Writer, critic and editor, Molara Wood has a new creative baby. It’s a podcast on arts and culture called Art for the People and set to debut imminently. The author of ‘Indigo’ shares more about the podcast that will feature rich and engaging conversations with writers, filmmakers, visual artists, theatre practitioners, thinkers and more in this interview. Excerpts:
WHAT is the idea behind Art for the People?
The idea behind ‘Art for the People’ is the same as I’ve always had when I’ve written for newspapers, magazines, journals or books. Whether I participated or moderated at events, it’s just to continue to live in the beautiful presence of the arts. To continue to contribute to lively and enriching discourse concerning the place and the role of arts and culture in our society. To give it the kind of attention that it deserves; to give it the seriousness that it deserves and to show how the arts are intertwined with our everyday lives. To make it relatable in a country where the arts are nearly always brushed aside or paid lip service to. So, this is just a continuation of what I’ve always done but using a different platform.
‘Art for the People’ will showcase, usually, one artist at a time or maybe a project involving a collaboration between several artists or performers. Writers would be featured: filmmakers, theatre practitioners, visual artists, art patrons, the whole works. It is for everybody. And it is also about that idea of community. Of people who are talking among themselves to elevate art and society, and then taking that conversation to the larger community so that we can also have people come to a better place of enlightenment about the importance of art, culture, heritage. And also for people to come to their positions.
Listeners would, hopefully, reach their own conclusions about these conversations; they would take their own positions concerning some of the issues that would come up, and they would also see about how the arts themselves are players and contributors to the genuine issues that people grapple with every day. And that the arts themselves sometimes, help to find a solution or comfort.
We’re going through a challenging time with the COVID-19; the arts have come very strongly into play in helping people cope through unprecedented hardship, in livening the atmosphere and also powering the discourse about where is the world going to? Why are politicians the way they are? What can we do about it? What is the relationship of man to society, to the environment, to the future, to the past? Why are we where we are? The arts speak to life, and I hope that with the podcast, we can contribute in some small way to that ongoing conversation around art and society.
Why is it a podcast?
It’s a podcast because of a combination of factors. As a journalist in Nigeria, and no offence to anybody, but it does seem to me that the space for writing about arts, for talking about the arts in the traditional press has shrunk considerably. In addition to that, the respect, the regard, however inadequate, that was there before for people to write and to really lay on that richness of treatment of subjects or themes around the arts in newspapers, that regard is largely no longer there.
I find in general that media owners, editors are not that keen on that kind of content anymore. So, if you’re someone who is passionate about writing and pushing forward that kind of content and the kind of discussions that, that content generates, you can feel that the terrain has significantly reduced. It then becomes, where do you write for in this environment? Where do you contribute those things? I do contribute still from time to time. I’m not saying that it’s zero.
There’s also a knock-on effect that if you’re someone who wrote for publication once or twice a week, maybe now you would write once in four months. So, productivity is also decreased, and the mindset, the training, that ability before to turn them out also starts to become deadened.
Once upon a time, our newspapers, especially some that we could name were very vibrant. But it doesn’t seem to me that vibrancy is still there any longer. It doesn’t seem to me that space is there any longer, that the requisite respect for that kind of contribution, I don’t think it’s there anymore. So, if you’re a writer who loves the art, who lives the art, who loves to write about the art and to bring more people into the life of the art.: when it’s your goal to bring more people into the life that the art can spring, what do you do? You have to find other ways of giving expression to that side of yourself.
So, it’s that. It’s also the fact that the podcast platform has exploded in the last few years; I’ve been interested in podcasts for about three years, and I’ve had a mind for at least two years now to start a podcast. There are thousands of podcasts; I listen to several podcasts, and they have their place. Of course, we know that they are very appealing to millennials, but it’s not just millennials. I’m not a millennial, but I listen to podcasts, especially in this time of Corona-induced isolation, lockdown and all of that, podcasts have been a particular comfort to me. So, it’s an opportunity. It’s a relatively new platform offered by technology for us to continue to express ourselves; for us to continue to reach out to others and to facilitate conversation. And so, we have to embrace it. It’s the way the world is going. We have to embrace it. It appeals to me greatly because it’s beyond borders.
