Passing the Torch Podcast

blog header (5)


Passing the Torch is a podcast aiming to preserve and pass on the knowledge of veteran activists and leaders to future generations. I spoke with founder Conor Doherty to discuss the inception of Passing the Torch, his experience hosting an activism-focused podcast and what it is like to be a rangatahi activist in today’s social climate. 


Could you briefly explain to us the kaupapa of Passing the Torch?

Conor: Passing the Torch is a podcast and video series where we talk to older activists and changemakers in New Zealand’s recent history and get a sense of their lives, their story, their upbringing, and why they do what they do. The focus is discussing the lessons and knowledge they have gained, which they can pass on to the next generation of activists we have coming through now.


What inspired you to start the Passing the Torch podcast?

Conor: Good question! I was working for the NZ Census, and during the long office hours, I listened to a lot of podcasts. I listened to this brilliant podcast, which was started by two former students at my old school (King’s College), called Both Sides Now. Their goal was to try and bridge some of the political divides and polarisations we see by talking to a range of political MPs and leaders from across the spectrum. I was listening to that, and I had also been listening to a bunch of history podcasts, one of which was about the origins of the Australian Green Party. As I was listening to both of these podcasts, I was thinking, ‘I’m an activist and I know lots of young people who are also activists, but I equally know a lot of young people who are passionate about the issues that are going on in the world but don’t have any guidance or knowledge of how to get into the activism ‘game’. I thought, why isn’t there a podcast, or any sort of media, where we listen to these older people who have gone before and know what they’re doing and who we can gain wisdom from? I thought, ‘Well, I guess I can do it’.


What are some of the things you have learned during the journey of your podcast so far?

Conor: The number one thing, and it’s so trivial, is everyone is contactable, reachable, and super happy to help. I think that speaks to the culture in New Zealand. We are really small and people are very connected, and if you stick your hand up and ask for help with something, someone will come back and say they are happy to help you. That was really nice because when I was emailing all of these people who were all huge names in New Zealand history, I was stressed that no one would reply, but everyone was really lovely.


They [the interviewees] all have such different stories and lives and challenges that they have faced, but the one thing that comes across through all of them is that it doesn’t matter what you are doing, what area you are trying to work in, or what kaupapa you are trying to push, you just need to be passionate about it. The passion is what will allow you to start, but it will also allow you to make connections to build that team around you that you need. It is what is going to keep you going in the moments where you’re not doing so well or you don’t get a win, which I have heard so much of, such as court cases that don’t result in a win or when dealing with personal issues in your life, the passion you have for whatever kaupapa you are trying to push is crucial in those moments.


What is your favourite thing about hosting a podcast? 

Conor: It has just been meeting these amazing people. Getting to connect with them personally and realising that they are just people like everybody else who have taken something that they care about or see as an issue and decided what they will do with their lives is to fix that. It’s both humbling and inspiring because I get to sit down with these people and realise that when we as the public are looking at these really big names, we think that there is something special about them that allows them to do what they do or be who they are, but they’re the same as everyone else. I guess that’s really inspiring and what I took from that is if you’re trying to be an activist for climate or if you’re trying to stand up for trans rights, etc., you don’t need to be this perfectly put together for the media, you don’t have to have worked in business for 30 years and gotten the name for yourself or anything. You can just say, “Hey, this is what I believe in and this is where I’m going to make a change”. 


Have any particular projects/interviews been especially insightful or eye-opening? 

Conor: I don’t want to play favourites but one of my favourites was a youth-focused bonus episode in which I interviewed Sophie Handford (Founder of School Strike 4 Climate and current Kapiti Coast district councillor). It’s weird because the whole point of the podcast is to talk to older activists, but I wanted to end it by showing the flip side by speaking to someone younger. That was a very inspiring interview because I connected with her on an age level, being that we are both young activists. The conversation with her also hammered home the fact that these are just regular people who are just choosing to make a positive change. Also, Sophie was really lovely as well!


What is important to you about being a young person in this role?

Conor: I’m going to draw on something Sophie [Handford] said because she put it so well, which is that young people feel a lot of unease and discontent with the way the world is moving, and many young people think some of the actions that our political leaders are taking aren’t in our best interest. The one issue that is probably the most unifying for young people is climate change. Not to sound cliché but I’m worried about it all the time and I know a lot of other people are as well. In the face of that, these systems can seem so monumental, and as one individual looking at these systems you go, “How am I going to do anything about this? I’m just one person standing up to this huge government or these massive oil organisations, and I don’t have the power to do that.” I also felt like that, but the podcast was a nice entry-level into activism. While I am not leading a march or heading a court case, what I can do with this podcast is show that people can do these things. As Sophie said to me when I asked her why she does what she does, “We are living in a moment of global history of such importance. I want to be able to look my grandkids in the eye and say I did everything I could in my moment to change the world and make it a better place for our mokopuna”. There are a lot of facets to that, and this podcast is my little own way of saying “I was trying to make the world a better place”. 


And finally, do you have any advice for anyone looking to start a podcast or something similar?

Conor: Yeah absolutely. When I started, I had no idea what I was doing, and to be quite honest, I still have no idea and I’ve already done the podcast. I don’t really have any video or audio skills, media training, or any contacts. I constantly felt like the whole thing was a shamble, and when the tech failed, as it inevitably does sometimes, I felt like I was going to cry. I would say to people with aspirations to start a podcast or magazine like Create Happy, or any project, that although it can feel like it’s not going well, your vision and what you are trying to achieve is something that is so uniquely you and you’re the only who can bring it. It’s also by that very virtue that we have as many of these perspectives out in the world as possible. ‘My advice would be: even if it’s falling apart, please do it!’


Check out the Passing the Torch podcast on Spotify and YouTube or at @Passingthetorch on Instagram.