Meetings: Stance Podcast
Stance is a monthly podcast providing a much needed “counter-discourse”, giving diverse perspectives on current affairs and sharing stories of those changing the world through culture. Presented as a transatlantic conversation between the London based, Brixton born broadcaster Chrystal Genesis and the San Francisco-based Londoner Heta Fell, the podcast aims to foster cross-cultural relations; informing, entertaining and, most importantly, inspiring action. Guests so far have ranged from award-winning documentary filmmakers, avant-garde artists, authors and MPs, to virtual-reality experts and philosophers.
Heta and Chrystal offer a really fresh voice at a time when it’s needed most. On the anniversary of their first birthday Stance are taking over a section of the Tate Modern as part of the Uniqlo Tate Lates tonight, with DJ’s, art, film and dancing. We caught up with Heta and Chrystal to find out what goes into making each episode and will be going down at the Tate tonight.
What an amazing year since you launched! What did you initially want to achieve with Stance and how do you feel a year in?
Chrystal: It has been brilliant. We knew there was a real need for a podcast/radio-style show like Stance but we have been blown away by all the support we’ve received from listeners, press and guests. There’s still a lot we want to do and achieve. Reaching more people is key. We hope 2018 brings lots of opportunities for Stance!
Stance comes from a personal place, born out of your own experiences growing up. Can you talk a little bit about this?
Heta: As minorities, we were growing increasingly frustrated at the underrepresentation of people of colour, women and other marginalised communities. There are so many people growing up having no value attached to their perspectives so we decided to do something about it and create a platform that is more reflective of wider society. Growing up, I saw so few South Asians represented in the media and you just get accustomed to never being a central voice, but why should it be that way? Where are the other narratives? With Stance, we thought it is about time that a larger array of people share the spotlight and are given the same respect and intellectual weight as other 'groups’. We present fresh and nuanced perspectives of people that the world doesn’t hear from enough, without being exclusive.
Chrystal: The stance we are taking is against the idea that a person’s background (ethnicity, class or place of birth etc) defines their position and the things they can talk about. For too long, there has been a presumption that certain groups thought certain things and this excluded a lot of people from participating in the debates that shape society. Ideas that if you’re poor you’re like this, or if you’re black you’re like that or if you’re upper class you’re whatever. I saw with my own eyes how this lack of nuance and lazy stereotypical thinking played out in real life in how some young people are treated by police or when friends were verbally attacked with racist insults post-Brexit. We grew up in London and felt the benefits of diversity of experiences, ideas and views and we wanted Stance to represent that.
How do approach programming and curating each episode?
Heta: We broadcast on the first of each month with three segments in each episode covering one big feature, a profile interview and an arts or current affairs piece. Chrystal and I have a brainstorm about subjects and people that we are keen to feature. We don’t do anything that feels overdone - we always want original, fresh, and underexplored takes on subjects. As I’m based in the States and Chrystal is based in the UK - we always try and find a few interesting local voices that people are not hearing from. Finding those voices requires a lot of reading, phone bashing, twitter outreach and talking to locals! Previous topics include ‘The Female Prison Experience’, 'Sex' and ‘Kids In Cults’. Voices we’ve featured previously include political campaigner Gina Miller, Emmy award-winning actor Riz Ahmed, author, Yaa Gyasi, artist, Phoebe Collings-James, Grammy-nominated Musician Four Tet, Academy Award-winning filmmaker, Fazeelat Aslam, renowned activist, Selma James, musicians, Ibeyi, poet and playwright, Sabrina Mahfouz, and more. For our arts / current affairs piece - we just keep our ears to the ground and cover items that are underreported and/or that we are really interested in ourselves. We have covered items including the War in Yemen, The Rise of The Demagogue, The Afro House Scene in California.
Chrystal: What was really important to us was the style, rigour and a thoughtfulness you’d hear on BBC Radio 4 and NPR, but from the perspective of a younger, global, curious and progressive audience. We love arts and music so knew they would feature heavily, too. When I have been in a newsroom, I’d often hear producers or editors say, ‘oh we couldn’t find a women’ or something like that and I think Stance proves that to be utter rubbish and lazy journalism. It is so easy to find women or minorities, but you have to not think of the default image of authority that comes to your head! We are constantly challenging ourselves and each other and trying to open up a story as much as we can. I spend a lot of time listening to the radio/audio, reading or going out to see something. I love hanging out with my family and friends or keeping in touch with friends based around the world. These things provide great inspiration!
Stance has already established itself as such a strong and important voice, did you spend a long time debating what Stance would be and what the editorial tone would be?
Chrystal: It’s great that you think it’s a strong voice! In the beginning we went with what felt right by brainstorming and reading a lot. Ideas just came out and when we emailed potential guests so many people said yes to interviews because they liked what we were trying to do. Four Tet only did the interview because of this and that’s the same with Riz Ahmed and many others.
Heta: We knew from the outset that we didn’t want to be part of the echo chamber problem, and that to inform any real change we needed to appeal beyond our own demographic. The biggest achievement is that we regularly get messages or shares from people from all over the world from the Bahamas to Japan to Slovakia who share our work and can relate to a story that seems a million miles away from their life or experience. It reinforces the point that Stance wants to make: to present a large and inclusive array of voices that we can all learn something from, whether we agree or disagree.
