London by Lockdown

A podcast about falling in love with a new city in the middle of a pandemic; remaining curious and open in strange and chaotic times; and about making it work.

Latest Episodes

13

March 07, 2021 00:34:25
Drawing a Better Map

Drawing a Better Map

As a community and a nation we can’t know where we are, where we’re going, or where we could be if our map is faulty, incomplete or badly drawn. We also miss out on great stories. In this episode authors Jacqueline Roy, SI Martin and Nicola Williams expertly guide us through Britain’s past and present. So come celebrate the UK’s diverse and brilliant Black British voices with us. ************************** To truly trace the contours of this place, in all its complexity and beauty, we need to build a better map, and to do that we need to hear all voices, stories and experiences — from across the cities and beyond. This cultural journey, an international, inter-generational and centuries-long history of people criss-crossing the Atlantic, has led to the rise of what is now celebrated as Black Britain. The readings and interviews with Jackie, Steve and Nicola give us precious insights into the lives of people from African and Caribbean heritages. As our guides help us explore the preoccupations, voices and stories of this island nation, we learn about the part literature has played in forging that national identity, and how levelling the field in publishing can enrich our understanding of everything from Georgian London to legal thrillers. “Good books withstand the test of time, even if they are of their time.”— Bernardine Evaristo (author of Booker winning novel “Girl, Woman, Other”). Viewed as part of a continuum, this body of work provides a more accurate and detailed account of what it means to be British. From books published in the 1930s, when most of the Caribbean was considered British; to the music of 2-Tone, where black and white musicians blended blue ...

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12

January 24, 2021 00:44:17
The Day Our Lives Changed Forever

The Day Our Lives Changed Forever

This episode looks at Aboriginal resistance and activism in London and England — as told by First Nations people. As non-Indigenous people born on the Australian continent, Craig acknowledges he was born on Ngunnawal Country, and Shona acknowledges she was born on the land of the Kulin Nation. ************************** Every January Australia finds itself running headlong down a steep hill towards the 26th. We’re in shorts and a t-shirt, and like all kids, the scrapes and scratches on our arms and legs map our summer adventures: fishing, swimming, biking, climbing, skateboarding, bushwalking, surfing, camping. BBQs and dive bombs, mozzies and cicadas, sunscreen and ‘six and out’. Part way down the hill, about the 10th, when the annual ‘lamb ad’ hits our TVs, our legs begin to speed up of their own accord. Soon after, our head wobbles. We’re unsteady. By the 20th we’re careening, our arms and legs flail, and we can’t stop. Teetering, we trip over our own feet and we face plant the dirt, landing in a heap on January 26. Reflecting on its antiquated and jingoistic origins, Australia Day’s nervous posturing diminishes us all — not least because it’s a form of rigid militarised nationalism (that includes Anzac Day) politicised by prime ministers Bob Hawke and Paul Keating; ramped up by John Howard; and continued by the rest. No national day can represent everyone, because nations aren’t static. Personally, ‘national days’ shouldn’t exist, but since they’re A Thing, Australia needs modern symbols that embrace its ever-changing history — from invasion, occupation, colonialism and war, to multiculturalism, migration, treaty and sovereignty (and beyond). A Black GST could do it. Constituted at ‘Camp Sovereignty’ (Kings Domain, Melbourne, 2006) during Commonwealth Games ...

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December 24, 2020 00:14:39
Bonus Episode: Xmas In Merimbula

Bonus Episode: Xmas In Merimbula

It’s almost the end of 2020. As a special gift for getting through a hard year, in this bonus episode we share one of our all time favourite pieces of radio, and a holiday classic: ‘Xmas in Merimbula’ by Kayla (then aged 8). ************************** Some 30 years ago, aged 17, I first heard The Pogues’ ‘Fairytale of New York’ and fell in love with the city, the band and the song — and all the complexities and contradictions within. Unlike so many other Xmas songs, there’s nothing sentimental here: “It was Christmas eve, babe; in the drunk tank. An old man said to me, ‘Won’t see another one’. And then he sang a song: ‘The Rare Old Mountain Dew’. I turned my face away and dreamed about you.” It’s not a song of solace, but a cautionary tale. There but for the grace… As the years have passed, ‘Fairytale…’ has migrated in from the margins. Nowadays it’s played in supermarkets, and since 2005 it returns annually to the top 20 charts — MacColl’s beautiful voice (she grew up in Croydon, South London, not far from here) perfectly counters McGowan’s character’s dirty murky syntax. And when listeners turn from McGowan’s scowl to MacColl’s songfulness for comfort, they fall victim to a beautifully rendered ambush: “They’ve got cars big as bars, they’ve got rivers of gold, but the wind goes right through you it’s no place for the old.” Who are these people? I get preoccupied with a song’s words. In retrospect, I always have. I listen to songs as a writer, zeroing in on utterances, while Shona draws meaning from the music, listening as a musician. She plays guitar, ukulele, piano, and sings. I ...

