This summer, I’ve been working as commissioning editor on a podcast about coronavirus written and presented by comedian and activist Mark Thomas and published by Wellcome Collection.
Mark moved back in with his mum Margaret for lockdown, which has been an emotional rollercoaster for them both. He describes her as curmudgeonly; she says he’s the most aggravating person on the planet. In his six-part podcast, Mark has reflected on their lockdown life together while exploring the wider impact of Covid-19.
Every night, from a small bedroom in his mum’s south London flat, Mark has called a network of people working on the coronavirus frontline, be it in hospitals, GP surgeries or care homes. Humbling and often heartbreaking, these conversations with health workers across the country have revealed the highs and lows of life during a global pandemic.
Each episode has tackled a different theme: touch, protection, communication, isolation, coping, and the future. We’ve heard from Barbara, a consultant in a major trauma unit, Mike, a nurse in a private care home, Max, a haematologist, Eimear, an infection-control lead, Steve, an ancillary care worker and Amrit, a consultant psychiatrist, to name just a few of the many people who’ve spoken incredibly honestly about their experiences over the last few months.
Mark’s mum has featured in person every week, discussing everything from death wishes and depression to her mate Sylv’s unusual habit of disinfecting everything with gin. Mark, meanwhile, has talked candidly about how lockdown has affected him, confessing to ballet dancing through his darkest days, much to his mother’s dismay.
Mark and I had a small but brilliant team working with us, including sound editor Helen Atkinson and producers Nicolas Kent and Susan McNicholas. The fantastic Franklyn Rodgers was commissioned by Wellcome Collection’s photography and illustration editor, Ben Gilbert, to produce a series of portraits of Mark and his mum.
Making the podcast has been hard work but the end result is, I think, something really special. I hope you enjoy it.
Listen here: ‘Mark Thomas’s lockdown check-up’