The Last Bohemians is an independent all female audio series that meets female firebrands, rebellious outsiders and controversial mavericks from significant eras in culture and the arts. From subversive musicians and rock’n’roll groupies to groundbreaking artists and game-changing style icons, these are women who have lived life on the edge and still refuse to play by the rules. This vivid new series showcases their stories at a time when older creative women are still underrepresented in the media at large.
Journalist and presenter Kate Hutchinson and photographer Laura Kelly met in Havana, Cuba, four years ago and conceived the series in 2017, enlisting an exceptional team of producers to take on an episode each. Every episode is produced by a brilliant woman and is shot and interviewed by two brilliant friends.
I spoke to Kate to find out more.
Why did you start the podcast series?
I started The Last Bohemians because I wanted to hear a series where maverick women who have lived interesting, radical lives tell their stories. And I’d hoped that they’d deliver a bit of give-a-fuck inspiration to women, especially younger women and those who have, like I did at one point, felt anxious, unsure of themselves, or are constantly measuring themselves against others thanks to social media. My interviewees have the attitude and outlook on life that I wish I had more of, basically.
I also really wanted to properly meet and talk to Molly Parkin, who was someone I encountered almost a decade ago, over email, when I stumbled across her erotic poetry and asked her whether I could read some at a literary event I’d been invited to. She’s had the most fabulous life: breathlessly decadent and debauched but also bittersweet, outliving, as she says, most of her lovers. Although these days she prefers to make love to herself, which is brilliant and I hope to be doing at the age of 87, too.
Podcasts are so popular these days – why is that?
Because we’re all narcissists that want to be heard! Erm, no. I think one reason is because they’re a way of community building at a time when the internet can make everything so insular – you can pretty much find a podcast for every hobby or niche, whether it’s a TV show or bread-making, and if they’re episodic podcasts, they are reassuringly constant. They can help people to feel part of something.
There’s also something to be said for relatability – there’s been a huge upsurge in the popularity of the Two Girls/Guys Chatting type of podcast because they’re either funny or because we secretly want to be them. News, current affairs and ‘ooh, look at this fact’-based podcasts are a convenient way of keeping up-to-date when you’re on the move. They offer choice whereas traditional radio can sometimes feel repetitive and you’re at the mercy of the same presenters every time.
Why is it important to share stories of inspirational women?
Older women, in particular, are so often neglected when it comes to covering art and culture – but they shouldn’t be. I find that most of the books I read are by women, certainly all of the memoirs, and they make better historians because they’re – not always but often – more perceptive and observant than men. And so, while I’m not the most well-listened podcast person there is, I felt that I wasn’t really hearing those sorts of voices in an audio series. You get plenty of radio series and TV shows where old men give their insight into significant eras in history but women’s voices are, a lot of the time, eradicated or relegated to the background. Where’s the interview, for example, with someone like Bianca Jagger, where she is asked about the effect that disco music had on her and why Studio54 was so vital? All you hear mentioned is that white horse.
How did you choose your guests?
Molly was a given, of course. I’d heard Bonnie do a talk with my friend Deborah Coughlin at a Tate Late and we immediately thought she’d be brilliant – again, talking about things like 1970s New York, something she is rarely asked to explore. I’ve always been fascinated by Pauline Black and when I saw that her memoir was being repressed, I leapt at the chance to interview her.
Pamela Des Barres is, again, someone I’ve long wanted to meet, and when I read a piece in the Guardian about groupiedom and the #MeToo movement, I thought it would be a great angle to explore with her. It just so happens that at one point she was in the UK to promote a new version of her book I’m With The Band. Cosey Fanni Tutti just embodies everything the podcast is about: a strong, attitudinal woman in her sixties who is still making forward-thinking music. She is unique in that she is always looking to the future, never back.
And Amanda Feilding – I’d found the picture of her in this gorgeous turban with her pet bird on her shoulder, read about her trepanning herself in the 1970, and thought she sounded fantastic. I’m fascinated by her research and the potential of psychedelic experience, though I’ve never gone there myself. Plus she is descended from royalty, lives in this picturesque tumbling country house and is, I think, one of the very last few true British bohemians or what you might call eccentrics who is still alive and still cracking on in the UK today. Each woman brought something completely different to the table and had a contrasting outlook on life but were bound by one important thing: they are unapologetically badass.