The Big Light – Scotland’s Podcast Network
By Janice Forsyth
Have you switched on The Big Light? Not the one on your living room ceiling, although that is the inspiration for our choice of name – more about that in a mo. The Big Light I’m referring to is Scotland’s first podcast network, which TV producer, Fiona White, and I launched in February 2020. Between us we’ve spent many years presenting and producing hundreds of radio and TV shows, so, inspired by successful USA podcast networks, such as Gimlet and Wondery, we figured that Scotland deserved its own high quality network and that we were perfectly placed to do it.
More and more people around the world are listening to podcasts on every subject imaginable. If you haven’t done it yet and are perhaps not sure what a podcast is, you’ll be pleased to hear that it’s very simple. A podcast is audio on demand, available via your smartphone, laptop, desktop computer, or smart speaker – it’s like a radio show, but without the constraints of a traditional broadcast schedule – instead you choose when and where you want to listen. The USA led the podcasting revolution, now 55% of Americans have listened to a podcast. The UK is catching up fast, with last September’s Ofcom report revealing that around 7.1 million people in the UK listen to podcasts each week, while regular podcast users listen to around seven podcasts per week.
Podcasts are available on every subject under the sun. As I type, I thought I’d quickly do an online search for ‘podcasts about sheds’ to illustrate the point; immediately I found, well, shedloads. So there’s plenty of variety, but, and it’s a big but, the quality varies enormously – both in the content and the audio recording. If you’re looking for Scottish podcasts, you have to sift through piles of dross before you find a gem. Or at least, you did before we launched The Big Light. Our podcasts are top quality – fascinating subject matter, superb hosts and guests, beautifully recorded. We chose the name because our shows shine a light on Scottish life and culture, but also because it makes us laugh – we remember family arguments about whether ‘The big light’ should be on or off. You may do too!
When Fiona and I came up with the idea of a podcast network from Scotland, our aim was to fill people’s lugs with wonderful Scottish voices – fascinating folk with stories to tell and opinions to share, laced with good humour and empathy. The Big Light is ‘the world with a Scottish accent’ – confident, outward looking, distinctively Scottish.
Our series include Talk Media, hosted by Stuart Cosgrove and Journalism Professor, Eamonn O’Neill, with top guests engaging in informed and spirited analysis of the week’s big media stories. We’re about to launch Series 2 of The Tartan Noir Show, hosted by broadcaster and crime writer, Theresa Talbot, a deep dive into crime fiction with some of the biggest names in the business.
Husband and wife, Colin and Charley Gavigan, host Brave Your Day, aimed at helping us lead braver lives in uncertain times. The Big Light even had the world’s oldest podcaster at the age of 101 – the wonderful actress, the late Ida Schuster, talking about life, love and theatre. Her show, Old School, really is a special series, introduced by one of Ida’s biggest fans, Alan Cumming, and, like all our shows, every episode is available to listen to at thebiglight.com or wherever you get your podcasts.
And we’ve a new series coming soon – whisky show, Double Scotch, presented by Rachel McCormack, in which she samples three whiskies, and has a blether with a star guest. Anything can happen – the Reverend Richard Coles plays the accordion during his episode. Also launching shortly – The Piping podcast with Fergus Muirhead, who has played the bagpipes all over the world; Unspeakable Scotland – historic True Crime storytelling, and Great Scot! an interview series in which I get up close and personal with Scots who’ve made an impact on the world, including Billy Connolly, Annie Lennox, and forensic anthropologist, Dame Professor Sue Black.
We’re also passionate about nurturing fresh new talent – curating podcasts including Blethered, in which serious topics are discussed with humour by young Glaswegian, Sean McDonald, whose guests range from Grammy-winning Scottish songwriter, Graham Lyle, to ex-Al Qaeda Bombmaker and MI6 Spy, Aimen Dean. Another star in the making, Ryan Latto, hosts fascinating Scottish history podcast, Unearthed. Soon, we’ll have a series hosted by an hilarious Glaswegian in the Hollywood hills – it’s a hoot. I’m sure there must be plenty of hot podcasting talent in St Andrews too… let me know …
We have plans for Scottish travel podcasts, audio drama, comedy, business, sport, and much more, and are thrilled that, since The Big Light was switched on in February 2020, we have notched up over 200,000 listens in 99 countries, with real engagement from our listeners on social media. And, the beauty of podcasting is that, because we’re able to link up online with guests anywhere in the world, we’ve been able to work right through lockdown. Like any new business, it’s a hard slog, but it’s exciting to be at the helm of a new Scottish broadcasting company, with none of the constraints of mainstream media.
I hope that you’ll dip into our shows, and sign up for our newsletter at: thebiglight.com
Get in touch if there are subjects you’d like us to cover in a podcast, or if you’re a business looking for ways to engage with your workforce or customers while working remotely – podcasts are a nimble way of doing that; we make those for companies too. Since podcasts are free, we’re always on the lookout for series sponsors. Drop us a line about anything you fancy, including True Confessions about who likes the big light on in your house. If you dare, email us at: firstname.lastname@example.org.