BBC Sounds launches Audio Lab to help the next generation of podcasters

BBC Sounds is launching Audio Lab, a new programme to help grassroots podcasters and audio creatives with diverse stories and inspiring ideas from across the UK.

Audio Lab is the first initiative of its kind from the BBC and will provide a space for the next generation of podcasters, opening up the industry to a wider range of people by giving six audio creatives the opportunity to turn their ideas into a series of podcasts for BBC Sounds.

The initiative is a paid development programme with a comprehensive package including bespoke training from the BBC Academy, mentoring and production support from BBC Audio, as well as marketing and promotion for the best ideas to help amplify unheard stories with new perspectives.

To guide applicants through their submissions, Audio Lab also presents a series of podcast masterclasses hosted by BBC Sounds Lab producer Leanne Alie and supported by BBC Academy Fusion, with some of the scheme’s ambassadors as guests including broadcaster and journalist Mobeen Azhar, BBC Asian Network presenter and host of Brown Girls Do It Better podcast Poppy Begum and Radio 1Xtra’s Richie Brave.

A new masterclass will be streamed on Zoom each week starting Wednesday 28 July for five weeks, and available to watch back on the Audio Lab site. They will explore essential podcasting skills from How To Be A Great Interviewer and Different Ways To Tell A Story to Bringing Your Story To Life Through Sound and Tech-ing your podcasts remotely, with some of the leading voices of the audio world.

Khaliq Meer, Audio Lab Commissioning Executive says: “Podcasting is one of the most innovative and creative spaces to be in right now but not everyone has access to the right support or key resources they need to produce their best work. We’re passionate about accelerating emerging talent and surfacing authentic voices with fresh perspectives so I’m excited we’re going to bring all this together in BBC Sounds Audio Lab and can’t wait to hear the new stories, compelling conversations and innovative formats we grow and showcase from our new audio-creator programme.”

Clara Amfo, Audio Lab ambassador says: “There is infinite creative potential in the UK and the harsh reality of the industry is that there are still lots of areas that need balanced representation through the voices we hear and who is making those voices heard. Initiatives like Audio Lab exist to help level the playing field and hearing from people who have a different lived experience can only educate, entertain and enrich our lives.”

Adele Roberts, Radio 1 host and Audio Lab ambassador says: “I was so excited when I first heard about Audio Lab as it’s designed to reach those who might not currently have an outlet to share their stories and experiences, but have so much to add to podcasting. If there had been something like this available to me when I was younger it might not have taken me so long to have the courage to get started.”

Mobeen Azhar, broadcaster, film maker and Audio Lab ambassador says: “So often a lack of structure and not knowing what conversations to have and who to have them with can mean that talent never truly flies. Class and geography can play a part in access to the industry and that’s why Audio Lab is important. It’s part of the solution and it’s not just about individuals who take part. Audio Lab is about building a more representative, more grounded industry.”

Richie Brave, Radio 1Xtra host and Audio Lab ambassador says: “There is a wealth of stories out there that we could be missing by not affording the right opportunities. It isn’t just them missing out, it is us as well. Audio Lab is important because diverse stories are a way of creating bridges between communities and I am so excited to hear those missed voices coming out of this project.”

Poppy Begum, BBC Sounds podcast host and Audio Lab ambassador says: “There are so many incredible stories and ideas out there that just fall through the cracks. Creators need nurturing and Audio Lab will be perfect for those with something to say who have a unique take on the world. It’s so important to amplify the next generation of podcasters and creators and give them a platform to curate their stories, find their communities and flourish in a time when I really think it’s the golden age of podcasting.”

Robyn Steward, co-host of 1800 seconds of Autism and Audio Lab Ambassador says: “I think it’s vital that the BBC amplify voices that aren’t heard so that we can build a more inclusive and aware society. What excites me about Audio Lab is that it encourages content creators like me to tell their stories. I think that telling diverse stories are important as it helps us all understand each other better, as it can be hard to know what you can do if you don’t see people you identify with.”

Nadia Jae, Radio 1Xtra Breakfast host and Audio Lab Ambassador says: ‘Speech radio and podcasting has come such a long way, redefining audio and radio. I was lucky to be able to develop my skills at community radio, but for presenters who are speech based, Audio Lab is a great opportunity. I think it’s so important to hear from both subcultures that we know and understand, and those that we don’t. Having friends and family who you can get advice from is priceless but for those who don’t, podcasting is a great way to share information.”

Applicants must have at least one year of experience producing audio and making content. This can be self-published audio or video, creating audio in the voluntary sector or working with other podcast creatives. A passion for audio and podcasts is essential, along with a desire to create innovative conversations and stories that are not found elsewhere.

Ideas across all formats and styles are welcome that can be produced within 3 to 6 months. They can range from monologue or spoken word or a conversation between two or more people, to fact based or documentary style audio, soundscape, or a hybrid of styles. Further information and terms and conditions can be found on the Audio Lab website.

Applications can be made from today, 14 July until 29 August.

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