that goes into a competition like this is staggering; Sarah and Fiona, you really pulled it off :)

The Amelia Project - Absolutely thrilled we could get you on the performance roster after last year. I've said it all but I'll say it again - you guys pushed the boat out on promotion, on production (a whole new episode!!!!), on bringing all your cast over from various parts of Europe.

King Falls AM - Look. You guys know what I think. How much it means to me. How blown away I still am. I could reiterate it for the 1000th time but.. you know. <3



It can be intimidating to perform in that space, (although on the flip-side, if how I feel when the PodUK logo goes up on there is how everyone else feels, extremely inspiring to see your logo emblazoned across an IMAX screen) but you were all absolutely amazing. Everyone was to time, communicated well with us pre-event, and put on fantastic shows. Thank you. Without you guys there really wouldn't be an event. I was so busy I barely even got to talk to all of you, but hopefully we can do a post-PodUK catch up on the PodUKast? ;)


Chris here, just popping in to give the reader a peak behind the veil as it were, and to throw my hat in the ring as far as thanking the performers for their hard work.


We ran things in the auditorium slightly differently this year: as Jess has already mentioned, we split the panels and live shows into two different rooms, which meant the Auditorium was purely for live shows. Because of this, however, it meant there was twice as much work to be done on the day sound engineering the two rooms. So I want to give a shout out to Kieron who helped me out in the auditorium all day, and to Millennium Point’s own AV superstar JP, who not only spent the whole day making sure the panel room sounded great, but is also the mastermind behind the in-house equipment in the auditorium, such as the lighting, the projector, and the impressive sound quality (any sound engineers out there, that room is a dream to mix in - feedback is almost non-existent).


This year, having learnt from a few issues we had last year (thankfully nothing that affected the show too much - just caused me a lot of stress), I changed up the equipment I brought, opting for a slightly smaller sound desk that allowed for multitrack recording, so that we could have as many decent backup recordings as possible. That meant we were slightly more restricted by the number of microphones we could have on stage, but the performers were all happy to oblige, and provided me with a complete understanding of what each show would comprise of, so we had no surprises on the day and everything went smoothly.


One of my highlights from auditorium would be Quirky Voices with their live foley on stage and in the audience, which added a fantastic extra level of humour to an already funny script (hearing birds and bees every time there was a sexual innuendo, and mild quiet panic when engines exploded was priceless, not to mention the voice actors running around hitting pots and pans while a fairly serious conversation about the meaning of love was happening front of stage.)


Panels and Workshops


Once we've chosen the panels and workshops that are going to be at PodUK, we generally take a back seat to planning and let the hosts take control. Seeing the work everyone put into their presentations was amazing, and shows a true dedication to the craft. We are exceedingly grateful for that <3 I personally only got to see small snippets of everything, but from what I saw (and from what I've heard), panels and workshops both went down very well, with nary a negative thought to be heard. A testament to our wonderful speakers, to be sure.


Special thanks to Ella Watts, KC Wayland, Margeurite Kenner, KFAM & What Am I Rolling/Power Word Roll for hosting our workshops - you guys killed it!


[A glimpse into the workshop room, taken by Clockwork Prism]


And to all our panellists - Ellie Sparrow, Maxamillian John, We're Alive, KFAM, Ella Watts, Alex Newall, Maddy Serle, Gemma Amor, Alasdair Stuart & David Ault. I sincerely look forward to listening to all the panels and finally hearing the context behind 'keep calm and build a blanket fort'!!


[The Horror Panel, 10 Years of We're Alive, Voice Acting With King Falls AM - taken by Clockwork Prism]


Special thanks to KC, Blaire & Christian for jetting over from the US to come visit us - next time I'll make sure I get more time in with you guys than just a brief minute, but from what I hear it sounds like you had a blast - I'm so, so glad!


I'm also very glad we got to use the catchbox (pictured above!) in the panel room, honestly I love those lil guys.


Sponsors


It was touch and go for a while there, I'm not going to lie. PodUK is first and foremost a passion project run by three people with no money, so we at least partially rely on sponsors to make sure we have all the components that make an event - banners, booklets, lanyards, the venue itself. All the good stuff. So we're eternally grateful to anyone who does decide we're worth sponsoring.


Thank you so much to Acast for joining us at the last minute to sponsor what we now know as The Acast Panel Room - so sorry we didn't get the leaflets in time!! But it was pretty cool walking in and seeing the Acast logo emblazoned across the various screens in the room, and to have the Acast roller banner. Sam, I'm so disappointed I didn't get to catch you during the day, but I hope you enjoyed it.


Thank you to The Podcast Host for sponsoring our lanyards - lanyard event passes have always been an important part of events for me, as they're trinkets I can keep and display as a memoir of the event. Thanks for helping us facilitate that this year!!



Thank you to The Audio Drama Hub, Cornucopia Radio, Alternative Stories & A.D Infinitum for sponsoring our booklets! For those of you who couldn't make the event I'll have to send a booklet your way :)


The Crew


Something you might not know about PodUK - it's very 'family and friends', which I see as one of the reasons things have ended up going so smoothly both years. Everyone has volunteered their own time freely, meaning I have a group of people I know I can trust implicitly to get things done, and to work with me, Bret and Chris with ease. It's wonderful to be able to share this with people you've known your entire life, and I'm so so so so so grateful they've chosen to come along on this ride with us <3


We also had some new volunteers this year, who did fantastic jobs, too! Everyone pulled off their roles without a hitch, ensuring that behind the scenes the three organisers didn't have to stress or worry - everything was being taken care of. There's not much more you can ask for, as an event manager.


Overall


If you’re reading this and you were at PodUK in any capacity - attendee, speaker, volunteer - we can’t thank you enough. Even between year one and two this has grown more than we could ever imagined, which is, I think, a testimony to how the podcasting community has needed a space like this. We’re just so honoured to be able to provide that, and humbled that people seem to like what we do. We want to keep going, to expand and keep creating, giving independent creators a place to showcase their incredible work - but for now we’re going to take a little break and recuperate.


Thank you.



All our love,

Jess, Bret & Chris


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