So, the trailer for ‘Art for the People’ was released yesterday [Thursday]. Who knows maybe someone in Alaska has already listened to it on the hosting site, so it’s borderless. There’s a certain democracy about it that almost anyone with access to wi-fi or a smartphone can access it. And they can listen to it at their own convenience. It’s great. It’s a benefit that we have, thanks to technology to tell stories, to facilitate conversations, and I could not but embrace that because I’ve listened to a lot of podcasts so I began to see how I could also create content using that platform.
It also appeals to me greatly as a storyteller. I’m a storyteller, and there’s that element where a podcast is essentially a storytelling platform. It can be the last thing before you sleep. You play a podcast; it can be like a lullaby that lulls you to sleep. Yes, it’s a superb storytelling tool, and I’m a storyteller. And the conversations that we would have on ‘Arts for the People’, also, to some extent, function as stories, a narrative that’s being presented by the host in conjunction with the guest.
How accessible is it going to be for Nigerians and art lovers who don’t have internet access?
We have started the ‘Art for the People’ podcast with the wonderful, staunch support of Radio Now 101.9 FM and our arrangement with them is that they can also air the episodes live on air. So, it’s a podcast; it would be available on various sites where people get podcasts. It would be downloadable; podcasts are downloadable but also Radio Now 101.9 FM would be broadcasting ‘Art for the People.’
At least each episode would have a number of runs and so people who listen to the radio– of which we have thousands of thousands in Nigeria, in Lagos, can listen to it. Whether in their cars or on the ‘Danfo’ buses, wherever they listen to radio, they can.
It is hoped that that would help take it to people who don’t have internet access.
And a podcast, really, is a new twist on a radio show. So, this collaboration with Radio Now 101.9FM is an excellent way of reinforcing that link between a podcast and a radio show and demystifying what might seem the strangeness of a podcast for some people. If some people can’t immediately figure out it’s a podcast, where do I see it? At the elementary level, it’s a radio show, and it would be available on the radio also. I’m hoping that as many as can download…You know, the listening site is free. I’m hoping that we would get a lot of listeners.
How regular is the podcast going to be?
For now, it’s twice monthly. Every fortnight, you should get a new episode of ‘Art for the People’. The idea, originally, was that this podcast would have launched, the latest beginning of March but then Coronavirus happened. Not only did it happen and leaving me as well as many other people, but I’m also sure, stumped for a while. Like, what do we do? How do we adapt? But also being able to record interviews for the podcast also became a tricky situation. Thankfully, we had had some interviews done in the can. There’s a lot of difficulties now with getting anything done while the Coronavirus crisis lasts, but we think we can do twice monthly. And that also allows those of us that work on the podcast to do the other things that we normally need to do including day job and so on.
What’s the initial reaction to the trailer?
The reaction to the trailer has…tremendous is a word I don’t like using anymore because of Donald Trump’s overuse of it;ad nauseam. But the initial reaction has been tremendous; overwhelming. Within a matter of hours, my initial tweet with a clip of the trailer, that trailer had had over 2000 views in a matter of hours from that tweet alone. And so many other tweets have been generated by so many others out of that.
There’s been a lot of responses, a lot of comments—people expressing their excitement and saying that they are looking forward to it. And the response has definitely given a sense of occasion. It’s made all the hours of grappling with what can seem incomprehensible, pesky difficulties, worth it. It’s been a really fantastic payoff. There’s a lot of excitement, and a lot of responses on Twitter, Instagram, and WhatsApp groups. From what little I have been able to see from my little corner, the response has been overwhelming. And it is my hope that we can at least go some way to meeting the expectation and that we can keep it interesting, fresh and engaging.
What are your expectations for Art for the People?
I’m hoping, first to keep the listener satisfied. To keep the listener interested and engaged. I’m hoping that people in the art community would see this as a platform, as a show about them. It’s about them; it’s for them. I’m hoping that we can have that kind of embrace. And that we can continue to have quality guests, interesting guests who have things to say; who have things they are doing.
We are not short of talents in this country. We are not short of art practitioners who give a lot of thought to what they do, and so we hope to continue to have them interested in appearing on the show and trusting us with their art, their soul, their stories, with their ideas and that we can keep the podcast going on.
I’m also hoping that we have sponsors come on board; more support because this is something that’s being done mostly as a labour of love now. We can improve a lot of things. We can make it bigger. It would be great to have sponsorship support for the podcast and that we just keep it going and that listeners keep loving it and embracing it. That would give me a lot of joy and satisfaction.
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