Hana Walker-Brown is a multi-award winning audio documentary and podcast maker and writer based in London. Hana is also the creative director of Broccoli Productions which was founded in direct response to the lack of minority talent in front of and behind the mic. She writes the neurodivergent blog "Late to the Party" on Substack and presents the accompanying podcast. She is also a guest lecturer at Goldsmiths College, University of London and has created work for Audible, the BBC, Spotify, Sony and Warner Bros. Her work is rooted in social science; human behaviour and how we respond to and meet the ever changing world; striking a balance between investigative and intimate, taking the big world stuff and making it human and engaging everyone in difficult conversations. She is also the author of the critically acclaimed narrative non-fiction book “A Delicate Game: Brain Injury, Sport and Sacrifice.”
Please tell us about your career
My position at Broccoli Production brings a lot of freedom to make and commission what’s important; to create work with purpose that isn’t self-serving that can help and shape the industry, and I’d go as far to say the world (in its own small way!) for the better. I’ve worked hard to get to this point but it's always been my MO and I’m lucky that I work collaboratively with like-minded people like Renay Richardson, our founder, who is fully driven by collective responsibility. We constantly ask ourselves, 'who is being shut out? Whose voices are being turned down?' We recognise that we have a responsibility as makers, journalists and producers to amplify those voices; to use this insane privilege that we have and ensure that we are pointing the microphone in the right direction and leaving the doors that have been opened for us, unlocked. I’ve always had a real sense of justice sensitivity so being supported through holding power to account, particularly in my book "A Delicate Game" has enabled me to create real tangible change within sport and medicine. It has been instrumental in a huge movement to address brain injury in sport and make it safer, and the book now sits on the curriculum for medical students in the USA.
I got into the industry through sheer graft! Doing my MA at Goldsmiths in Radio was a good grounding but it wasn't a golden ticket. I had a scholarship and a job throughout which made it possible. The support was unreal during my masters, and I loved every second of it. It shaped so much of where I am now, but getting your foot through the door and keeping it there takes a lot of graft and resilience – and they’re things you really have to teach yourself. Prior to that I started in sound design and theatre when I was 18, pivoted to audio documentaries and the radio industry after my MA and just before the podcast industry boomed. I’ve always tried to carve out my own path – which is hard in any creative industry – but I was determined to make it work in a way that suited me. I did what I knew I was good at, that was authentic to me, and cultivated a space for myself within both industries and refused to back down. A lot of people within audio were reluctant to engage when podcasts burst onto the scene, but you have to adapt and embrace the change. It’s good, it means we’re moving forward and making space for everyone. That’s something I’ve always tried to do wherever I’ve been and it’s taken me all over the world.
I feel proud – my work has had an impact on the world – even in a small way and that’s all I ever wanted to do – to leave the world better than how I found it. I’m in a position where I can bring on brilliant people to projects and also have started to really find my voice in the ADHD space. There are too many people speaking for us and about us and I think having the courage to take ownership of your story and experience in turn gives others permission to do the same. It has been hard at times and I have struggled but I have been able to move forward and reconcile some of that now I have had a diagnosis. My energy is much better spent in the future and how I can be helpful rather than dwelling in the murky "But what if?" of the past.
Underpinning everything I do is the drive to tell stories that empower, and I take that very seriously. I hope that my work can continue to have an impact especially in the ADHD space. I hope to do more talks and workshops in live settings. I really thrive when other people are in the room – I think the pandemic really brought that to the fore for me so I’m grateful to be in a position now where I'm able to go out into those spaces.
Any career changes that feel significant to you?
It’s not very glamorous but at the very start of my career, I was exhausted from working bar shifts alongside my masters, and I fortunately got a gig with a big beauty brand for a huge conference they were doing at the Roundhouse. I mixed some bubble sounds and cut some audio about armpits and a few other bits and pieces. The money from that job meant I could quit my bar job that month and focus on audio. I’d say that was my biggest break and I’ll always be thankful to Karl James for the gig. There have also been a couple of "corporate creative" jobs I’ve left because they just weren’t working for me. They looked to other people like a “safe” option with safe salaries, but I was miserable. I didn’t fit in with the 9-5, 8 hours at your desk situation and would usually smash my work out in a couple of hours and then just be sat there feeling like I was going to implode! I trusted myself enough that I would be ok if I left, that I would make it work and I was both times – more than ok. It can feel terrifying especially when people are telling you you’re mad for leaving but I knew myself and it wasn’t working. I always try to be brave.
Do you feel that your job/industry is a good fit for an ND woman?
I think elements of it are. I think I’ve been tenacious in ensuring that the industry worked for me, I had to work really hard and prove myself in the beginning but I’m lucky to be in a position now where I can adapt processes to suit me. That’s not the case for everyone and I think there is a misconception about podcasting that it’s a creative industry when it's 90% admin which has made it difficult, but you make it work. Communication is essential in that regard. I’ve always been a hyphen by name, hyphen my nature person so I’m lucky that I can shift between different industries and mediums. I’ve always been drawn to storytelling; I’m passionate about social change, taking the big world stuff and making it human while exploring the edges of vulnerability and courage and how we can ensure we include everyone in the conversation. It’s really nice and invigorating to have different formats to move between – different worlds to dip in and out of – and different audiences to engage with. In terms of writing books, my procrastination was totally exacerbated throughout the process which was incredibly difficult. I don’t think the publishing process is set up particularly well for neurodivergent brains – especially during the pandemic when instructions had to be delivered in written documents or over Zoom, but I learnt to speak up when systems weren’t working for me and to have a demonstration instead. So far, everyone has been very kind.
Photo credit: Liz Seabrook