OHNI Online Annual Lecture – The Poetry of Podcasting

The Oral History Network of Ireland invites you to its annual lecture, which this year is being held online.


The Poetry of Podcasting: Emphasising the Oral in Oral History

Siobhán McHugh, award-winning oral historian, writer, documentary-maker and podcaster, and Associate Professor of Journalism at the University of Wollongong.

Wednesday 9th December 2020 at 8pm. 

Attendance is free, but booking is required. To register, please use the link on Eventbrite

The eminent Italian oral historian Alessandro Portelli has described the oral history interview as ‘a performance in search of a text’. Print is unsatisfactory: a transcript makes it easy to scan the content but robs it of the crucial meaning conferred by the aural dimension. The audio medium captures beautifully the orality of oral history, retaining every emotional inflection or pregnant silence, while not being as intrusive as video.

But how then do you make lengthy audio recordings accessible and engaging? Radio documentary has long provided one text format in which to showcase edited oral history, but it was available only to a privileged few who had a combination of technical skills and access to the airwaves. The advent of podcasting has changed all that. Anyone can now make a sound recording freely available online and call it a podcast. But that doesn’t mean people will want to listen to it.

Turning two-hour interviews into compelling audio storytelling is a specialised art that requires an understanding of the grammar and aesthetics of audio as well as an attuned ethical mindset. In this presentation, Siobhán McHugh will share some of the secrets of how she has turned oral history into award-winning audio narratives for over three decades.


Siobhán McHugh is an internationally recognised oral historian, writer, documentary-maker and podcasting studies academic. Her radio documentaries and podcasts have won six gold awards at the New York Radio Festival and have also been recognised by the Australian Human Rights Commission and the UN Media Peace awards. Among her oral history-based podcasts are Heart of Artness, which explores crosscultural relationships behind the production of Australian Aboriginal art and Marrying Out which examines Catholic-Protestant sectarianism in Australia. Siobhán has written acclaimed social histories, including The Snowy: A History, about the birth of multiculturalism on a hydro-electric scheme in postwar Australia, and Minefields and Miniskirts, about Australian women’s role in the Vietnam War. The Snowy won the New South Wales’ Premier’s Literary Award for Non-Fiction.

As an academic, Siobhán has made a prominent contribution to both oral history studies and radio/podcasting studies. Her article, ‘The Affective Power of Sound: Oral History on Radio’, broke new ground as multimedia scholarship and was selected by Oral History Review in 2016 “to showcase some of the most influential work published in the journal” to mark the 50th anniversary of the founding of the US Oral History Association. It is included in the Oral History Reader, an anthology of the foremost international scholarship in oral history (Routledge 2016). Siobhán is Founding Editor of the journal RadioDoc Review, which pioneered critical analysis of audio storytelling podcasts and audio features. Her oral history collections are held at the National Library of Australia and the NSW State Library. She has given many public presentations on oral history, in venues ranging from Iran’s national radio conference to Harvard University’s Native American Program. Siobhán is Associate Professor in Journalism at the University of Wollongong, Australia.

You can find more info about Siobhán here.