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  • Writer's pictureSarah Myles

HOW I GOT HERE: Tatum Karmen Swithenbank

(How I Got Here Artwork)

Connect with this (half) season’s guests:

Ade from Blacticulate -

Tatum Karmen Swithenbank-

Special thanks to: Alex Court, Graeme Woodcock, Heleen Kist, Kate Bullivant, Maria Passingham, Mark Loftus, Natasha S. Chowdory and Tin Hinson for providing question recordings.

Artwork by Jack Jewers-

RISE & SHINE is about giving everyone a voice within the podcast and radio industries regardless of income.

Find out more about RISE & SHINE through the website- and twitter-


Tatum Karmen Swithenbank: I'm Tatum Karmen Swithenbank. I'm a podcast host and producer and my pronouns are she, they. I came into audio pretty late compared to most, I would say I very unexpectedly had to change my career path. I was actually training as a dancer for my entire life. And then when I moved from Leicester to London to do my degree, then as I was training, my disability started to manifest.

After years of limbo and waiting for a diagnosis, I was told I wouldn't dance again because I have muscular dystrophy. So this really took, you know, threw me off my feet. Um, well, I should say this really pulled the rug from under my feet and I was really looking to re-find my creativity. And after some turbulent years, um, processing painful grief, I sort of stumbled into radio.

Really. I was doing freelance work for Bumble as an event assistant and they would offer. Different free workshops that you could do. And somebody dropped out of a workshop with rinse FM. So they contacted me like, Oh, do you want to fill in the space? And I'd always been interested in radio, but kind of thought that it wasn't really a space for me.

So yeah, I went along to the workshop and something sort of clicked. And then that same week I went into. The round house, which is just amazing for different courses for really reasonable prices, or if you don't have the money for it, you can apply for bursaries. So I didn't have a lot of emotional or financial support around this time.

And. I went into the round house to do a radio drop-in course. I think it was about two hours on a Thursday. And I was so nervous. Everyone seemed really clued up on radio. I mean, maybe that was my anxiety lying to me, but I just felt like I don't really know what's going on, but I worked through the nerves and then.

I went, I think it was around four, four Thursdays in a row, only two pounds a session. And yeah, I continue to feel sort of like it was the right thing to keep exploring. So in June that same year I went to Manchester to do an introduction to radio course, um, at reformed radio, which they're just amazing.

And it was a joy to feel part of a. Little community for a week and meet new people. And I'm still friends with all these people I was meeting in these workshops and courses. They're all doing amazing things in the industry, working for rents reform, subtle radio, transmission, and BBC. And it's so glorious to see people doing their thing and thriving in the industry.

When. You saw them at the very beginning when we were all sort of stumbling along together.

So I threw myself into everything I could, that was either free or under 10 pounds. And I was always so anxious about it because it was something that was really new, but. Yeah, I just kept working through it and I kept booking things and just showing up and hoping for the best. And I think as well, it was all of the stuff I was doing around radio.

So not specifically just in those spaces, but putting myself, going to different events and. Different courses. I was surrounding myself with interesting people, activists, poets, DJs, producers. So naturally when you surround yourself with those creative people, yeah. You feel energized and inspired and you can collaborate and, and things do just start to fall into place.

Okay. In October, 2018, I pitched my podcast, the wobbly road to transmission round house. And after a whole process of a piloting day and creating a demo, I was accepted onto the station. So I didn't really know what I was doing. I had the idea which. I'd had for ages. So I felt really confident with and proud of, and I was ready to hope, but I didn't really know much about production at all, but I figured it out as I went along, uh, it was a challenge to begin with because at this time I was living in a homeless hostel with no wifi, a tiny little room.

I didn't have access to a laptop. And I was living there for two years. So I was going into the round house and using the computers and the studio. And I was recording my episodes, but the challenge was that I couldn't just do the work anywhere else. There wasn't anywhere. I could quickly turn on my laptop in a cafe or ads.

Home in the hostel. So things took a lot longer for me, unfortunately, because I didn't really have the resources and because of my disability, my fatigue is so bad. So it was quite a challenge and exhausting and there always to do things, but it really made me realize that some people have more freedom when they have resources at home to do things.

But. I guess in that way, I'm living proof that there are still, there's still options. Even if you don't have live at home with your parents with money or able to buy big, good microphones and so on. I didn't really get my podcast happening and platforms properly until I moved out of the hostel. But yeah.

Whilst I was there, I was getting everything together. I was really working on the, uh, like planning the guests and got the recordings done. And then I got a grant for a laptop. I learned Adobe audition, mostly from on YouTube, figuring it out. And I practiced and sharpened my skills and I produced season one.

And I've gone on to create hosts and produce lots of different things, podcasts and audio documentary. Yeah.

Why audio?:

It was a new way for me to tell stories. I used to express myself through movement and audio was another way where I could bring things to life and have an effect on people. I wasn't always sure that it was a space for me because I didn't study journalism and I'm not an intellectual I say in quotation marks.

