AT a time when young people can’t gather to do creative school projects, the Transition Year students of PBC on the Mardyke, in collaboration with students from Scoil Mhuire, have teamed up for a collective creative experience that is Covid-compliant and Covid-proof.
A new podcast, Radio Pres, in association with Scoil Mhuire was launched on January 29, the culmination of months of hard work. It’s available to download free on Apple, Spotify and ACast.
Conceived in the weekly transition year journalism module in PBC, the boys learned how to draft scripts, edit and create running orders, write and present commercials and links, and also how to market and advertise a podcast.
PBC teacher and podcast producer Eanna Ó Loingsigh said: “It was an incredible culture shock for us all, coming back, masked up, to an intensely regimental school environment in August; while initially I thought the task of producing a podcast mid-pandemic might be too challenging, the boys’ enthusiasm, energy and creativity soon changed my mind.
“One morning in late September, the boys trooped down to Fitzgerald’s Park, armed with just their smartphones, to record their individual ideas — they scattered to the four corners of the park and every one of them recorded a three-minute item of their choice.
"The breadth and originality of their ideas was really encouraging and so we soldiered on."
Broadcaster George Hook then came on board and gave generously of his time with regular live Microsoft Teams chats about technical issues, voice projection and the art of presenting on radio.
It was decided that a miscellany type show would form the outline for the first show. The students loved the idea of a round-table, talking heads format but it would prove too difficult with social distancing restrictions and sound quality issues.
Some of the boys were assigned marketing roles and their brief was to source sponsorship from businesses in return for an advertising slot on the podcast with the money being donated to charity.
The weekly classes were used as production meetings with different ideas bounced around, and inevitably, clashes of opinion. One idea that brooked no argument however was the consideration to get girls involved! Friends from various schools were suggested, offers made and rebuffed until two girls from TY in Scoil Mhuire, Imaan Zulquernain and Lilly Hogan, offered to help present the show.
In December, restrictions were eased and the students individually recorded their pieces in the Republic of Work radio/podcast studio on the South Mall.
Freelance Sound engineer, Elaine Smith, who also teaches podcast workshops, recorded and edited the students’ work and also helped to shape the sound of the podcast, adding atmosphere and soundscapes to the individual pieces.
Ronan Murphy, 16, who wrote a script for a short radio play for the podcast, was amazed at the sound quality:
‘I wrote it for a TY writing competition in school in October; I was delighted when we recorded it but was amazed at how putting a bed of sound under the voices can improve the listening experience and create atmosphere,’
Ronan added: “Doing the podcast has given us opportunities to try things we would never get the chance to try outside of school and we’ve learned so much.”
Fellow student Cuan Deasy, 16 , said: “Creating a podcast during this pandemic was no easy task; from group Teams calls to hours of brainstorming to the writing of the scripts of the show — we had to work so hard. We’ve done it now though and are aiming to produce episode 2, 3 and beyond."
The podcast is available to listen to for free on three platforms: Apple, Spotify and Acast. To listen on a smartphone or i-pad/tablet, just open the podcast app, type PBC podcast and follow or subscribe to listen.
Eanna Ó Loingsigh advises that listeners should not confuse it with another podcast however. “There is a podcast called ‘The PBC Podcast’ which is about Premier Boxing; the closest we come to that is verbal sparring! Our Podcast is simply ‘PBC Podcast.'
He added: “It’s been a brilliant experience for all of us in these testing times and a steep learning curve — from observing the students initially wincing at hearing the sound of their recorded voices to the immense pride they now feel at having live streamed their own podcast.
"I’ve been blown away by their innovation and ability to create such wonderful features.
“We have had very few opportunities to hear voices from 15/16 year olds during this pandemic so it’s great that they’re now up there on the platforms for anyone from Cork to Cairo to listen to.”
Subjects on episode one of the podcast range from a wry teenage Covid diary by Daniel Healy to an original radio play scripted by Ronan Murphy; acclaimed actor and current teacher in Pres, Kieran Ahern, was drafted in to play one of the parts. Ross Daly does an opinion piece on racism and the Black Lives Matter movement; Mark O’Connell does a travel piece on Jackson Heights, New York, where his mother grew up, Isaac Lee examines the best tech gifts currently available, and Olan Ó Síocháin interviews the editor of the UCD College Tribune about avenues into journalism for youngsters aspiring to a career in the media. There is even a news bulletin - a different kind of news mind you!
Episode 1 of the podcast is co-presented by Ronan McAuliffe, Lilly Hogan and Imaan Zulquernain.
Stay tuned for more episodes streaming over the coming weeks and months.