Perhaps the most beautiful and redeeming aspect of podcasting is the way it shrinks the world, making it eminently more accessible and understandable. Over the past week and a half, radio producers Timothy Nicastri and Mike Williams from Australian podcast The Real Thing
have engaged in a project that has done just that and the results are nothing short of excellent. The point of the undertaking is a simple one, that Nicastri and Williams set out to document all the positive stories they can find about the tiny New South Wales town of Wilcannia. If it seems a bit of a curious and random quest, there's a very good reason behind it. In January of this year the town of around 600 people was profiled as part of a BBC documentary series fronted by actor Reggie Yates seeking to tell a positive story about Aboriginal life. When it was at last released there were no traces of the positivity the production had originally promised. Instead, the footage shot was used to intentionally misrepresent the people of Wilcannia, causing the BBC to eventually retract the documentary entirely
. Thus, The Real Thing
sought to set the record straight and give Wilcannia and its people their due.
In all there are six episodes that make up the series, titled “Positively Wilcannia!” and they live up to their name in both Nicastri and Williams’ approach, as well as the stories they collect. They run the gamut from the way that Rugby League fandom is being used to help ensure that Wilcannia’s men get regular free health screenings. Or it could be the way that the Indigenous Barkindji language is being brought back through a series of dedicated speakers. Or in the way the elders ceaselessly fight to ensure a positive future of the children of the town. The undoubtable centerpiece of the episodes though comes in “Still Down The River,” where the pair tell the tale of The Wilcannia Mob, a group of pre-teen boys who recorded a rap that went viral, and brought the boys an unbelievable amount of fame, eventually ending up on an M.I.A. album.
The “Positvely Wilcannia”
series is just something so refreshing. To listen to all six episodes has the effect of transporting the listener on a sonic vacation to the town. There are so many moments of levity, pride, and genuine interest. Though the work that The Real Thing
has done for the town feels wonderful, it sadly won’t have the same reach as the BBC’s fraudulent documentary to fully undo the harm. But for those who take the time to listen to the program, it is a chance to learn more about a very intriguing and vital community that seemingly hasn’t gotten a fair shake from the outside world until now.