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Plan, Produce, Publish, Promote: Podcasting at the Woolf Institute

Published March 16, 2020 by Tara Zammit

Tara Zammit is the Communications and Digital Media Officer at the Woolf Institute. She is the co-producer and editor of the podcast series Naked Reflections, as well as video series including the upcoming Face2Face. Tara was a 2018-19 Woolf Institute Cambridge Scholar and recently graduated with her MPhil in Asian and Middle Eastern Studies (Muslim-Jewish Relations) from the University of Cambridge.

So, a zoologist, a theologian, a political scientist and a geneticist walk into a studio....

When I started my MPhil at Cambridge last year specialising in Muslim-Jewish relations, I did not envision that I would end up sitting in a production studio helping to moderate and lead a dialogue about science and faith from some of the top experts in these fields. I research conflict and military structures, ontological security and female soldiers, and this felt a bit like uncharted territory. Having been in this position for six months now, I can truly say what an amazing experience it has been so far.

To begin, podcasting in this format is not for the faint of heart.

After that pause for dramatic effect, let me explain. I have a solid background in marketing, communications and digital media, but had not yet ventured into the world of podcasts when I began my post-MPhil employment. I started my position on September 30, 2019 and recorded my first podcast on October 2. It was nerve-wracking sitting in a room with members of the university whose names I had seen plenty of times before around town but had hardly thought I would encounter. They would often leave the recording with a smile and a comment like 'try and make me sound good!' which at the time, induced quite a bit of fear and awkward laughter on my end. Those days are gone.

One thing that the Woolf Institute has that makes it so special is a strong team environment. People here care about each other, and I knew that I could ask questions and learn from anyone that I spoke with in those early days. My co-producer David Perry has decades of experience in production and media and has been not only a valuable resource for learning about this landscape, but a good and very patient friend.

Each week, David and I meet with Claire Curran and Dr Ed Kessler MBE to brainstorm topics for future episodes, discuss potential panellists, outline script ideas and discuss the editing process. So far, we have covered topics ranging from laughter to evolution, from death to pilgrimage.

David and Tara in the studio before a recording.

We are connecting with students, researchers and academics from around the University of Cambridge and beyond. It is a pretty inspiring thing every week to watch a discussion unfold between people from completely different backgrounds and disciplines over subjects that could directly impact all of our lives, if they have not yet already. For example, in a recent podcast on Food, Glorious Food, I encouraged a zoologist and a political scientist to discuss the topic of ethical eating in a way that is economically accessible. In the same conversation, the former Academic Director of the Cambridge Muslim College and our own Founder Director discussed how religious dietary requirements fit within the changing landscape of food, what we eat and how we eat it.

Ed pictured with panellists from Naked Reflections episode Sick Planet.

As someone who did not find their academic calling in the world of natural sciences, I viewed this partnership with The Naked Scientists as an opportunity to connect my research interests in politics and religion with my personal interest in pressing issues within science, such as climate change. There is something so rewarding about being able to listen back to the product that you helped create, to listen to experts that you helped bring together debate and discuss and laugh with each other, to realise that you know how to edit and edit well, and to meet with your team every Monday and understand that you are in this thing together. Cheesy as it may sound folks, I am proud to be part of it.

You can subscribe and listen to Naked Reflections here and catch up with Woolf Institute videos on our dedicated webpage.

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