Cast On!

On Friday just as I was wrapping up the week’s work, I noticed that Episode 81 of Brenda Dayne’s fabulous podcast – Cast On – was up. I am more than a little bit thrilled to be included in this episode, as Brenda Dayne is a personal hero for me in terms of the craft of podcasting. The Missability Radio Show, The Fantastical Reality Radio Show and The Domestic Soundscape Cut and Splice series have all – though radically different from Cast On – been helped along by my listening to Brenda Dayne’s Cast On, because her content is always well organised, the audio quality is consistently good, and her series are coherent, thoughtful and expansive. I love the DIY ethos of Cast On, and the sense of creativity and exploration that attend the podcast.

When I first started out listening to Cast On maybe at the very start of 2007 or so, I was unfamiliar with the whole podcast format; I wasn’t sure what I thought about the chatty, cosy tone of the show, and I had reservations about what I perceived as a slightly indulgent exploration of personal-growth and creativity in Cast On. But if there’s one thing more exciting than a project you uncritically embrace and love from your first encounter, it’s a project that actually changes your mind, and as I’ve gradually become a devoted listener, Cast On has definitely caused me to revise my first impressions and to learn about what a podcast does and is, and I’m grateful for that.

The show is cosy. But in the late hours of listening, I’ve realised this cosiness is no bad thing. It’s a cosiness with generosity, with warmth and guts, a cosiness, you might say, that’s real. The difficult emotional realities of losing a beloved friend and many other very human life-events and issues have made their way into Cast On over the years. Real feelings and worries enter Cast On, frankly and thoughtfully addressed between well-researched and edited knitting content and I have come to admire the heartfelt quality of the podcast, its honesty and humanity. I also think there’s something very generous about the way that knitting is contextualised in Cast On by the backdrop of Brenda’s real life, real relationships and real concerns. There’s a skill in striking the right balance between personal address/themed content, and I think Brenda Dayne does a superb job of this. I also think the personal/knitting approach is the perfect route for a knitting podcast to take since the very nature of a local Stitch and Bitch group – and the thing I love about knitting circles generally – is precisely the way that intimate confessions and practical considerations blend together in a no-nonsense mix. I love the way that when knitters meet, the conversations veer between massive life-stuff topics like having or not having children or getting or not getting married, to discussing different approaches to sock-construction. In knitting circles, gigantic announcements drop in to chats between distracted row-counting or the admiration for a lovely colourway, and I think Brenda Dayne reflects this social space of knitting beautifully in her podcast.

And re: the reflections on creativity, the longevity of Cast On and the sheer effort that its making involves mean that – far from being indulgent musings – the questions Brenda Dayne asks along the way are increasingly important ones about meaning, creativity and making. They are questions that all makers struggle with at some point and I have a lot of respect for the public conversation that Brenda has with her listenership and the genuinely engaged way that she reads through feedback and comments and addresses listener concerns and remarks. I have also come to admire her ongoing discussion of the economics of making a free podcast, since the question of money is one that everyone who wants to be a full time creative practitioner has to consider at some point, and it’s one that not everyone is brave enough to address.

So I’ve evolved into a fully-blown fan of Cast On. I think the skillful weaving of personal/political/knitting content together into long, uninterrupted shows of consistent quality is a triumph in podcasting and I am very glad that Brenda takes the time to write, research, make and create Cast On. So last week on a day when I’d vowed not to do any speaking on account of my throat/voice being totally wrecked from all my own podcasting, I instantly revoked the vow in order to answer Brenda’s email requesting a reading for Episode 81. It was an honour to be asked and I look forward very much to hearing the rest of this series, with its timely focus on make-do-and-mend.

Thanks Brenda!

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