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Black British womanhood explored on new BBC podcast

HOSTS: The Sista Collective

BBC 5 have launched their first homegrown podcast, The Sista Collective - a podcast that offers candid conversation by black British women from across the UK, for all to enjoy.

With an emphasis on hearing voices from all over the country, The Sista Collective will be driven by BBC Radio 5 Live journalist Jessie Aru-Phillips, whose mission it is to explore what it means to be a woman of colour living in the UK today.

She will be joined by her regular podcasters: Team GB Olympic athlete and five-time European Championship medallist, Anyika Onuora, Paula Akpan, Co-founder of the UK’s hugely successful BlackGirlFest and Joanna Jarjue finalist on the BBC TV show, The Apprentice.

The four hosts will deliver a conversation that is funny, thought provoking and relatable and will invite contributions from other women from around the country.

We spoke exclusively with Jessie Aru-Phillips to discuss her inspiration, the rise of black podcasters and much more.

Q: What inspired the launch of The Sista Collective?

Jessie Aru-Phillips: As black British women, we are diverse in our stories and experiences and I wanted to reflect that in the podcast. Just a few months ago, I was introduced to a young woman - she was 18-years-old and was just about to start university. She was talking to me excitedly about her passion for mental health awareness, something I also feel strongly about. I started to tell her about my podcast idea. She gave me a confused look and said: “It sounds great... but I am really sorry, can I ask: where are you from?"

I told her I was from Liverpool. She gasped: "What!? Oh my god, there are black people in Liverpool?!" I just laughed because I had already read her face, as I know that the narrative of what it is to be and sound like a black British woman is dominated by the south. This is why I felt that my idea for this podcast was so timely and indeed relevant in the current climate. We have so many stories from around the UK. From Wales, to Yorkshire, Merseyside to Greater Manchester and Scotland and you'll hear those voices on The Sista Collective.

Q: How did you go about choosing who would be hosting the podcast alongside you?

Jessie: Well three of our podcast hosts are northern, including myself, with all the podcasters under 35. We all bring something different, for example with Anyika Onuora who won a Olympic bronze medal at the Rio Games, she brings the sportswoman aspect but coincidentally though both Anyika and I are from Liverpool, I knew her without knowing her as our families know each other as the Nigerian community in Merseyside is not big.

I met Joanna Jarjue, who is a BBC Apprentice finalist through a friend of mine. I was talking to her about the podcast and the type of women I was looking for - I really wanted someone with business acumen and who was in that world and when I spoke to Joanna, I knew she'd be great.

I wanted to reflect the London experience and Paula Akpan who is an LGBTQ+ activist and founder of Black Girl Fest, brings our London voice to the mix.

Q: There is an increase in podcasting among black Britons discussing issues surrounding life in the UK. What do you think has inspired this?

Jessie: The last few years has changed the conversations that black Britons are having, particularly around race and identity. For some millennials perhaps we thought we had achieved a post-racial time but that is not the lived experience of many, given the conversations we are having. But that is to also say we don't just talk about our race, we talk about everything like other people.

Podcasting is part of the digital revolution that is going on. We have some incredible women doing amazing work. In digital print, there are those such as Tobi Oredein, founder of Black Ballad, Liv Little of Gal Dem magazine. In the burgeoning podcast world, there's The Receipts and 3 Shots of Tequila, who have recently been working with BBC Radio 1Xtra. But it is the southern UK voice that is heard the loudest and there is space for all of us.

Things are changing, but it is important that the complete diversity of the UK is reflected which is why I am so proud to have originated and developed the podcast, with my diverse team at BBC 5 Live Digital Pilots, as those key principles are core to our existence.

Q: Who are some guests we can anticipate on the pod?

Jessie: Guests who have a story! For our first episode, we had Kathryn Drysdale on the podcast, she was the star of Two Pints of Lager and a Packet of Crisps and currently starring as Meghan Markle in Channel 4 series The Windsors. You'll also hear from Lateysha Grace, an MTV presenter and reality star. She shot to fame at 19-years-old when she appeared in MTV reality series The Valleys. We've also got one of the biggest British black women featured in our episode at the end of November. So watch this space.

Q: What can people expect from the podcast?

Jessie: It's a brand new podcast to the BBC, featuring four black British women, and we hope to reflect the diverse experiences of women of colour. We'll talk about everything from identity, colourism to body image and dating and what's trending on #blacktwitter - alongside featuring a collective of women from around the UK every week. So you'll hear the voices of black women from Wales, Scotland, Yorkshire and beyond.

#siscollective available now on BBC Sounds and Itunes with a new episode dropping each Thursday until Christmas

You can also hear the highlights on BBC Radio 5 Live from Monday 3rd December on Dotun Adebayo's Up All Night at 0330-0400.

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