Entertainment & Arts

Richard Bacon: Why Rachael Bland podcast award matters

Rachael Bland in the studio Image copyright PA

BBC Radio 5 Live has launched a search for new podcasting talent through an award in memory of their colleague Rachael Bland, who died aged 40 in September 2018.

Bland was a familiar voice on Radio 5 Live as a newsreader and presenter, and won praise for co-hosting You, Me and the Big C, a podcast about cancer.

She was diagnosed with breast cancer almost two years before she died, and had documented her life with the disease on an award-winning blog.

Her friend and co-presenter Richard Bacon looks back on her work and how her friends are looking to build on the incredible legacy that she left.

Today would've been Rachael's 41st birthday. But it's also four months to the day since her funeral. I often think about our conversations on late night radio and the community that she was instrumental in building.

It's what she was best at; bringing people together and putting them at ease. We all became close, the "all" being the tiny team we worked with, and the listeners.

The listeners loved her. Sometimes she would contact regulars she hadn't heard from in a while to make sure they were alright. Conversation and connecting with people was one of her many strengths.

And it's a skill she continued to build on throughout her work with her podcast You, Me and The Big C.

With cancer, she made a subject that no-one wanted to talk about go viral and changed the way many think about and discuss the disease.

I still don't know how she managed to chat about her condition in such an open and frank way and with so much humour. She had an ability and a willingness to let you into her life, which is why she is missed by those of us who knew her and many thousands who never even met her.

Image caption Rachael Bland with her son Freddie

With Rachael still a vital part of the 5 Live family, it's right that the station are launching a search to find the next big conversation - and those who'll hold it.

The Rachael Bland New Podcast Award is a chance for people to get the nation talking.

If you have an issue that you need to get off your chest, if you've been inspired by Rachael, this could be for you. 5 Live wants to hear your ideas for a podcast - one that could bring a community together like Rach did.

As with You, Me and the Big C, it should be original and packed full of charisma and humour. If you can convince the judges that your podcast idea is good enough to make an impact like Rachael's, 5 Live will produce a pilot series of it and will showcase it on BBC Sounds.

Image caption Bland co-hosted You, Me and the Big C with Lauren Mahon and Deborah James

Your potential audience will be hundreds of thousands and possibly more.

And the best thing, is anyone can do it. If you've ever filmed a video of yourself and put it on your Insta feed you're already a broadcaster.

You'll need passion and energy (energy is so important) and be able to get your conviction across to an audience who might not know anything about your chosen subject.

Few of us will be able to say we had a global impact like Rachael did, but if you manage to let people into your life - make it feel like we know you (and your panel, if you have one) - it could be a compelling listen.

Podcasts are radio's Netflix. They are original. They are cool. They are exciting. And they are the future. Be a part of it.

The Rachael Bland New Podcasting Award is a collaboration between 5 Live, BBC News and BBC Sounds. Click here for entry details, terms and privacy notice - entry closes at 23:59 GMT on 11 February 2019.

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