Yeah. I guess I thankfully discovered that there are a lot of ways that you can access this world without having to have studied it at uni. So podcasting opened up a lot of options for me because podcasts, it's something that. Of course, you have to have a schedule and you have to have consistency. But with my disability, it was a way for me to create from home.

And I could do in my own time to a certain extent, because I could edit after, Oh, eventually I would like to do more radio, but it's something that it will have to happen in the future when I'm a bit more comfortable. And there's so many options. In the audio world, you might thrive from doing live radio, which I highly recommend to try.

You might also want to do podcasting where you can take a bit more time with what you're creating. So I fell in love with audio documentary series. I wish I'd found audio sooner because. There's something so comforting about being able to listen to somebody's voice. And there were years of my life where I felt so alone and having audio really does feel like a friend.

And it's all there's gaps where sometimes for whatever reason, whether you've gone through a breakup or you don't have amazing people around you to be able to put on. A podcast or a piece of audio when you're walking home, when you would normally call your partner. And that space is then just there.

It's something that you can connect to and feel like you've got someone there rather than falling into old cycles of then calling somebody you shouldn't be calling because you're just so afraid of feeling alone.

Tell us a secret about breaking into the audio industry:

People will remember you and either bring you along with them or avoid connecting with you. You never know where people will end up. So I'd say be really aware of how you treat other people and don't have a bad attitude. Wherever you can give as much as you get, even if you were getting advice from someone, try to remember to keep that healthy cycle of sharing alive.

And that might take a bit of time because of course, if you're new to audio, you won't have as much to give, but there will be moments where you go, Oh, actually, I, I can do this now and share that. Share those. Skills share those secrets, share things. That's going to make somebody else's life a bit easier.

And. In the early days, going to events really does help. There's a point where saying no is essential for your wellbeing, but I'd say if you have the energy in the early days, then saying yes is really important for getting in the room and me

What's the best mistake you've ever made?

This may be quite a boring one, but the best mistake I made is messing up an edit. It's the worst feeling when you completely mess up a session you've been working on for eight hours or it's just like, Oh, well have I done? And yeah, it's all completely ruined.

Yeah. But it's an amazing lesson because that's how you learn. I remember the days when I didn't even understand how to create a multi-track session and now I'm producing and platforming all sorts of audio. It's going to take time and you, you learn by perseverance. So don't forget to save. As you go when you're editing, it's really important.

Otherwise you'll lose all of your yeah. Work. Although now I do think I might do it a little bit too much because I obsessively save now every 10 seconds. So maybe don't jump to that extreme, but yeah, just remember that editing, it takes time and you really, when you first start doing it, you think that you'll never be able to do it, but you will.

What are the things you have to learn often getting into the industry. It takes time to build up your career in the beginning. That is a long period of time where. You're putting in all of this work you're creating and creating, and you're not really getting any feedback, but trust that trust that it will happen.

There's a point when suddenly you're super busy and often everything comes at once. So there's hours previously, you spent anxiously doubting yourself and inspires of comparison. You'll wish you had. Trusted it and took that time to rest because when things start to build up and when you do start to get busy, that rest time is going to be out the window.

So just remember that it will happen, keep creating, and eventually things will build up and you will get experiences and you will get. Opportunities.

Tell us about the person in the audio industry who helped you most when building your career.

A person who really helped me in the audio industry is my friend Ray, who has a show called peace of no mind and is also a producer on 1xtra talks.

So. Ray. And I met at transmission round house and we didn't know each other that well to begin with, we just saw each other in passing. And then one day we were working on our own shows in the studios and got chatting and. I didn't really know about it, but Ray was doing stuff with whistle down and he had thought of an idea for an audio documentary simply from us just having a conversation.

So that's where also I say to people just, just be yourself because you never know what's going to come from just chatting to people and being real really. And he. Came to me and pitched this idea about exploring my creativity after being diagnosed with a muscle disease and having to find a whole new career path and change my creativity and all the things that come from that.

And so we worked on that together and became really, really great friends, and it was such a journey too. We were working in lockdown on this documentary together. It was really, really intense. The subject was obviously so close to me and I hadn't spoken publicly about it before. And Ray was just such a gem because I felt really safe with him.

And I would just really appreciate not just the experience that he shared with me and that we got to. Work on together, but that now I have someone to hash out ideas with and ask for advice. He taught me not to preface things with Oh, but it's not that good when I put something out and to let things just be and put it out, he gives me confidence and will also.

Be real with me, which is really, really important.

What's the one piece of advice that you would give to anyone starting out in audio?

Create, create, create. Don't worry about making rubbish stuff to begin with. Honestly, we all have to start somewhere. It's not going to be perfect straight away. That's how we learn. So I never thought I'd be able to. Edit the way that I am now. I never thought that I would be where I am now and feel so confident in my skillset.

Keep at it. It will click eventually and ask yourself what you want. Why are you doing it? I think that's really important because sometimes we can get carried away with. An image of what we want things to be or how we want others to see us, which could be led by ego. And I think it is good to sit with yourself and really look inward and.

Ask, why am I doing this? Why am I creating this? Is it to educate? Is it to comfort? Is it to make the listeners laugh? No. What your aims are and fulfil that.


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