How Finding My Voice Changed My Life

by Billie Eliot

Radio presenter Billie Eliot, who’s teaching a 6 week podcast-making course with ONCA from 4 February to 11 March tells us about her own journey into audio art:

Before the pandemic, I was chugging along that sweet post-uni road hoping it would take me closer to knowing what the cripes I wanted to do with my life. I tried all sorts: managed a box office team at a newfangled cinema, took a whack at a Masters in documentary film-making, hired an illustration studio to sell some visual work, dipped a medium-sized toe into special needs education, became a shepherd in the south of France, cycled the Spanish Camino with my dear old dad, did a lot of “OMm”-ing in a Swedish commune, sold pints in the depths of Devon and then tumbled back to where I started in preparation for the almighty storm that we now know as the c-19 pandemic. Although at this point in time and space (March 2020 and coming out of a tooth operation laden with opioids) there was probably just as much confusion as when I first graduated back in 2016, something about me 4 years on was cradled by a greater sense of stability and peace in remaining in the ‘not knowing’ realm, a dimly lit tunnel with the multitude of sometimes inconvenient and oftentimes painful obstacles of life. But, it wasn’t until I found sound art and podcast creation that everything changed, and in that sense I mean absolutely for the better. 

The basic and fundamental human need for purpose in life is probably not a new concept for you, dear reader. Perhaps you can personally relate to the post-education flailing described above that many of us go through for at least a brief time if not some years. If you are in the position of feeling you may have come through and out the other side, ask yourself how? I can guarantee that a majority of you will have some kind of story that involves a finding of purpose.

If you are familiar with the process of finding your way (are you even alive if you aren’t?) you may recall being advised, at some point, to play to your strengths. Although, there was never any doubt that I loved many things, finding what I wanted to “do”, was a challenge. My mind goes back to time at school when my need to converse was at its most acute stage, probably because it was SO absolutely NOT endorsed by the national curriculum. As most of us know, when our restrictions are great, the desire to push back is even greater. I scan through old school reports, which repetitively state that I am a disruption in the classroom because I simply will NOT shut UP!!!! And how incredibly right they were. The difference between then and now is that I see it as a flaw no longer. Simultaneously, some remorse remains when thinking about all those teachers who had to work with my disorderly heckling (SORRY!!!).

Aside from that however for probably a multitude of reasons, there is a propensity in the education system to shame the conversationalists amongst us, especially when we are marginalised people with something important to say. But it’s these very people who are helping to shape the future of thought and political structures. And so, in discovering the power in sound, podcast making, hosting radio and the good old fashioned conversation, I have found my place. A place in which people are heard, fights are fought, laughter is shared, stories are told and where people can find solace, comfort and inspiration from the words and sounds of our world. 

There are distinct differences between TV and radio. For people who are not D/deaf or hearing impaired, radio and podcasts can be heard from just about anywhere with signal, and the ability to pair podcast consumption with a dog walk or sorting the laundry means that now more than ever, people are listening. 2020 was an implosive year and one thing many of us observed was an expansion of awareness, within ourselves, our immediate communities and on a global scale. People took to the streets for many reasons, and the risk of physically partaking in activism meant that the very act of protesting was ever more poignant. 

If there is one thing that I have learnt in the last year, it’s that we have a voice, and for as long as that is the case, we may as well use that voice for the greater good. The more of us who can accept our imperfections and amplify attention on topics that matter, the greater likelihood of kickstarting the type of change that we want to see in the world. Now more than ever, our world desires our attention. Now more than ever, our singular voice is increasingly powerful. Now more than ever I am realising that that loud disruptive child part of me is, actually, here for a reason. 

Billie Eliot is leading a 6 week podcast making course with ONCA to help others unleash their inner voice and speak up on topics that matter. It is absolutely important that all who join her have as much fun as possible and find a greater sense of purpose while doing so. Book here before February 3rd!


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