‘A Belfast Tardis’ – Jason Burke’s Historical Belfast Podcast

Welcome back! it has been a while since our last blog post, but since we are back in lockdown for what we hope will just be a few weeks, we would like to introduce you to another way of engaging with local heritage from your own home. Jason Burke has written this entry for us about his latest foray into creating podcasts. Jason is a prolific researcher, writer and communicator in all things 'Historical Belfast' and if you have missed being able to go on his walking tours lately, here is a new way of engaging with the past in Belfast.


Close your eyes and step back in time.... one can almost feel and touch the people, and the atmosphere of old Belfast! Packed with interesting information looking at important and sometimes forgotten events of Belfast history. Balanced, witty and fluid’. So read the most recent review of the new Historical Belfast Podcast.

Much can change in a year, and what a remarkable year 2020 turned out to be for a multitude of reasons. Back in March 2020 I was forced to cancel a run of historical walking tours and speaking gigs when society was required to ‘lock down’ and stay at home. I’ve long believed in salvaging the positives from bleak situations, whatever they may be, so for me, an extended period of time at home became an opportunity to be productive while the world had been paused. “Time to get back on track with writing that book”, I thought. And I did. “Time to research and write some new historical walking tours”, I also thought. And I did that too.

My daily ‘Boris walks’ allowed me to catch up with, and discover new, podcasts. It had been on the back of my mind for a couple of years to make a history podcast but, like many people before me, a brief Google ‘how to’ investigation was enough to keep the thought firmly at the back of my mind. On my walks, though, I was particularly inspired by my friend Donal Fallon’s Three Castles Burning, a Dublin history podcast dedicated to the social history of the Hibernian Metropolis. I’d been listening to TCB from it was launched the previous year, but Donal managed to take it up a level during the lockdown. There is no shortage of Irish history podcasts (and they continue to emerge) however it was clear to me that there was very little attention being paid to northern history among them, far less to Belfast history. I therefore decided to get to work on creating a Belfast history podcast, one that could provide an accessible and entertaining insight into the history of the Northern Metropolis and take its place alongside my Historical Belfast Walking Tours and the Historical Belfast Blog. Armed with a USB microphone I spent many late nights toiling over the technology. I knew that the stories would look after themselves, what I didn’t know was whether I could record, edit and produce a podcast.

We learned new words and phrases in 2020 which we had not heard before: “wet pubs”, “social bubbles”, “COVID-19”, and “Jason Burke, podcast host…”. The technology eventually came together, and while listening to Radio 5 Live’s late-night coverage of Boris Johnson in intensive care with Coronavirus I was writing my first script, ‘VE Day in Belfast, 1945’ to be released in time for the VE Day anniversary in May. Since then, there have been 9 episodes in total and, at the time of writing, Historical Belfast is Belfast’s only history podcast on the airwaves. The show continues to go from strength to strength, surpassing 4,500 downloads at the turn of the year.

So, where does it go from here? My hope is that the podcast can gather some real traction and momentum in 2021. The most difficult part so far has been getting the word out there. It still amazes me how many people that I speak to who don’t know what a podcast is! Coupled with the fact that the vast majority of those who are interested in history tend to be that little bit older, or not using social media where 100% of the podcast’s promotion is carried out. There is no easy way around that other than to keep chipping away by showing people how to get involved with podcasts, but more importantly, by creating excellent content that people will want to listen to. Eventually I want listeners of the show to be active participants in the podcast. In the short term that means getting involved and in the conversations that flow from each episode by submitting in your thoughts, reflections, disagreements. In the long-term, active participation will mean creating episodes that will encourage listeners to get out and explore the city for themselves.

If you haven’t yet discovered the Historical Belfast Podcast, you can do so on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, and Amazon. (Just Google ‘Historical Belfast Podcast’ and you’ll find it.) There are 9 episodes worth of content to listen to, and best of all, it’s free! If you are already a listener, you can help me this year by leaving a review (it really helps…) and by sharing the podcast with one or two others.

In the meantime you can engage with me and/or the podcast via the following platforms:   

Website: www.HistoricalBelfast.com

Instagram: @historicalbelfastpod

Facebook: Historical Belfast

Twitter: jasonburke87

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