Wake up London: A Mindfulness Podcast


Joe Holtaway is a singer / songwriter and trainee Chaplain from England who has been part of Wake Up London for the last 10 years, and as he says ‘Wake Up London has become a part of me!’. With the encouragement from friends in the London Plum Village family, one of his latest projects, the Wake Up London Podcast, opens the door to what goes on in the community – come on in.

About 8 years ago (I think) I remember Elina Pen and I (one of the Wake Up London pioneers; I like to take every opportunity I can to water Elina’s flowers!) talking about Sangha-ideas. I’ve come to think of these ideas as seeds to not get too attached to and at the same time, seeds you got to sow and see what happens! I remember one of the ideas moving around my consciousness that day was about making a podcast. Many friends listened to podcasts and somehow I just felt we should have one for Wake Up London; how it was going to manifest I wasn’t sure, but I did know that many of the conditions for it’s existence were there: the wish to share our growing community, Elina’s acceptance and belief in everyone (!) and my long time love of sound recording. Joe of 8/9, my mum will tell you, was making radio shows on a small tape recorder, so much so I wore one of record buttons out; thankfully my mum was kind enough to replace it as an early next birthday present! On reflection a few conditions were yet to manifest.

Joe Holtaway

We had a newsletter at the time, made easy by the emerging software around content sharing. I remember getting those together and feeling, wow there’s an interbeing here; as subscription and open-source software became available that was creative and in touch with an aspiration we had to share the community in an accessible way. The podcast was to wait some more years, and as those years passed I began to understand sound recording more as I started recording my own music more. I acquired microphones and continued my inner-child joy of layering sounds and sharing them – an early example here

Dear Friends: (artwork from Zarah Reinhard) – ‘The Music We Are’ week at the EIAB/ in Germany soundcloud.com

Imagine a bedroom of many wires and cables – mindfully tidied away later of course (sometimes!).

Recording music inspired by Sangha life became an ongoing love; we recorded Peace Sounds a compilation album in celebration of Thay’s UK visit in 2021 – that went on to bring another, Peace Sounds 2 album, in 2016 and another currently in progress!
2015/16 took me to Plum Village for the Rains Retreat and staying on through 2016 as a volunteer with Wake Up Schools, recording songs for the project. It was during that period with use of the recording studio in Son Ha (yes there is a recording studio in Upper Hamlet) that I developed a growing interest in recording people’s stories and songs alongside my own. I kept a blog on the project you can find here where I took my last half a year in the village to document the ‘music scene’ in the village at the time. This was a beautiful time of conversation, song and stories.

Returning to London in 2017 I continued recording my own songs that became More The Love That’s Given in late 2019; 10 songs inspired by the experiences of the previous five or so years. There’s A Place and Be Still directly based on Thay’s teachings, but all the songs on the album relate in ways to his presence in my life as I’m sure all will ongoing.

Remembering the love of recording stories in Plum Village I also made a commitment to myself to continue this as I became involved with other social activist engagements; Extinction Rebellion, Stop The War, The Samaritans, Southwark Day Centre for Asylum Seekers…

As I know all of us, life brought me many interests; the difference now though was how I engage with them. Inspired by my time at Plum Village it felt that I wanted to do so through a reverence for the path of practice, the teachings. Being back in London, and through Thay’s encouragement to look to one’s own roots I made space also for my love of the Quaker community and continue to hold both PV and Quakers in relationship in my life. 

And so…The Podcast… with some more experience and some more encouragement from friend Cata (Plum Village app co-developer and The Way Out Is In Podcast team member) in the mix one condition remained: how do you get a podcast published? I can thank Sangha sibling Twan Peters for this. Our new social media person, the talented Twan saw no obstacles and encouraged me to record the pilot episode and blessed it through the hosting process. Episodes so far have looked into War in Ukraine from different perspectives, poetry, burnout, Colours of Compassion Sangha, Rainbow Sangha and the early days of Wake Up.

In conclusion I get the feeling writing this article that it’s good to reflect, to see what has manifested and why and remember how good it feels have the interest and encouragement of friends on the path, something I will continue to aspire to provide myself to others.

The Wake Up London Podcast is currently presented to Joe Holtaway, and available on Spotify and at wakeuplondon.org/podcast

The latest episode of the Wake Up London Podcast is International, talking to friends from Spain, Israel, Hong Kong and Sweden. If you’d like to be in our next international episode please get in touch at podcast@wakeuplondon.org

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