Moving On: Looking Back on Season Two of ‘Opening Doors’

I totally preferred this season of my podcast Opening Doors with Shaun Nolan for several different reasons: I love the new format for the show, short episodes (45 mins instead of 55) and five guests per episode (instead of three); I love the new series of questions covering topics like racism, homophobia, transphobia and more; and I loved the wide variety of guests that I managed to have.

We all know that I have a passion for harping on about the past and reflecting on what I’ve done, so today, I’m going to run down the entire second series of Opening Doors for those of you who may have listened to all of it, half of it, or none of it. I hope this summary brings back some good memories of the series you listened to, or it makes you want to sit down and listen for the first time.

Episode 1: Why Are Mental Health Issues Still Taboo?

I had a lot of topics suggested to me this season and this was the first one of them. I really wanted to try and tackle some areas of mental health issues thoroughly this season and thus, the episode was born. We also had a fantastically wide selection of guests and pieces in this episode, ranging from a spoken essay by Emilia Moll on depression, to a conversation with MammafulZo on what it’s like to me a mother of two children with mental health issues. I left the episode feeling enlightened on the topic, knowing so much more about some peoples’ personal experiences, which is something that I aimed for the episode to give. My conversation with Zoe also led me to a few fundraising ideas with the charity Mind, which I’ll be sharing over on Twitter in the coming weeks.

Episode 2: Is Coming Out Still Necessary?

I have been hounded to do an episode on homosexuality since I started the series – obviously, seems pretty apt for me to do an episode on it – so this season, I made two consecutive episodes on the LGBT community and the struggles surrounding people in it. This episode was on coming out and was the most successful episode of the series for sure. Conversations in the episode ranged from a chat with my friend Nixon about coming out as a trans person in school, to a long chat with my Dad about my coming out story and his initial reaction to it. In addition, this episode also marked one of the first segments ever in Opening Doors which didn’t include me, when my friends Emilia, Kyle and Verity sat down to discuss bi-erasure and the bisexual experience. It’s an episode that I hold very close to my heart – perhaps my favourite episode of all time – and I’m glad that so many people loved it too.

Episode 3: Should Trans Children Be Allowed To Transition?

This episode – the second in this LGBT two-parter – focused entirely around the experience of some trans people and transphobia. Again, I sat down with Nixon, but this time to discuss trans dating in school and how people received his transition – his parents included, and his girlfriend who he has been with for many years now – as well as Verity who spoke about the politics of it all, in addition to the SEN co-ordinator at my school, Matthew Sharpe, who spoke about what it’s like to handle trans children in a school environment and how valid their feelings are. It’s an episode that I learned a heck of a lot from making and I know many people learned from it by listening, too.

Episode 4: Are Smart Phones Making Us Stupid?

This was one of the first topics that was suggested to me in the Opening Doors suggestion box for season two and I loved the idea behind it: exploring whether or not the technological revolution has made a lot of us lazy. There’s been a real theme of growing up in this series of OD, so I thoroughly enjoyed sitting down with people to discuss the topic and see how tech can benefit us or not. Some of the highlights of the episode for me were when I sat down with my theatre bestie Rukaya to talk about what it’s like to work online, but also when I spoke to my Auntie Alison about how tech can benefit people in many different ways.

Episode 5: Do We Need Recognition To Be Successful?

Yet another suggested question and probably my favourite one of the series. This episode focused on the idea of success and if success is given to us by an external force – like fame or wealth – or if we decide our own success internally. The question actually got a very varied response and the conversations and differing opinions in the episode were vast. I got Meg – who suggested the question originally – to ask me some of my thoughts on the topic that she wanted to know, with other conversations coming from my friends Abbie and Jess on success in schools, and Poonam Gupta on the success behind starting her own business in Holy Cow Home.

Episode 6: Does Reverse Racism Exist?

One topic I was asked to touch on last series was racism, but I just couldn’t find enough stuff in time to make a good enough episode last year so decided to put it on hold. This year, I sat down with a wide variety of people to talk about lots of different things under the umbrella of racism, from the concept of reverse racism, to different microaggressions that get on peoples’ nerves. I spoke to people like Chaya about her thoughts on reverse racism and her experiences (who gave a very different opinion to what I thought she’d give) as well as my friend Tiana on her experiences, and my friend Maxine on wider experiences that many black British and American people see as an issue as a whole. Of course, racism is something I never face as a white man, so listening to other people talk us through this episode was absolutely fantastic, and enlightening and informative to hear.

Episode 7: What Is Intersectional Feminism?

Continuing slightly with the theme of racism, the next episode paired homophobia, racism and feminism together as I returned to the topic of feminism that I introduced at the start of last season and spoke to a selection of guests about what intersectional feminism meant to them. For people like Verity, she spoke primarily about how we include people from the LGBT community in feminism and how you have to be in support of all rights movements to truly support feminism, while Imogen spoke on race. My favourite part of the episode though is when my friends Habiba and Aneeqa spoke on how Islam and Feminism intertwine and work together, much more than most “outsiders” to Islam seem to think. I learned so much by listening to them in this episode and its corresponding Footnotes episode where the discussion continued and if you choose to listen to anything from this season of Opening Doors, then their conversation should be it.

Episode 8: Do We Waste Time?

This episode was my little passion project for the series. After my friend Ellie told me all about an academic study she was doing on the idea of time travel, I immediately knew I had to do an episode covering the topic and it made for a very interesting listen. This week, I sat down with Ellie as she talked me through why time travel wouldn’t really work at all in reality; I sat down with Verity to talk about the ins and outs of the science behind time travel; Sharina about the philosophy of time; and Abbie about procrastination and if we waste the time we’re given or not. It’s an episode that comes in on the topic of time from many different angles and one that I had great fun making.

Episode 9: Is Retirement Boring?

Perhaps the most iconic episode of this series though was episode nine when Grandma Nolan took over the entire episode and presented it for herself with her own selection of guests. She chose her question on the topic of retirement because she wanted to enlighten people to how much fun older people can be in comparison to what some people may think. In the episode, she spoke to four guests with great success: her brother Barry about his retirement experience and how he found new hobbies when he took retirement; her friend Jane about taking over as President of the local WI after Grandma gave up the position last year and her plans for retirement in another country; me about my thoughts on the topic as a young person; and her best friend Pauline about finding love and moving in with a new man in your later life. I thoroughly enjoyed the episode and I know many listeners did too.

Episode 10: Is School More Than Just Lessons?

My original plan for this series finale was to do a huge roundtable discussion with three students and three teachers from my school, and we did do that! Only trouble is that the file got corrupt and went kaput…! Thankfully, the cast were great sports and I recorded the episode all over again in slightly smaller chunks. This episode, I sat down with Mr Thomas and Emma to talk about his perspective as a man who hated school as a child but how it changed when he became an adult; Mrs Craigie and Verity about the importance of pastoral care and extra-curricular activities; and Mrs Marsden, Abbie and Kyle about the effect that school really has on young people and what it can provide for them. It was a long one, but an interesting one, and a great way to mark the very end of my time at school forever.

As I said, I have truly loved this series of Opening Doors and am already extremely excited to start work on season three very soon. If you want to listen to Opening Doors, you can do so on desktop by visiting the Soundcloud page where all of the episodes are uploaded to, or you can subscribe on iTunes in the Podcasts app to get notified when new episodes are released. Also be sure to check out the website and follow on Twitter for more updates regarding a third season of the show.

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