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USW graduate wins national award for Welsh-language podcast

Mari Elen

Writer and performer Mari Elen has won a British Podcast Award for Gwrachod Heddiw, a Welsh-language podcast she created during lockdown.

Mari, who graduated from USW in 2015 from BA Theatr a Perfformio, picked up the title of Best Welsh Podcast at the awards, which showcase the best podcasts in the UK and encourage new audiences to listen.

Gwrachod Heddiw, which translates to ‘Witches Today’, celebrates some of the most outspoken women in Wales, known as femme – a term that refers to a queer person whose gender expression is considered to be feminine – by discussing whether they share any characteristics with conventional witches.

“I felt that femme voices were being under-represented in the Welsh language, and that there wasn’t a podcast that celebrated everything that makes us unique,” said Mari, who lives in Llanrug, Gwynedd.

“The podcast compares femme people with conventional witches from the 16th century, as we try to figure out whether we would be punished for being ourselves back then.”

Mari decided to create a Welsh-language podcast as they are growing in popularity on streaming platforms such as Spotify, Buzzsprout and SoundCloud.

She said: “Welsh is my first language; it’s what I speak to my parents, my children, my partner, my friends and my family. It’s a language I feel more comfortable speaking, reading and listening.

“Having more Welsh podcasts and blogs makes the language more accessible, not only for Welsh speakers, but for people who want to learn. It shows that the language is developing with the modern world. There are almost 200 Welsh language podcasts, all of which talk about different topics and issues which, in my opinion, is crucial for the language to thrive.”

The British Podcast Awards judging panel said: “The presenter’s style is warm and engaging, bringing out the best from the guests and making the podcast appeal to everyone. The intimate style and excellent sound quality encourages listeners to feel a part of the conversation and community as the presenter asks for listener experiences.”

Mari added: “I feel on top of the world to have won this award. I started the podcast by myself during lockdown; I haven’t received any funding (in fact, I’m out of pocket doing it) but it’s been worth it, because it’s a small part of my creative life which I have complete control over.

“I’m currently writing a few shows, and I would like to get some funding to do some live Gwrachod Heddiw podcasts. I’ve been doing some over the summer in festivals and it’s been so much fun, so I’d love to do more!”