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11

November 23, 2020 00:25:42
Poly Styrene: (in)disposable punk

Poly Styrene: (in)disposable punk

When a 1979 BBC documentary titled "Who is Poly Styrene?" introduces us to the punk singer’s work, we become utterly fascinated. With help from Poly’s daughter Celeste Bell, musician Rhoda Dakar and archival audio from Poly herself, this episode explores why her work looks, feels and sounds so relevant today. I know your antiseptic, your deodorant smells nice I’d like to get to know you, you’re deep frozen like the ice He’s a germ free adolescent, cleanliness is her obsession Cleans her teeth ten times a day Scrub away, scrub away, scrub away the S.R. Way — X-Ray Spex “Germ Free Adolescents”, 1978 Marianne Elliott, better known as Poly Styrene, formed the punk band X-Ray Spex as a twenty-year-old in 1977. (Polystyrene is an inexpensive, clear, hard and brittle synthetic aromatic hydrocarbon polymer that can be solid or foamed.) With songs like “Germ-Free Adolescents”, “Plastic Bag” and “Oh Bondage, Up Yours!” the music of X-Ray Spex brings together the many worlds of Marianne Elliott and Poly Styrene: the woman and the artist; the mother and the daughter; the punk and the hippie — all united by a willingness to laugh at and expose the limitations of the throwaway culture of the time (and of today). Arena’s gritty 1979 documentary flies to us straight out of the past, clear as day and with prophetic lucidity. Directed by Ted Clisby, it is gritty (there’s no better description), but it’s also personal and warm, with its aesthetic beautifully anchored in a storytelling past that also endures. Just like Poly Styrene’s lyrics, and precisely because it is a type of storytelling we don’t use so much anymore, the documentary and the music are out ...

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10

November 10, 2020 00:18:22
What About Work?

What About Work?

In this episode we talk about what it's like to be in work, to be out of work, and what it’s like looking for work in a pandemic. ************************** I’m a workaholic. In 2015 I forgot how to swallow. Every time I ate, it felt like a bit of food lodged in my throat. It was intermittent at first; then it would happen a couple if times during a meal; then it was every time I swallowed, and no matter how much water I drank or how many times I cleared my throat, it felt like the food would get stuck. It didn’t matter how much I chewed, either. It felt like everything was squeezing shut. I started cooking soft foods, taking tiny mouthfuls, chewing a lot, and drinking water to push it down. I was scared I’d never eat properly again. At the time I was working at the University of Queensland, and had three freelance gigs. I was also writing a grief memoir (about my mother’s death from cancer in 2013) for a Masterclass Program. I was working (paid & unpaid) seven days. I knew this was unsustainable, but I’d juggled creative and paid work before. And Shona and I devised an exit plan, and so many other writers and artists do this. But the words I was putting down in my memoir were heavy. (I didn’t know how heavy.) I was diagnosed with a hole in my heart and hypertension. In the middle of all this, two people I knew passed away, four days apart. I remember the inflection in ------’s voice on the phone when she told me ------- was gone. We’d been housemates for some years. Now, that’s ...

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September 21, 2020 00:04:04
Bonus Episode: Canberra By Covid

Bonus Episode: Canberra By Covid

What’s it like to be twelve and in lockdown In this short bonus episode our niece Kayla has recorded her reflections on the ways Covid-19 has impacted on her and her friends. ************************** We love everything about our nieces and nephew: their creativity, their questions, the songs they sing, the art they make... Every time we video call Tom and Sadie, Tom needs proof that if it’s day there, then it’s night here, and visa versa. Sadie has impeccable comedic timing for someone so young (she really does). And Kayla, who’s almost a teenager, loves, among other things, reading, writing and drawing. The artwork for this episode is hers. She’s a winter baby, and I met her a few hours after she was born — wrapped in a blanket and beanie. It’s hard to reconcile today’s independent 12-year-old with the tiny human who could hardly open her eyes back in 2008. I was on my way to live in Timor-Leste with Shona (she’d already left Australia to take up her new job) and didn’t know when I’d be back, so it was important to be there for those first hours, days and weeks of Kayla’s life. I’m not sure if humans do the same thing as some birds, but there’s an imprinting thing that happens where the babies imprint on a ‘suitable moving stimulus’ (ideally a parent bird). On the off chance humans do that as well, I wanted to be there. So, whether she likes it or not, Kayla’s stuck with me. Tom’s a runner and a climber, and Sadie’s into anything and everything her older brother is — she does not like to be left out, and fair call, ...

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