You’ve got an incredibly exciting project coming up at Tate Modern can you tell us what visitors can expect and how it came about?
HETA: We are super excited about our partnership with Tate. We are Tate Exchange Associates, which means we will be programming events at London’s Tate Modern throughout the year to explore new ideas and generate new conversations around art. For us it is super important to host exciting and progressive events that make the Tate inviting and accessible to all communities in London, so we have designed our programming to reflect that.
On Friday, we will kick off our programming as Tate Exchange Associates and celebrate Stance’s 1st Birthday with a night paying tribute to the cultural heartbeat of London - its vibrant, eclectic people, music and stories. We will have DJs on the Turbine Hall Bridge playing back-to-back sets spanning Desi Disco, New York Ballroom, South African Gqom, Brazilian Baile Funk, and Angolan Kuduro via the West African underground. Artist Lotte Andersen will capture euphoric moving portraits in a live flash dance studio. We get nostalgic about the London subcultures we grew up on with film screenings of Ewen Spencer's Brandy & Coke and Riz Ahmed's Daytimer. Photographer Georgina Cook presents Who Wants a Rewind, an immersive Dubstep retrospective which will feature photography from seminal—and now defunct—club nights like FWD at Plastic People and DMZ at Mass, alongside a live club night recording of a former Dubstep night. Lastly, people can collaborate with Young Photographers London on the night to create a one-off zine to mark Stance's 1st birthday.
Next month, we are hosting a Uniqlo Tate Late in the Tate Exchange Space on Friday 23rd February, which will be all about celebrating the disruptive power of women in art. Artist Ruby Wright will lead a Guerrilla Girls-inspired lino print workshop. You can sit with artist Miss Pokeno at her Too Ugly for Words table. Hear poetry by Barbican Young Poets collective, Men Are Trash, paying tribute to their favourite female artists. Interact with curator, Sessa Omoregie whose Camgirls research project explores the use of selfies as art via the iconic renaissance painting, The Birth of Venus. Join artist Buki Kekeré who will lead drawing sessions of Muslim women to reclaim the nuanced narratives of Muslim women growing up in Britain. Create explosive art with the Sisters of Perpetual Resistance. Watch Jenn Nkiru's powerful short film in association with Tate, celebrating Women in Art. View Jagoda's Nail Art Photography Project and get your nails done at a Nail Bar managed by young women from Art Against Knives In Our Hands Programme. The programme will include a live Stance podcast recording chaired by Stance and new South Asian culture magazine, Clove.
We will have more events with Tate Exchange throughout the year and it is such an exciting collaboration for us.
We’re living through very worrying and divisive times but are you optimistic about how people are responding with a rise in on the ground activism and platforms for different voices coming up?
Chrystal: I go from being really optimistic and ready to do my bit and then feel dread and sadness at how crazy the world is right now. In fact, it’s been shit for lots of people all over the world for a long time. Of course it’s great that people are responding, but I wish we were in a place where we had good leadership rather than political parties taking us from one crisis to another and ruining shit. I am optimistic. There are many young people and collectives out there that are curious, fearless and constantly challenge themselves and others - that excites me.
HETA: Agree with Chrystal on this, we definitely need better stewardship to get us through these times. I do think that it’s also more important than ever that people are searching for objective truth in the media that they consume. Though on the whole, I do feel really optimistic that people are more engaged with issues that affect us. It’s great that there are more conversations around privilege and intersectionality wrapped up in this too; and we are seeing more and more people who have platforms using theirs for the voiceless.
What other podcasts do you listen to?
HETA: I love The Paris Review, On Being with Krista Tippett, Desert Island Discs, Radio Atlantic, Still Processing. I’m obsessed with radio and podcasts as I love the intimacy of them and that I can listen to them as I go about my day. It’s a brilliant medium especially in this time of idle scrolling where everyone is glued to their phones but not really coming away with anything valuable.
Chrystal: I actually listen to the radio more than podcasts! I still love spending time turning on the radio and going through the channels and hearing pirate radio stations such as Vibes FM or Playback FM or listening to Radio 4 or a show like Free Thinking on Radio 3. I’m an audio addict if you include music! I really like Malcolm Gladwell’s Revisionist History, BBC’s World Service Radio’s World Book Club, Dissect Podcast, Still Processing, The New Yorker Radio Hour and I like Love and Radio.
What have you both seen or heard or experienced recently that made you really happy?
Chrystal: A colleague at work called Debo went to the local food market on Lower Marsh in Waterloo and brought in something called Puff Puff which I hadn’t had in about twenty years. It is like a donut and delicious. It transported me back to a memory I had of me only going to my primary school friend’s Nigerian church for the food at the end. Puff Puff was always my fave and I almost forgot about it!
Heta: I had the chance to go surfing for the first time ever at the end of last year with this incredible organisation called Brown Girl Surf in California who I was covering for the podcast. I never ever imagined myself surfing, not least with a sea of incredible brown women. It was magical. The experience was really transformative for me and left me feeling stronger than ever.