A wise man once said:
Ok so it was the fictional character Donald Draper from Mad Men, but it's still true.
If we're being honest, the narrative around Belfast and Northern Ireland — locally and globally — is stuck in the past. When I lived in NYC and people found out I was from NI you don't need too many guesses to imagine what the conversations went like.
(I'll give you a clue, it usually involved bombs, politics, division and for people who were really switched on — The Titanic).
That’s not okay.
Belfast has so much going on right now and is bursting with some of the most incredible people on the planet...
Yet how often do you see this in the news? How often are there books, movies or documentaries made about this? How often do we even celebrate it ourselves?
I get it; we're kinda shy folks who don't like singing our own praises and are loaded up with signature ‘Norn Irish sarcasm’ (guaranteed to take someone down a few pegs or two, 100% of the time).
But the local media is in on it too. There’s an obsession with juicy clickbait and churning out tabloid-styled content designed to provoke outrage. Like all fast-food, it's not healthy. It's not healthy for our us, it’s not healthy for our city, and it's not healthy for our culture.
I grew up believing Northern Ireland was a "crap place to live" with "nothing to do it in." Chances are you did too. So I did what most young people did.
“the grass will always be greener if we don’t water what’s around us.”
For three years, I checked out the other side and you know what I discovered?
It’s just as green here. (If not greener, thanks to all ‘the rain’).
Moving back after three years working in Manhattan, I was blown away by Northern Ireland and everything that’s going on here. Belfast is an incredible place live and work — and the opportunities here are just as good as anywhere else in the world.
But we don’t believe that because our greatest stories go left untold.
(Or trapped in 250-word press release. No disrespect PR people, you have a busy job, I get it).
I believe We Have A City Worth Celebrating. Do You?
Belfast has a dark past, but its future is bright. We have the potential to be a beacon of hope in a divided world, but we're too quick to hide our light away and snub others for shining too bright.
We say we’re afraid of “getting too big for our boots,” but deep down, I think we’re terrified of stepping out from the tribe and learning to embrace success. We keep waiting around for others to fix everything. We complain. We expect others to solve the problems and push the culture forward.
The reality is, we’ve been waiting for a while… a long while, and it’s time to do something about it.
“The Best Way To Complain Is To Make Things” — James Murphy
I started Best Of Belfast to publish unfiltered conversations that allow listeners to go straight the source of the story and showcase the incredible people who call Northern Ireland home.
It’s been a rollercoaster journey with 1000’s of hours of unpaid work and passion pumped into the project. There’s been challenges, pivots and distractions along the way (aka building a social media empire of 50k followers only to delete it)…
But the result is 70 long-form, intimate conversations with people who live here and love here.
It’s been a lot of burning the candle at both ends and investing terrifying amounts of energy to the podcast off the ground — all while working and studying full-time.
People thought I was nuts — friends and family included.
“Why put yourself through it all?”
“When are you going to get a real job?”
“Why do so much work for free?”
“Northern Ireland doesn’t care enough!”
There’s been plenty of times I’ve said the same things to myself (maybe I am nuts). But deep down, it didn’t matter, because I knew I had to finish what I started. The bubble had been burst. I’d been ruined for life — unplugged from the Matrix so to speak. I can’t unsee what I’ve seen, or unlearn what I’ve learned.
Once you take a peek behind the curtain, there’s no going back.
But the general public don’t see it, the young people growing up don’t believe it and the world doesn’t know it….
The problem is I do, and now I can’t rest until you do too.
Stories are powerful, Especially if they’re true.
Honest conversations change lives. They make us feel seen, reveal that everyone in life battles demons and prove you’re not alone. They inspire us to pursue our passions, empower us to take the next step, and reveal how to slay the dragons along the way.
Podcasting is the ultimate storytelling medium on the planet. There’s an intimacy with audio that the written word and the screen cannot recreate. It gives us the opportunity to be a fly on the wall. To effectively pull up a chair and be a part of the conversation.
They’re raw. Uncut. Unfiltered. Straight from the horses mouth as we live to say.
I love podcasts, always have, and one of my favourite things about them is the fact they captivate unused space in our day.
Doing the dishes
Commuting to work
Going for a run
Cutting the grass
Walking the dog…
They captivate the dead time in our life; entertaining, educating and inspiring us along the way.
As a result the world misses out on our sweet sweet dulcet tones flying through the airwaves along with the incredible stories (and knowledge) we have to share.
But it’s not just the world that misses out. We do too. We import our inspiration and as a result are disconnected from the very thing that make this place so special — the people.
It’s time to change that.
