Within creative industries, storytelling becomes an integral part of what we do on a daily basis. It forms the basis of our proposals; the hook for our presentations; even the cliffhanger for our marketing campaigns.
So in this bi-weekly series, we chat with a different storyteller about their work and how telling stories helps them do what they do best. Next up is the hosts of the hilarious Headstuff podcast series ‘Juvenalia’: Alan Maguire, Ellen Tannam and Sarah Griff.
Q.1: Collectively you are ‘Juvenalia’, but what do you do as individuals?
Alan: I work as a software tester in an insurance company.
Ellen: I’m a tech journalist.
Sarah: I’ve worked a million weird jobs, but I’ve been writing full time for three years.
Q.2: Where did the idea for the podcast come from?
Alan: I originally wanted to do a Point Horror Podcast where we reviewed a different book in every episode. But then I thought that maybe not everybody was as in to Point Horror as I’d been. Then we realised that everybody had that one thing that they were obsessed with when they were young and that was it! Ellen and I hosted the first episode and Sarah was the guest. We liked her so much that she became the third host
Q.3: Pop culture is obviously an important reference point for all of you, where does that come from?
Ellen: Being a curious child I think. Reading a lot and consuming a lot of US television.
Alan: I had extremely permissive parents who let me have a tv in my room from a young age so 90’s MTV Europe and Channel 4 comedies explain a lot about me. Select Magazine was a big thing for me as well. They approached everything with love while also being very funny and self-aware.
Sarah: I read and played a lot of video games – but I have a huge amount of weird cultural blindspots too because my folks were very specific about what I was and wasn’t allowed watch. I feel culturally tone deaf sometimes, like I don’t find The Simpsons funny for example. So sometimes listening to people go in-depth about why a text means a lot to them is super interesting to me, even if my reference points are sometimes off.
Will Smith, @saharmali. One of these people talks on the new Juvenalia, one of them is talked about. The only way to find out which is which is to listen to the episode or read the description https://t.co/rSMUnnfaJ6
— Juvenalia (@Juvenalia_Pod) June 11, 2018
Q.4: One aspect of the podcast is of course…the stories. Do you always know which guests are going to have the best stories or is it totally coincidental?
Ellen: It’s always been chance in my experience. it’s all very individual and personal so you honestly can’t have many expectations.
Sarah: I agree – it’s a dice roll every time. Every single guest brings something totally unique to the mic.
Alan: We deliberately don’t compare notes beforehand and do an absolute bare bones pre-interview to keep the conversation as natural as possible. So amazing stories like Stephen Colfer’s Pokémon Tournament or Dave Rudden’s Christmas Day in Egypt were as new to us as they were to the listener
Q.5: Obviously what you do requires a great deal of creativity. What inspires you all to tell great stories? Where does that yearning to tell stories come from?
Alan: I actually feel like I don’t really tell stories all that much on the podcast? I love listening to other people’s stories though and I think I’m good at letting people feel like they can tell us their story.
Q.6: Before preparing a topic/show, are there any particular creative rituals or habits which any of you engage in? Or in life in general?
Ellen: I like to distill topics into key words so i don’t need to rely on notes and listen to soundtracks of movies to get a feel for things. Blooper reels too!
Alan: I try to find reviews of the items we cover from when they came out to see what the feeling was around them at the time.
— Juvenalia (@Juvenalia_Pod) September 19, 2017
Q.7: How does storytelling fit into your everyday life?
Alan: I’m basically surrounded by stories every day. I listen to podcasts in work pretty much constantly and I check Twitter way too much. Twitter, to me, is people telling you about themselves one tweet at a time. Sarah, Ellen, and I all met on Twitter and the stories we told about ourselves brought us together. The actual book that Sarah wrote about herself, Not Lost, also brought us together because I read it and tweeted at her every time I got to a bit that related to my life.
Q.8: What’s the future of ‘Juvenalia’? Where would you like to see the podcast in 5 years time?
Alan: Juvenalia works because it’s a low pressure, inclusive experience. It’s ticking along nicely, finding its audience, and I’d like it to just keep doing that. I don’t think any of us have any illusions that the podcast will become a career but I’d just like us to keep making it for as long as people want to hear it.
Q.9: What kind of stories do you tell in your podcast which you think resonate most with your audience?
Alan: The stories that resonate most with people are the ones about people finding a space for themselves in a piece of pop culture that they needed at that time or when someone finds themselves reflected in a film or a book in a way that they hadn’t seen before.
Ellen: I much prefer listening to stories than telling them myself but my favourite thing is finding a way to relate to someone based on a story particularly if we have less in common.