From sex advice to our most personal obsessions, the London zine’s podcast is fresh respite from traditional media – preview episode two here now
The pages of Polyester are confectionary coloured, and gloriously, femininely maximalist. The London-based feminist and queer-centred zine is all about loving what you love, lifting up the DIY-spirited, most refreshing artists and creatives, and, as their tagline champions, having faith in your own bad taste. Across multiple issues, Polyester has provided its loyal readerbase with empathetic looks at anxiety and mental health, relationships and sex outside of mainstream norms, and what can be an oppressive creative industry, with stunning spreads of poetry, fashion, and illustration.
Now, Polyester has filled in another gap between URL cyberfeminism and our IRL world, with a new podcast. In collaboration with MELISSA and hosted by founding editor-in-chief Ione Gamble and Dream Wife’s Alice Go, the podcast navigates everything from sex and dating, to body image, skincare, and life advice. In the second episode, Polly Nor – the illustrator, artist, and Polyester cover girl – speaks about her vintage matchbox collection as part of the pod’s ‘Obsession’ series, affordable art, and her work. In the second half we hear from sex educator Ruby Rare, who busts some myths and misinformation on contraception and sex with writer and researcher Maggie Matić.
Below, we speak to Polyester’s Ione Gamble about the new podcast, elevating marginalised artists, and pushing back against the ideals of mainstream media, while we also preview the latest instalment.
What compelled you to make the podcast, and who is your listener?
Ione Gamble: As we only work on print twice a year and most of our other projects as a zine are long lead, podcasting felt like a really nice way to fill in the gap between issues and work on something a bit more reactive - and interactive - to our audience.
From the off, Polyester has always been about community and including those that often feel excluded from traditional media – and I think podcasts are really suited to that. It kind of solidifies everything we feature and discuss in the zine, in a way that maybe only comes across otherwise to those able to attend an event.
I want listening to the podcast to invoke a similar experience of reading the zine, that it’ll flip from serious subjects such as contraception or the intricacies of dating while plus size, to something you wouldn’t really read about anywhere else, such as Polly Nor talking about her collection of vintage match boxes or Travis Alabanza discussing their love of lists. It’s cringe, but I want listening to the podcast to be like talking to a mate, not preachy or unattainable but something that’s both helpful, entertaining, and feels like something all of our listeners could be a part of themselves.
Each artist involved in the series also produces a new piece of visual work - why is it important to you to work across mediums?
Ione Gamble: Polyester is so visual and that’s a huge reason why people love the publication so much – it felt essential to tie that in somehow to the podcast. As half of our guests are visual artists to some degree, we thought it would be kind of odd not to have any nod to that or provide any context for listeners that may be finding the artists work for the first time by listening.
“I want listening to the podcast to be like talking to a mate, not preachy or unattainable but something that’s both helpful, entertaining, and feels like something all of our listeners could be a part of themselves” – Ione Gamble, Polyester
How have you chosen some of your guests and can you tell me about some of the themes you discuss together?
Ione Gamble: Our guests are a real mix of people already involved in the Polyester community, as well as other artists or collectives we admire as well as experts that are able to talk on the topics we all wish we knew more about.
Part of what I love most about creating the zine is being able to get to know and work with all of these amazing female and queer artists, so I wanted to bring a sense of that to the podcast. I also decided to bring in loads of different hosts for the sections. Alice and I host episode to episode, but each week will see someone involved with Polyester come on to take over a section. Polyester isn’t about a singular voice so it would be weird if it was just me talking to everyone, I’d much rather bring in other people – I think doing so really gives a greater overarching idea of what Polyester is and feels more welcoming in terms of the podcast!
You also bring in some expert opinion – what do you hope to achieve in providing expert tips and advice?
Ione Gamble: We have access to so much information and so many resources now, it can be conflicting and also time consuming to gather nuanced insight into the issues that face us. So I want the ask an expert section to dispel myths or offer advice on facets of our existence that might seem overly complicated otherwise. The actual section is going to be a real mix in terms of guests – the first episode featured Nadine Artois from Pxssy Palace on how to throw an inclusive club night, this episode sees sex expert Ruby Rare dispel some of the many, many myths and worries we hear surrounding our contraceptive choices. Throughout the season we’ll also be exploring the link between stress and our skin breaking out, as well as much more.
Are you inspired by any other podcasts?
Ione Gamble: I love the Bitch Media Popaganda and Backtalk podcast! I recommend it to my friends incessantly. They haven’t had any new episodes out this year though so I hope there will be soon and that it hasn’t finished! I definitely saw potential in the sectioned out format of many other podcasts and saw how that would work with the Polyester ethos and mission statement. I listen to so many podcasts and sadly most of them are either about women dying or are lead/hosted by men.
I know there’s a whole host of women-centric podcasts – but most of them I just couldn’t relate to for a variety of reasons. I saw a gap for something like Polyester to explore the social issues our readers care about, and platform the women and queer, trans, non-binary people we love through the medium of podcasting; and hopefully other people will resonate with it!
What’s been the biggest challenge?
Ione Gamble: Organisation and time keeping! It’s such a boring answer, but Alice our producer is also the guitarist in the band Dream Wife, so getting everyone in the same room at the same time has been a logistical nightmare but very worthwhile. I think because we’re all new to podcasts there has been some bumps along the way – but we don’t want it to be super polished. Polyester is still as DIY as it comes so it’s nice to see how that translates through audio. We’re really lucky to have found a sponsorship partner in MELISSA for the first eight episodes that have let us have complete creative freedom to be as weird as we want with it. Alice has tried to create a sound palette that mirrors ASMR in the final episode edits... it’s been cool to feel out how Polyester sounds, as that’s something that we’ve never even considered before.
It’s really cool that people on the pod have a chance to discuss things they love that don’t make them money or are part of their job. There’s obviously a lot of podcasts, newsletters, series that do the opposite and glorify ‘the hussle’. Why do you think it’s important to lift up something else?
Ione Gamble: I just think it can get so boring if we’re constantly only discussing how we all make money and how we all built our careers. Obviously, it’s really important that we all talk to each other about these things especially as marginalised creatives that are often undercut within the creative industries. But in my opinion, the obsession we have with how women and queer people ‘make it’ reduces artists down just to their job and their income, and we’re often asked about how we got to where we are before being asked about our actual work! Focusing on the hustle is so damaging and causes us all to become stressed and burnt out beyond belief.
A few of the artists interviewed have also made really good points – those who exist under oppression are often the ones with the duty to constantly explain themselves and their own right to exist to privileged people. Marginalised artist’s work is so often viewed through a lens of being ‘other’, as opposed to just being celebrated for what it is. I want the podcast to flip the switch on that and give our audience an opportunity to learn something completely unexpected about the creatives they care about.