“You Can’t Be What You Can’t See” — Sarah Friar
Northern Ireland has so much more to offer than a troubled past.
Did you know there’s a guy from Belfast who won an Oscar? Or that a Northern Irish woman was in Rocky Balboa? Or that ginger ale was invented in Belfast?
How about the two dudes who own “the best bar in the world?” What’s their story?
Has anyone ever told you the CEO of a billion dollar Silicon Valley start-up is from Sion Mills*? Or that the owner of The Merchant Hotel’s first job was in Pizza Hut? Or the story of the man who brought Pizza Hut to Northern Ireland for that matter?
Before the podcast, I didn’t know either.
(*It’s in County Tyrone, I’m ashamed I had to Google it).
In fact, when I started Best Of Belfast I was afraid I’d run out of guests, now I can barely decide who to sit down with each week — and even though I’m 70 guests in, I’ve only just scratched the surface.
Best Of Belfast: A Podcast That Celebrates Northern Ireland (And The Incredible People In It)
St. George’s Market traders, cancer survivors, barmen, chefs, candle-makers entrepreneurs, 91-year-old Parkrunners and everyone else in between. The podcast tell’s the stories of well-known legends and unsung heroes alike. In fact, listeners are often shocked by the diversity and frankly the randomness served up every Monday morning.
But that’s just the way we like it.
We’re trying to capture the spectrum of people who call Norn Iron home and document this unique moment in our city’s history — a period I'm convinced historians of the future will refer to as 'The Golden Age Of Belfast'.
The Future Of The Show Made For Belfast, By Belfast
All this sounds very romantic and inspirational, but the reality is that the show has got to the point where it needs to start generating money. It’s become much bigger than just me and now is the time to really go for it.
Financial support allows Best Of Belfast to remain a weekly show instead of a monthly one, publishing 50+ interviews a year instead of a mere 12!
(This means we can share even more Northern Irish stories to the world and drive more interest, investment and people to this incredible place).
So we’re two options:
1. Sell ads on the show
2. Crowd-fund support from people who love what we’re doing.
Against the advice of some 'smart business people' I've decided to take the plunge and go for number 2 to keep editorial control and keep sharing stories that matter.
(Plus it means you don’t have to listen to ads about sofas, website creation tools and nutritional supplements).
Introducing The Producer's Club…
Here's the idea. It's a little wacky but stick with me.
There's this thing called Patreon. It's a huge platform that artists and creators use all over the planet to fund their creative ventures.
how it works:
Basically people support a project every single month in exchange for top-secret, super-exclusive stuff.
If enough people get on board, it provides a consistent monthly income that enables creators to get back to the work they really wanna be doing: making more stuff.
(Think of it like Kickstarting/Crowdfunding a salary: with lots people giving a little (and a few giving a lot) a project can be supported sustainably).
Going down this road keeps the show free for everyone and gives people with the means to support the show insider-access, opportunity to shape the future of the podcast and the chance to be a part of a vibrant, passionate community of people who love Northern Ireland.
(In my head, this community has the potential to bring about massive change to our country through collaboration.)
So, in a sentence: Best Of Belfast Producer’s Club is a place for super-fans of the show to join the podcast’s inner-circle and contribute to its success.
Here’s how the money will be used:
Cover operating costs
Travelling to meet interesting new guests
Making Producers Club Care Packages
Putting on Live Podcasts, meetups and events.
Investing in new projects like short films, books and podcast mini-series
Supporting the work of Young Enterprise Northern Ireland (10% donation)
Generating a salary to invest more time into show*
*I’m self-employed and work as a copywriter to pay my bills. I want to do Best Of Belfast full time, but basically anytime spent working for clients is time I’m NOT spending on making the show everything I want to to be.
Currently we are trying to raise £10,000 to cover the cost for the upcoming year and transcribe all previous interviews to make the podcast more accessible to the deaf community.
There’s a couple of ways to pledge your support and we even offer corporate partnerships that can include us interview people connected to your organisation/cause.
(Providing we think they would be interesting to our listeners of course).
Become A Producer Today + Make A Difference
So folks, that’s it. There’s my heart and soul spilt out on the page and an opportunity for you to help support the new age of local media, invest in the future of the show, and showcase Belfast to the world.
(Don’t forget the access to the sweet perks, exclusive content and producer-only swag).
Hopefully that all makes sense and you get what we’re trying to do here.
If you’re interested in becoming a producer today, please click here, or contact me today.
Thank you for your time and thanks so much for all your support. I'm so excited to see where the next year takes us.
P.S. If anyone knows Liam Neeson (our dream guest) please tell him to call me.