Our Podcasting Year: You Heard It Here First Folks

This piece was written for the Unions21 website

2017 has been full of surprises – many of them unwelcome. One of those that was more a challenge than a threat was unveiled by Nick Anstead during our Digital Unions event in the spring:  Only 4% of union web site front pages have any audio content. Yet the audience for podcasts has expanded exponentially. And the audience is segmented, with the affinity for this form of media being strongest amongst the young.


Perhaps this explains why podcasting in this sector has been overlooked – for many unions, most reps/members are 50-plus years old: the lowest listening demographic for podcasts. But it also left me feeling rather gobsmacked, having produced podcasts for the CWU’s youth section for a few years, taking over from the self-effacing but true daddy of UK union podcasting, Ralph Ferret, in 2010


So the seed for the Unions21 podcast was planted. Over the summer, Becky Wright and I worked up a plan to fund and deliver a series of 8 fortnightly episodes. As it turned out,  the two pilot programmes – one on the plight of EU nationals working in the UK, there other reviewing Congress – were of a better quality than we expected, and hit the airwaves (or were launched into cyberspace) in September.


Since then, we have kept to a fairly regular rhythm. We’ve delved into, dissected, analysed and fulminated over the Winestein scandal, Brexit, Gender Pay Audits, equal pay,  why the UK needs a pay rise, a new deal for workers, the Industrial Strategy, how unions “do” digital, industrial correspondents and how to get our message across more effectively.  All this, plus regular round-ups of the latest trade union news


We’ve also recorded a special episode for Prospect to celebrate equal pay day – and the same facility could be extended to other U21 Stakeholders, if there is a particular internal project that could benefit from this sort of support.


Still to come will be episodes on Health Workplaces, featuring the CSP, the nuts-and-bolts of that fantastic UBER ET/EAT case from the GMB and Matthew Taylor on the aftermath of his report and the calls (from two Parliamentary committees no less) for a Gig Economy Bill. And then, we hope a second series to follow.  We need you to tell us what issues you’d like covered, what questions we can (try to) answer on your behalf.


Till then, my thanks to all our guests to date – Dave Ward, Chris Webb, Gail Johnson, Nick Anstead, Marion Scovell, Sue Ferns, Frances O’Grady, Kevin Maguire, Andrew Pakes, Jon Skewes and Philippa Newis (apologies to anyone I’ve missed out) plus of course, my co-presenter and partner-in-crime Becky Wright and U21’s social media expert, Kate Symington.


Download and listener stats are steadily growing.  Next steps will be a podcast player on the U21 website, and to work around the irritation of iTunes not providing stats (it can be done, I’m assured).  We have had messages of encouragement, literally, from Chelsea to California, with people telling us they like what we are doing.  If you do too, please carry on listening and tell your friends both in real life and on social media. And if there’s a story or subject area to be covered, a debate to be head or a guest you wanted grilled – just let us know at

Unions 21 podcasts can be downloaded here. 

Photocredit: Peter Dazeley/Getty)


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