Last week the team behind the Manchester Green New Deal Podcast (@MCRGND_POD on Twitter) published a conversation with two of CEM’s core group members.
🎙️New ep 🎙️https://t.co/5hImavYIB6
We talk to Marion Smith and Calum Mcfarlane of @ClimateEmergMcr to discuss their reports on councils’ actions since declaring a Climate Emergency last year, what is blocking substantive change and their vision for a greener GM 🌱✊ pic.twitter.com/S0gzhqjFYU
— GND.POD (@MCRGND_POD) July 28, 2020
This week we’re pleased to publish an interview with the guys about what they’re trying to do, how they do it, and some of the guests they’ve had on.
What is the GND pod?
Mcr GND Podcast has, essentially, 3 equally important parts:
- It is a way of developing the easily understood, but hard to define, concept of a Green New Deal. Our ethos is that no group has a monopoly on ‘the truth’. Different groups function on different levels and some have acquired excellent ways of doing things or of analysing our current situation, so let’s come together and hear and debate these ideas and try to grow and put forward the strongest possible concept of what a GND should be.
- We are part of Mcr LGND, in that our members are made up of environmentally conscious Labour members who believe that a GND has to be pushed for and fought for within our current mainstream political system.
- From the start, we said that it is really important to highlight and amplify as many local environmental groups as possible. Therefore, we not only have dedicated episodes to prominent environment campaigns in Mcr, we also have ‘shout outs’ at the end of every show for groups or individuals in GM that are preserving, conserving, educating, growing or fighting for the planet in some way.
Where did the idea come from?
After the defeat of Labour in the last election, I was completely burnt out. Like many activists, I had put a hell of a lot of time and effort into campaigning, and as an environmentalist, I also had the added burden of wondering if it was the last chance to have an environmentally progressive UK government in the timeframe that we have to decarbonise. So I basically shut down and cut myself off from all politics and environmental stuff with the thought that I just needed a break, but weeks went by and I wasn’t feeling inspired or hopeful about anything, which is unlike me.
Eventually, I decided that I needed to go and do something to force me out of my malaise, so on my last day of work before the Christmas holiday, I bought a pair of hiking boots and the next day got up at 5am and went and did the Yorkshire 3 peaks. Never done it before, never really hiked before, and had to be directed to the start of it when I got there. It was gruelling and had every weather you can imagine, sunshine at the bottom, rain on the way up and fog and snow on the tops. I started in the pitch black and finished in pitch black, but the experience up in the snow and fog sparked a bit of life back in me and the next day I had the idea of starting an environmental podcast. At the next Mcr Labour GND meeting, I put the idea forward and Andrew said he had all the kit and would love to be involved. Alex, who I knew already and who was with me on the night of the election defeat, also said he would love to be a part of it, which was music to my ears, and we just went away and created it. That was almost 20 episodes ago! Crazy.
Who has been involved so far?
The vast proportion of the episodes have been basically down to Andrew, Alex, and myself. I have been on the environment scene for quite a few years and have been a member of quite a few groups so, thankfully, it has been easy enough to get guests. Andrew is a sound engineer so all the tech stuff naturally went to him and he puts a lot of work in behind the scenes. Alex is a journalist and has helped amplify our show within Mcr’s independent media. However, from the start, we have always discussed group resilience and how we cannot rely too heavily on any one person, so we have recently got a new show editor, Anna Stringer, who is editing a new mini-series that we are doing. We also now have a number of hosts including, one time guest, Lucy Burke, who is a professor at MMU, Peter Somerville, an emeritus professor at Lincoln University, and Billy Godfrey, who is a founder member of Mcr LGND & Mcr GNDUK, and who will be making/made his debut on the CEM episode. Believe it or not, we also have a researcher! Niall Johnston, who has been a great help on certain topics and who is down to co-host an episode in August. So we are in a good place.
How long does it take to put each episode together?
We normally record the interview in around 2 hours, depending on the depth of the conversation or the various detours we might take from the topic. We’re not precious – we just follow the guest’s lead where they would like to go and drag them back if need be. It takes somewhere in the region of 2-4 hours to edit, that is mostly dependent on how rough the internet connection is during the call or the various audio qualities we might get from guests setups. Lots of rendering time but it’s all worth it!
What kit do you use?
In the real world, I’m actually a sound engineer so I already had some decent gear and audio chops. All the speakers record their own end of the show and I cut it all together with a recording of the skype chat. I record with a focusrite 2i2 and AKG pencil condenser so does Adam. Alex is on a recently acquired Blue snowball mic. The show is edited in Protools.
What advice would you have for folks wanting to set up a podcast?
Have a vision for what you want the podcast to sound like editorially before you start. It makes cutting it down and framing the conversation a lot easier.
Work with people you like on a subject you really care about. You’re probably not going to be successful overnight so you need to be having fun to bring you back week on week. Also, define what success is to you. Do you want millions of listeners and a banging “merch” store? That is gonna take some time and some money. Do you want to entertain yourself and your friends? Just get started and enjoy yourself.
Also, you won’t be good straight off the bat; like all great things, it takes time and perseverance.
Who are some of the guests you’ve had on?
Our primary focus has been to platform Manchester’s climate activists in order to amplify their voices. Some of the activists we have had on the show include Steady State Manchester, Trees Not Cars, Pesticide Action Network and Fossil Free Greater Manchester.
But the treatment of environmental issues as just environmental issues produces few results. This is because inherent in the idea of ‘the environment’ is a space separate from the rest of the world: separate from the economy, separate from society, separate from things that most people understand and care about.
We seek to banish that sense of separation by showing listeners how the environment touches on all parts of our lives. Doing this stresses the urgency of the crisis, but crucially also presents us with opportunities to do environmental politics in these different areas – to fight eco-apartheid through anti-racist politics, for example; or to tackle climate injustice against workers and communities through universal basic income and community wealth building; or to raise public awareness of climate breakdown through educational reform.
We have therefore had a wide range of guests on the show, from economists like Grace Blakeley, to investigative journalists like Oliver Bullough, to education activists and people working in green industries like retrofit.
What kind of response have you had from listeners?
The response has been amazing! Some of the most encouraging pieces of feedback we’ve had have been for introducing the urgency of the climate crisis, our linking of climate justice to class justice, casting a platforming of climate justice campaigners outside of London and for informing listeners about what they can actually do to help various environmental causes.
What will be crucial now for improving the podcast and strengthening the movement will be us listening continuously to our audience on which speakers we invite and what topics we explore with them. We’d really appreciate people leaving us a review on iTunes:
Complete this sentence – “Success for climate campaigners in MCR in the next year looks like XXX and will therefore need them to XXX?
Success for climate campaigners in MCR in the next year looks like Greater Manchester reducing its emissions by around 13%; we will therefore need them to put pressure on local authorities to a) set up active travel infrastructure such as cycling lanes, b) divest entirely Greater Manchester’s Pension Fund from fossil fuels and c) retrofit the city region’s housing stock.
1 thought on “Interview with the team from @MCRGND_POD”
Great podcast, especially Calum’s final point about MCC’s arrogance. My local councillor is Angeliki Stogia and she told me a year ago that she doesn’t even read CEM’s reports, let alone pay any attention to them. The new councillors have already been sidelined and I don’t see how yet another scrutiny committee can make any difference. Reluctantly I would suggest forming a new group called Manchester Against Climate Change in alliance with Greens and LibDems, which could contest the 2021 local elections on the basis of a radical program to make the changes that Calum described – plus retrofitting of social housing, planting millions of trees, and much more besides.