International Women’s Podcast Festival comes full circle for its founder

As October’s International Women’s Podcast Festival takes shape, its founder Imriel Morgan spoke to PodcastingToday about it and her company Content is Queen.

Imriel first got into podcasting in late 2014 after listening to the award-winning Serial podcast hosted by Sarah Koenig. It’s known for telling one true story across each series and Imriel says that it set the true crime world alight.

As a behavioural scientist, Imriel says before listening to it, her interest in audio was non-existent – she didn’t even listen to the radio!

“The 2014 Serial launched, and I listened, and I thought oh this is cool and interesting,” she says. “I was like, this is a great medium, I didn’t know audio could be so moving, so intimate and that I could connect with stories in the way I was connecting with them.”

She realised that it was a great way to connect with people at a time she was looking for ways to do just that with community here in the UK – predominantly black British because she didn’t feel represented in news or main media herself.

Although originally sceptical of creating a podcast network, it didn’t take Imriel long to realise it was a medium that could make a difference.

Off the back of that, the ShoutOut Network was created to focus on underrepresented talent coming forward to share their interest and expertise. It went on to win one of the first British Podcast Awards, gaining a lot of media attention and was the beginning of audio becoming a major part of Imriel’s life.

“This is a medium that can change the world. I found myself learning about other people and we wanted to do the same for black British communities here,” she says. “How can we provide a change or at least provide a different lens for people to view us from?

“So we created shows about politics, history, literature and we had publishers say ‘I didn’t know these people read’!! It was ten years ago and there were definitely people that had a very limited view of black Britishness and black British identity.”

The success of the ShoutOut Network led to the launch of the UK Women’s Podcast Festival in 2018, originally focusing on championing UK women in podcasting. It resulted in the industry rallying around this celebration of women’s contribution to podcasting, with other organisations using the festival’s speaker list to diversify their own events.

The first festival had Content is Queen as a sub-title, which Imriel says, has stuck and now as a company, embodies everything she wants it to do – to be accessible to all, inclusive of everyone and to help creators from all backgrounds.

Content is Queen is obsessive about sound and high quality, so built a studio in Somerset House on the Strand and one in Peckham to offer out to creators at affordable prices.

Unfortunately, the studios were launched just as the pandemic hit in 2020 meaning they were slow to grow and, the festival couldn’t take place either. Fortunately, Audible became a partner, covering the cost of building and maintaining the studios at the start.

“Fast forward to 2022, the festival happened and because of the pandemic in lots of ways, we were able to make it international and that opened us up to women from absolutely everywhere,” Imriel recalls. “This meant that we could now look at how to support creators en masse.

“The company now focuses not just on the physical locations, we do editing support for creators, we provide community resources that help to grow your show and things to help level up production.”

In addition to the festival, there are also mini events each month to give people access to knowledge about podcasting and the audio industry as a whole.

Things have come full circle for the festival because the podcast that inspired Imriel to go into the world of audio, will see its host, Sarah Koenig as the headline guest this year.

Sarah’s Serial podcast will celebrate its tenth anniversary in October and Imriel says that there’s a wide acknowledgement from lots of people she meets across the industry who believe it was Serial that was the catalyst for podcasts become a popular medium.

“It’s slightly overlooked that it’s coming up to 10 years since that happened and it was a woman who did that,” Imriel says. “She’s done such phenomenal work – Serial has been listened to by 420 million people, so it’s an insanely huge show led by a woman.”

This is why they are so pleased to get Sarah to be at the festival, to celebrate what she’s achieved and to thank her for doing it and opening the doors she has.

“The festival this year is in honour to Sarah’s contribution to podcasting, it really is the cherry on the cake for us,” Imriel adds.

The International Women’s Podcast Festival takes place 3 – 4 October and you can find out more about it, including the evening with Sarah Koenig at the South Bank Centre, by visiting the Content is Queen website.

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