Why has a podcast about a girl’s teenage diaries become a hit with men?
'Berkhamsted Revisited': 'When you’re a teenager, the other gender is completely alien'
Laura Kirk and Laura Gallop of the Berkamsted Revisited podcast
Whether you went to school ten or fifty years ago, one truism endures: those few short years stay with you forever. In the case of twentysomething Laura Kirk, this is literal.
She has carried her teenage diaries – written between the ages of 13 and 19 – everywhere with her. From university through her current flatshare, they have been a constant, reassuring companion.
Given that logic, even she was surprised when she turned them into a podcast called Berkhamsted Revisited, a trip down memory lane for anyone who came of age in the 2000s (or, really, anyone who came of age).
“I like having a bit of an anchor,” she says. I can dip in for a bit of nostalgia when I want and feel safe. On another level, I like to keep them close to me so that nobody can read them.”
Along with her co-pilot Laura Gallop, Kirk has mined her teenage self’s innermost confessions to create an uproarious, confessional podcast. From body hair and periods to MSN Chat and first crushes, no Noughties rite of passage is left unearthed.
When you’re a teenager, especially at a singe sex school, the other gender is completely alien
The pair had an inkling that female listeners would easily relate to discussions about boys, cliques and crushes. Sure enough, old school pals and acquaintances were soon writing in recalling their own experiences, creating an odd reunion of sorts.
What the two weren’t expecting was to find that the majority of their listeners were men.
And not just men who would listen to talk about periods and kissing techniques in a curious, voyeuristic way: men who became hooked on each episode and wrote in with their enthusiastic feedback.
“You’re told all the time how different boys and girls are, but that really hasn’t been in any of the correspondence we’ve had,” notes Gallop. “No-one has said, ‘it’s so interesting how girls think’ – rather, we’ve had ‘this is all so relatable to me’.
“I think it might be because we’re part of a [podcasting] network where the main show is a footballing one, but men have definitely kept listening,” says Kirk. “When you’re a teenager, especially at a singe sex school, the other gender is completely alien. Men might understand women now, but when it comes to what teenage girls are all about, there’s still a big black hole of knowledge there. It definitely gives me comfort hearing that the stuff we did was, to all intents and purposes, mirrored in boys’ schools. In my head, they were super confident. I just wish we’ll all been a bit more honest at the time, and not tried to be so cool.”
There are things that I’ve been saying on this podcast . . . that I swore I would take to the grave
Recalling events from a decade ago may not seem like something that’s ripe for nostalgia, but one of Berkhamsted Revisited’s unique selling points is that it’s a step back in time (albeit a small one) for the first generation to grow up and come of age online.
Vaseline-on-the-lens looks at teenagehood are certainly having a moment, from Caitlin Moran’s How to Build a Girl and Derry Girls to Lady Bird and even Sing Street. Kirk and Gallop have had many conversations about just why it is that our teenage years are so cherished and perennially popular.
“We started looking into the scientific meaning and pretty much realised we were opening Pandora’s box,” says Kirk. “Basically, your brain changes as a teenager. For me, it’s about looking back and realising that you were utterly unable to put things into perspective. The tiny things I was freaking out about, like losing my physics textbook, was the world to me. As a teenager you’re unable to take setbacks, and I think people find it interesting to see how far they’ve come.”
Adds Kirk: “I think because you can never quite articulate how you feel at the time, that reflection of how clueless you were is so comforting.
“There are things [about my earlier years] that I’ve been saying on this podcast - cringey things like someone telling me I had a moustache - that I swore I would take to the grave.”
Revisiting the diaries using the 20-20 lens of adulthood has occasionally given Kirk pause for thought: “My God, I used to fancy so many people from one day to the next,” she sighs. “I met a lifeguard who gave me a lifejacket in 2005, and I spent months obsessing about him. Next day, it was someone else. I was like, ‘wow, who was Piano Boy?’”
The two Lauras’ easygoing banter may make them sound like lifelong friends, but it was only through sharing their teenage experiences that their professional relationship grew into a genuine kinship.
Kirk was approached on Twitter by podcaster Luke Moore (known for the hugely popular podcast The Football Ramble) after she tweeted her desire to create a podcast using her teenage diaries. He introduced her to Gallop, and the pair workshopped her podcast idea over many months. The chemistry grew from there.
At a time when you’re obsessed with your reputation, it would help to know that everyone’s too busy caring about themselves to be overly concerned about you
“It’s interesting because we both think so differently and would probably never meet in normal circumstances, but we realised we have so much shared experience, it’s bonded us together,” says Gallop.
Now on Series 2, the podcast is now in the middle of Kirk’s 2011 diaries. Coming of age is a finite process (in theory), and so the team will come to the end of Kirk’s diary entries. Kirk believes there may be three or four more series left in using her own material. The podcast has also widened out in scope to incorporate the diary contributions of listeners, which should certainly help with longevity.
“I couldn’t understand why anyone would give a s*** about what we were talking about when we hadn’t done anything particularly great or important,” says Gallop. “I didn’t understand that people, no matter where they are in the world, have those mundane experiences. Things like walking around in the cold because you can’t get into a pub - it’s mundane really, isn’t it? But it’s still sweet.”
As for the advice that Kirk wishes she could give her younger self, she is definite on one bit of hard-learned wisdom: “I’d tell (my younger self) to lay off the fake tan,” she says decisively.
“And also to stop caring what everyone thinks of you. At a time when you’re obsessed with your reputation, it would help to know that everyone’s too busy caring about themselves to be overly concerned about you.”
Berkhamsted Revisited is available here