In conversation with Machel St Patrick Hewitt, co-founder of the Caribbean Cricket Podcast: An independent media project bringing West Indies cricket to the Caribbean diaspora in the UK and beyond.
Zushan Hashmi: Tell me a little bit about your career in journalism? Particularly, sports journalism?
Machel St Patrick Hewitt: I’ve never truly thought of myself as a journalist, my bread and butter is teaching and sports writing is sometimes a paid hobby. I had always blogged about music, cricket and football for the fun of it because I had opinions and I liked writing.
From about 2017 onwards I was able to secure a regular gig with The Non-League Newspaper covering matches in the National League. The experience with that has slowly led to more papers and platforms asking me to produce things for them. Some of it is paid and some I do simply because I enjoy it.
The knock-on effect of that has been I have enough experience in the industry to tell myself I’m competent and reliable. I don’t think I would ever go gung-ho and jack in teaching to give it a shot full-time. I like the idea of being good at both and producing things when I feel like.
I’ve always said with any job I’ve ever had, do it for the love first and foremost. If you don’t love what you’re doing, change it up.
How did you come up with the idea for the Caribbean Cricket Podcast? And why did you feel this was important?
Me and co-host Santokie Nagulendran started the idea of the Podcast after a few WhatsApp messages and a sit down over coffee.
In essence, we both felt the cricket and football media coverage in the UK is very white and male. The image presented is very much one of if you don’t know
the right gatekeeper you aren’t getting in.
The downside of that other than the shocking lack of diversity and representation is that you end up with the same people making the same points.
With regards to Caribbean Cricket, the UK has a huge Caribbean diaspora population and really the podcast was set up for them to have an outlet
to follow West Indies Cricket and for the community back home to have an immediate media arm to link with the diaspora.
Outside of that, it was also about building our own platform, you can complain about the lack of diversity in the UK all you want, but if you don’t like something you do it yourself.
We knew if we delivered on it how we knew we could, it wouldn’t be long before correspondents in the UK started following us and that now seems to be the case.
Ultimately, however, we’re doing this for the love of game and West Indies cricket.
You have spoken to several cricket professionals from different areas within West Indies Cricket, could you tell me who they are and a bit about the podcasts?
So we’ve had a wide variety of people on the podcast, most notably Pete Russell (COO of the Caribbean Premier League), Johnny Grave (CEO of Cricket West Indies), Ramnaresh Sarwan (Former Guyana and West Indies batsman), and Kieran Powell (the Leeward Islands and West Indies batsman).
The podcasts, in general, have been about discussing the major talking points and issues in West Indies cricket.
Whether it’s interviewing someone or myself and Sanntokie chewing the fat. West Indies cricket is a unique entity with several moving parts due to its composition of so many islands. Consequently, there is always something that requires a major deep dive and focus.
You’ve seen a spike in listens and traction during the pandemic, tell me a bit about that?
The pandemic in theory should have helped a lot of people’s media projects. Whilst there is an absence of live sports if your podcast doesn’t depend on the live sport you have the capacity to build an audience in lockdown.
We’ve found that as people are at home they have had more time to stop and breathe and that translates over to listening to podcasts. In line with that, we focused on speaking to people who had things to say that weren’t just generic COVID-19 related conversations.
Some of those people had platforms to help push the podcast but in reality, it has been word of mouth that has grown the podcast.
I guess if you are producing something unique and different from the majority, the growth may be slow but it will grow.
Do you feel that sports media in the UK is representative of stories outside of the UK, particularly with regards to diaspora groups?
I can’t pretend to know what goes on in editor meetings and how sports media brands work. However, what I do know is if you surround yourself with people that look like you and have the same class as you - you are likely to have a very narrow view of how the world.
I do think sports media has a preconceived idea of what interests diaspora communities. They can’t claim to have their finger on the pulse if they only employ the odd 1 or 2 ethnic people and never in senior roles.
So, for example, most stories written about the West Indies cricket team are generic and more often than not relate back to the 1980s. It’s lazy.
How do you envision to change that using the platform?
Our platform is about keeping the stories fresh and authentic, letting Caribbean voices whether in the diaspora or back home tell the stories and speak to the key stakeholders.
Why does that matter? because in many ways those stories are personal to us. We understand the culture in a way that non-Caribbean writers/podcasters could ever.
It’s actually not about myself or Santokie, it’s a genuine love for the Caribbean people, culture and cricket.
Have you personally been involved in podcasting, or has the space been relatively new for you?
Prior to creating the podcast, I had featured on some as a guest but this is brand new, to run and host one.
I won’t pretend that either one of us is tech-savvy and its definitely been a learning curve. Generally, we work unto the maxim of organized chaos. We plan what we want to do but make sure not to take it too seriously.
The one thing we have up our sleeve is we are very knowledgeable about Caribbean cricket and culture. That definitely helps with talking to
guests and the content we produce as we know what we’re talking about.
The next step is to create a short/medium/long term plan.
Where would you like to go with the future of the podcast? What do you envision for it?
All being well, I think we would grow the podcast to the point where it becomes the trusted UK media arm for Cricket West Indies and the Caribbean Cricket. It’s important to us that the representation of the culture is done correctly.
I think most podcasts would ideally want to find a way to monetize what they do in some regards but we aren’t really thinking about that.
We have some ideas about some cool merch ideas and the like but that’s a long term goal.
For now, it’s simply about the organic growth of the brand and doing Caribbean cricket justice this side of the Atlantic.