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PODCAST: Unmasked: Shades of Women During Covid

When I was asked by the NCCLWN to facilitate a group of women to explore their experiences during Covid I was delighted to take part. It is not news that facilitating people to tell their stories is what I am passion about. But this was different. How do you reach people in these strange times of lock down and isolation? We weren't going to be able to meet up face-to-face, we would have to conduct the workshops on Zoom. Could this kind of work work on a screen? This wasn’t a teaching session, this was an exploration of some of the most sensitive and personal experiences. Was I nervous? I was.

This group didn't know one another. They signed up for the workshops out of curiosity at first. At the introductory talks most of the group were quiet, listening to what I had planned for this project. Some signed up, some didn’t, this was going to be a three to four month commitment and many couldn’t imagine what they were going to be doing tomorrow in the uncertain world of Covid.

As often happens, when I start a project like this I am unsure of what the end product is going to look like. This, understandably, could make funders and participants nervous. I ask from the beginning that they trust me, it will evolve, I say. It isn't that I lack vision. It isn’t because I haven’t planned enough. It isn’t because I don’t know what I am doing. It is because I have learned that given the chance a project will evolve if it is allowed to become.

At the beginning when I am planning, before the participants have joined, there is only one perspective, mine. If it is truly to be a collaborative process, which story telling always is, then there must be room for other voices, opinions, and creative ideas. The facilitation of the discussion and responses ( to poetry, short stories, newspaper items, social media posts, movies etc) will shape the way forward. Every new group I work with comes with a whole new set of personalities, opinions and experiences. When I begin a project I have a framework in place but it is not made of steel. Steel is inflexible and that simply doesn’t work in this kind of work. It doesn’t allow for shifting points of view, new and exciting ways of thinking, or originality.

This is how the Limerick Women's Network podcast came into being. It began with workshops covering current issues that women face on a day-to-day basis and particularly during Covid 19. Each workshop explored a topic that I felt was relevant to the experience of women, an issue I wanted to hear their thoughts on. The discussions continued week after week and the depth of understanding and empathy grew with every honest conversation we had. It became apparent very quickly that these women had a lot to say and what they had to say needed to be shared with the world. It was important that their stories and the accompanying conversations reach as many people as possible. We discussed writing a script for the stage but with the current restrictions this didn’t seem feasible A book? We could put the stories together in a book and share them this way? Maybe but I felt the voices, the actual voices of these women were important to include. We needed a vehicle that could capture the emotion that took place in real time, one that had reach. And so, without any experience of what was entailed in making a podcast, the podcast platform was agreed on!

It was painstaking work to weave the audio of the stories and the conversations together but I enjoyed it. Every time I listened, I heard something new. The completed podcast was signed off on by the women participating and registered on a platform ready for distribution. It is now available to listen to as:

Unmasked: Shades of Women During Covid. It is now available to listen to on Spotify and Sound Cloud:

The support and funding from the NCCLWN, The Community Foundation and the LCETB made this project possible.

Special thanks to LWN and particularly to Edel Gerrity whose support and encouragement made that evolution from conversation to podcast possible.

Thanks to Dave Tobin who so graciously gave of his time and technical expertise.

But mostly thanks to the women, Clare Dollard, Niamh Bohane, Noelene Nash, Eileen Buckly, Megan Quin, Kathleen Fahy, Mary Lyons, and Susan Williams, who gave of themselves so openly to make this a possibility.


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