This year, my Valentine was a podcast. After being recommended to me a few weeks ago by a friend, I have fallen in love with the storytelling-centred, Moth Radio Hour. Each episode, a few different stories from Moth live events are brought together by a common theme, whether it be ‘Second Chances’ or ‘The Kindness of Strangers’. It has become a romance for the ages, episode after episode accompanying me on my walk to class, while I cook dinner and even, as I write this article. In fact, I am listening to Cheryl Della Pietra look back on her time as an aspiring writer attempting to obtain an assistant position with the gun-wielding, eccentric Hunter S. Thompson; spiked chocolate cake eating and shroom filled joyrides ensue. Soon Nimisha Ladva's voice travels through my flat as she recounts memory of her father’s strength in the face of racial violence whilst growing up in one of the few families of colour in their area of London. The minutes have slipped by and now Lemn Sissay tells the story of his difficult past in the UK care system and his attempts to uncover his true identity and history. The Moth is truly the tickle and slap of the podcast world — lulling me into a false sense of security with humour and ridiculous tales and then hitting me with profound self-reflection or unfiltered sadness.
The podcast is a child of The Moth, a non-profit group based in New York centred around the art of storytelling. Founded by American novelist, George Dawes-Green, in 1997, the podcast came from the writer’s evenings on a little island in Georgia where Green would invite his friends over to tell stories. Since its conception, the organisation has hosted a range of storytelling events across the United States and around the world, giving a stage to prominent literary and cultural figures and everyday people alike. In 2008 the idea for The Moth podcast was first hatched at a time when podcasting was new, exciting, and promised endless possibilities. Dan Kennedy, storyteller and one of the podcast hosts, compares podcasting to “punk rock or indie music”, affirming the feeling at the time that “everyone’s producing their own work, there’s no gatekeeper to getting on the air anymore, this is going to change everything”. The podcast series and national public radio show, The Moth Radio Hour, debuted in 2009 and celebrated its 25th anniversary last year, now downloaded more than a 100 million times per year and airing on more than 500 stations across the United States.
The podcast is wholly human; life, experience, happiness and regret ringing in every voice, the stories transcend distance, time, and circumstance. When plugging in, I feel like a fly — or maybe moth — on the wall in these people’s lives. With every episode, I am flitting through their minds, past personal reflections, embarrassments, and dreams. Catherine Burns, Artistic Director at The Moth for over 20 years, mourns the growing loss of human connection in today’s society,: “Over the past thirty years, humans have been interacting in person less, and connecting more and more through our devices. This was exacerbated by the isolation of the pandemic. We need to return to the intimacy of human connection that is afforded by sharing and listening to one another's personal stories.”” Indeed, listening to this podcast has caused me to slow down and think about the storyteller’s life and subsequently reflect on my own.
So I urge you, listen to The Moth, revel in the ludicrous, the learning curves, the wisdom. And maybe after that you will realise you have your own story to tell. Indeed The Moth runs a pitchline which can be found on their website, themoth.org; they listen to every pitch and if they like the story, they may air it on The Moth Radio Hour, or help you develop the story for one of their Moth Mainstage shows.