Keep an ear out for pick of the pods

A Little Bit Racey
A Little Bit Racey

More and more people are turning to podcasts to enliven their workout in the gym or commute to work.

The digital audio files to download or stream from MP3 players and computers were first created in 2001.

Cornucopia Radio, Sheffield

Cornucopia Radio, Sheffield

Its popularity has ebbed and flowed since then but over the past couple of years there has been something of a renaissance for the medium. In the autumn of 2014, Serial (a weekly reinvestigation into an American murder) broke an iTunes record as the fastest podcast to reach five million downloads.

It gave podcasts a shot in the arm at just the time when technological advances made it easier to download or stream than previously thanks to smartphones with better internet access and the increasing availability of free Wi-Fi.

More than eight million adults in the UK - around 16% of the adult population - have downloaded a podcast, with almost half listening to one at least once a week.

In quoting those figures in 2011 the BBC calculated it was a greater percentage of people than use Twitter.

I really want to help the sector grow and also promote Sheffield

The Adam Carolla Show in the US holds the record of 59,574,843 unique downloads, beating Ricky Gervais’s 2005 entry in the Guinness Book of World Records

Though celebrities and major broadcasters dominate the listening charts, independent enthusiasts have been steadily carving out a niche audience

One person doing just that is Peter Beeston who runs Cornucopia Radio in Sheffield.

“I started it around nine years ago and at that point it was just a monthly community radio show I was making, broadcasting short spoken word pieces from local performers.

Hack Circus Sheffield podcast

Hack Circus Sheffield podcast

“But it quickly grew and grew. Lots of local people approached me, with scripts and ideas for radio drama and comedy shows, but had no idea how to get them made. So I helped them create the shows (regardless of how ambitious their ideas might be) then put out the work as different podcasts. Eventually I was creating enough work to launch my own internet radio station.” 

He has also recently launched a new network at  www.sheffieldpodcasts.co.uk which is an independent directory of every podcast made in Sheffield. It ranges from The Star’s forums on the Blades and the Owls to Four Geeks in a Pub based on the social science of people having conversations while having a drink and recorded monthly in a public house.

“I have discovered ones I hadn’t heard of,” says Peter. “One that I particularly like is Hack Circus, a creative collective of artists, scientists, writers and performers. I like the mix of interviews and a guide to being more creative.

“Also Talk Sheffield – a great podcast talking to and exploring the people and communities that define Sheffield. I especially liked the podcast they did with the homeless people of Sheffield. 

Peter Beeston of Cornucopia Radio

Peter Beeston of Cornucopia Radio

“At the last count there were 42 or 43 but there are still more out there that I would like to hear about.

“I really want to help the sector grow and support it as much as I can and hopefully in turn promote Sheffield).

“My main podcast, called Jelly Cast, has been downloaded almost half a million times since and the internet radio stream has thousands of listeners a month.

“We’ve also won and been nominated for radio awards in the past and had work broadcast around the world on different radio stations and as part of international radio festivals.” 

Cornucopia doesn’t have its own studios and instead use performance spaces around Sheffield to create work with local actors.

Next Wednesday audiences are invited to DINA in Cambridge Street for a comedy improv show called A Little Bit Racey.

Peter Beeston of Cornucopia Radio

Peter Beeston of Cornucopia Radio

“I’ve been producing it for the station for four years now,” explains Peter.

“It’s very much a Radio 4-esque show in which comedians battle against each other to create stories or adventures about reaching different parts of the world. Last year it was nominated for the final round of the UK Podcast Awards.

The live recording will open a new Cornucopia series starting on February 21 followed by eight new episodes to be recorded separately.

The live recording will be hosted by James Cottle, with panellists Tom Harrison, Pip Mason, Chella Quint and David Alnwick. Local improv groups The Shrimps, Faffing About and The Antics will also feature alongside comedians Joe Thompson and Charlie Gascoyne.

For Peter it is a labour of love. “But that’s what makes it worthwhile.”