Tomorrow the Detroit Podcast Festival kicks off at Marble Bar, featuring a roster of local and national talent. Impressive for a festival started by two friends, with no budget to speak of, and only in its second year.
Why podcasts? In a city like Detroit, with many competing voices, the medium offers a simple and relatively accessible way for Detroiters to share their stories and “meet” other Detroiters whose social circles may otherwise never overlap.
These year, WDET has joined the festival to offer training to current and future podcast makers. Even if you’ve no intention of recording yourself, the weekend’s events offer an array of live events—a well rounded sampler of the voices and stories shaping our city.
We sat down with Detroit Podcast Festival co- founder, Erin Allen, to learn more about the past, present and future of what we hope to be a Detroit staple.

CV Henriette: You’ve organized Detroit’s first podcast festival. How’d that come about?

Detroit Podcast Festival

Erin Allen

Erin Allen [speaking for herself]: The Detroit Podcast Festival was Joy’s brainchild. She once told me that she’d seen it done elsewhere and wondered why no one was doing it here, especially since she knew there were some dope and diverse voices on the podcasting and storytelling scene (including her own for the latter) in Detroit. She invited me a few days before the event, and luckily I was able to come. At the time I was just teaching yoga, taking some biology classes for personal enrichment and volunteering at WDET, just dipping my toe into the world of audio and broadcasting. Fast forward to last winter, Joy says to me, “I don’t have a podcast and you’re in this world so… do you want the Podcast Festival?” The question itself felt daunting. Though I’d recently begun working full time in communications and broadcasting, I still felt new to the game. Over time, we decided that we’d work together on the festival, and eventually some of my personal projects got involved (Radio Campfire) and WDET even offered some sponsorship opportunities. And now here we are. Some of the same folks from last year are back and we’ve got some new voices and programming to spice things up too!

CVh: Inspiration?

EA: I was probably inspired by all the conferences and music festivals I’ve been to. I love festival season because dancing is one of my favorite releases. Plus, I’m an artist—and a curious one at that—so consuming art at [film & music and now podcast] festivals and connecting to knowledge and people at conferences are beloved pastimes.
When it comes to audio, much of my inspiration comes from some of the bigger names in podcasting and talk shows, especially in the NPR realm (SNAP Judgement, On Being, Fresh Air). But then there’s the live shows that are also podcasts, with my all time favorite being Two Dope Queens! This festival has been a dope opportunity to learn about what’s happening more locally in podcasting, whose voices are out there and which ones are really being heard.
Also, Joy has been an inspiration. Her ideas are original and she presents to the world with intelligence and whit. Whenever she writes a piece, performs a story or produces an event, I’m like, “Wow, what a great idea! I want to be a part.” I’m glad this has been one of the projects I could join and expand with her.

CVh: Challenges? 

EA: Well, this isn’t my only gig! So time management, communication and project management skills have been vital and sometimes challenging to muster up. I’ve got two other jobs, plus I teach yoga. Joy works full time and has four active children engaged in their respective extracurriculars and general child-being. We’ve ebbed and flowed in how intentional we are, trying to balance meeting about the work vs. getting the work done. We figured it out in between our other, respective commitments, but there are definitely some learnings I’ll be bringing with me into next year.
We’ve got some great sponsors who believe in what we’re doing. That’s a blessing, but it also creates a lot of responsibility. I’ve felt a bit of pressure in living up to folks seeming expectations of me. It was challenging at first, but now I’m looking back realizing there’s a reason people believe in us. We’re also two dope queens, and we’re doing our thing! It feels good to know now [that there’s a great lineup and tickets are selling and people are excited] that all our hard work is paying off.

CVh: Tell us a bit about you. Do you make podcasts?

EA: I work with a couple of the Allied Media Projects—I’m working on a podcast in partnership with the Detroit Narrative Agency. One of their film fellows, Bree Gant, and I connected and I’m producing and hosting a podcast based in her film, Riding with Aunt D. Dot. The podcast, “Stop Requested,” features interviews with members of the Transit Justice Team regarding their work to organize and advocate for a functional and reliable Detroit bus and transit system. They’ve got a lot of wins under their belt, but it’s a long road to transit justice in the Motor City.
I also work full time with People in Education, an education and arts organization that aims to humanize schooling. I do communications and fundraising with PIE.
And I work with Framed by WDET, and audio visual project that features ten cultural communities across Metro Detroit. I’ve been producing and curating audio content with that project for over a year.
And finally, I’m a yoga teacher. I teach at Live Cycle Delight in Detroit and Samastah Yoga in Ferndale.

CVh: Podcasts! What are you listening to? 

EA: Hidden Brain, Detroit is Different (Piper Carter Podcast), Two Dope Queens and whatever happens to come on NPR when I’m driving.

CVh: What role do you see podcasts playing in Detroit’s media landscape? 

EA: Wow, that’s a big question, and I don’t know if I’m ready to answer it. I still feel new to Detroit’s media landscape. I will say that for so long there have been broad misconceptions about what any individual Detroiter  is up to and into. A friend Imani Mixon created a podcast that focused on stories of people from her childhood community, Morningside in Detroit. Eventually, she trained folks to produce their own stories.
This is the kind of work I want to see. People getting a good idea of the experiences they’d like to share, learning how to share them in true and compelling ways, and then putting it all out into the world. Detroit is techno and Muslim, lowriders and Coney Island and chocolate people and bus riders. It’s newcomers both mindful and disrespectful, and it’s my grandmother and all her peers in storytelling. That’s what I want to hear coming out of Detroit podcasting. What and who is Detroit? Actually?

CVh: Part of the festival you’re most excited for?

EA: How can I choose! We curated this experience so that there would be something for almost everybody, including us. I can’t decide, so I’ll use this moment for a shameless plug—I’m really excited about the #DetroitDrip Yoga Experience on Saturday morning (I happen to be teaching the yoga class). It’s a more dynamic event because there’s the class with a live DJ set (featuring Detroit artists) and then a live podcast about yoga. I’ve got some of my family members involved—all Detroiters. Basically, #DetroitDrip is a mashup between yoga and podcasting with Detroit running all up and through it. And there will be fresh juice and smoothies! Honestly, if you’re into yoga and can’t make it, it’s a true miss.

CVh: What’s next? 

EA: “Stop Requested” podcast is on the horizon!

As far as the Festival, we’ve been in the weeds, but we’re looking at how to meet the scale it reached so quickly like wildfire this year. As a curator of experiences, I’m excited about helping to create a soundboard for all the voices in Detroit, new and seasoned. I’m excited about the opportunity to bring them all together in a multi-generational, multi-identity space.
For a full itinerary of these weekend’s schedule and to purchase event tickets, please visit the Detroit Podcast’s website.