This week, I got in touch with Lily Ames, who is a development producer at the Guardian and a familiar email presence to many podcast types in the UK because of her excellent work founding and curating the main UK audio listserv. She wrote about what inspired her to move from Canada to the UK just as Serial series one drops and why she wants the audio industry to be more transparent.
Hot Pod: Tell me about your current situation.
Lily Ames: I’m currently working at the Guardian as an audio producer (formerly CBC, Pacific Content, VICE and countless freelance gigs). I’m also the creator of the UK Audio Network — an email listserv that promotes transparency, industry growth and community building. I’m happy in any role where there’s equal part strategy, creativity and community. I most recently wrapped up a giant show development project at the Guardian. On top of that, I’ve been working on my weekends to produce a freelance podcast series about a start up Christian record label.
HP: How did you get to this point?
Ames: I’m secretly Canadian, so I started out in public radio at the CBC. At 29, I did that thing where you race to do everything you wanted to do before you turn 30. I headed to Third Coast and met a British radio producer named Sophie Black who worked for a radio station out of a London prison. After hearing all about the British radio scene — the home of the BBC, the PRA and Resonance FM, I knew I needed to pack up and move to London (my British ancestry passport helped). My plans were to try to get a job at that prison radio station but I arrived the month Serial launched so dove head first into podcasting. As a Canadian, I’m kind of the lovechild of the UK and US — with a unique perspective on both.
This also means I spend a lot of time thinking about the similarities and differences between each scene. I started the UK Audio Network, inspired by the various listservs that exist in the US. My feeling was that the UK lacked the transparency that the US scene has so I set up the infrastructure to promote that. The group is about a year old and I’ve received lots of exciting feedback that people are getting work and making connections through it. Next plans are to start the wage discussions. People are chronically underpaid in British audio…
HP: What does career mean to you?
Ames: A portfolio of skills. I am obsessed with building on what I have. Again, I think this is quite a Canadian thing where you’re working within tiny industries so it’s always about scrappily leveraging one position into another.
HP: When you first started out, what did you think you wanted to do?
Ames: When I was a kid I wanted to be a movie star, when I was a teenager I wanted to be a therapist and in university I wanted to be a radio producer. Radio producer = therapist + movie star?
HP: What are you listening to right now?
Ames: I’m listening to season two of Slow Burn.
HP: What’s the most unusual thing working in audio has lead you to?
Ames: Sometimes it’s the smallest gigs that turn out to be the most exciting. A couple of years ago during a freelance dry spell I said yes to recording a talk — just a straight up tech job. When I arrived, it turned out the speaker was Monica Lewinsky! It was a private talk for rich business women. Very exciting indeed.