It came as a pleasant surprise this morning to learn that one of my favourite ever podcasts South London Hardcore had returned for a one-off special to wave one half of the duo, Steve Walsh, off, as he leaves south London for good. In fact, if someone had asked me which of my favourite now-deceased podcasts I wished would return for one last show, my answer would've been 'South London Hardcore'. I rate the show that highly.
Steve, a man who can talk about any subject for several hours (think of him as a Micky Boyd that actually puts the work in), together with podcast partner, the more elusive and very funny Jack McInroy, turned out some of the most original podcast content in the UK between the show's arrival in 2011 and 2015. The pair had the foresight to see how big podcasting was going to become (if perhaps not quite foreseeing how the small independent podcasters such as ourselves would be crushed when podcasting went mainstream) and set up their own podcast network, Hold Fast Network, which continues to exist and turns out original audio gems, the latest of which is Sherds Podcast.
The duo brought their show, fortnightly for the last few months of its run, to an end in the summer of 2015 and have been much missed. In its absence, Londonist Out Loud filled a bit of the gap for me, though that too finally ended at the start of this year and is also missed. However, South London Hardcore were always a little more left field with their guest choices and while some acclaim rightfully came their way in the national papers, they still remained very much under-the-radar.
Meanwhile, unlike Jack, Steve has remained busy in the podcasting world, co-presenting Mickypedia and Effing and Blinding with Micky Boyd, and astutely managing my old podcasting partner the way Alex Ferguson tamed Eric Cantona once upon a time.
South London Hardcore is a show I owe something of a debt to. My own podcast, Daniel Ruiz Tizon is Available, was stalling towards the end of 2013, stuck on 40-something episodes as I got increasingly frustrated with the show's small audience. Fresh off the back of recording The Letter for Resonance FM, the guys got in touch and invited me onto their podcast. Tell the truth, I'd been waiting since their opening episodes. Finally, I got to appear on episode 102...and that appearance gave me something of a much-needed audio shot in the arm and got me some of their listeners. Within the month, Resonance had taken Available on, arguably leading to the show's strongest block of shows and another appearance on SLHC followed. Jack and Steve turned up for the Bumper Christmas Annual special in the Resonance studio where they got to witness The Kid and Micky Boyd having a bust up live on air and Jack even produced my penultimate Resonance show in December 2015. Given Available is now a podcast once more, I could do with another SLHC 102 coming to my rescue.
While I expect Steve to continue fronting many more podcasts in the years to come, Jack has been, from the little I know, reluctant to return to this world with the same commitment of old, and I can understand that. Independent podcasts are struggling for audiences and the work is ridiculously time consuming, especially if you're editing the shows yourself too. But I for one think UK podcasting has been worse off for Jack's absence.
In this Twitter thread on Saturday, Steve Bishop, co-presenter of the Seinfeld podcast Hello Newman, captured, rather perfectly, I thought, the struggle of independent podcasters right now as the industry goes mainstream, overwhelmed by late-to-the-party podcasters and audiences too set in their ways, reluctant to seek out original little-known voices.