Lydia Thompson has been working with Theatre Deli since 2014. Beyond being a person that we generally love having around, she's the hardcore producer of the Theatre Deli Podcast. We sat down with her to get a glimpse into how she works & what she loves..

How did you get involved with the Deli Podcast?

I wanted to combine the love I have for audio as a medium with my love of theatre, and of Theatre Deli specifically. So I messaged Roland (Smith, co-artistic director of Theatre Deli), and I don’t think I said much more than “I want to make a Theatre Deli Podcast.” He messaged right back, and basically said “I’ve wanted to make one for years. I’ve got an idea, let’s chat.” So it’s been a lovely collaboration. We don’t let each other drop the ball.

What do you find the most challenging about producing?

The most challenging part of producing the podcast is the editing. The recording session is a very different game to the audiobook world, so while the interview is going on, my brain is doing a lot of weighing up what I can fix in the edit and what might need re-doing at the time. Above all else, it’s a conversation - I want everyone to be free and comfortable. No good chat will come from people feeling on edge. But an actor told me once that when she does stuff at the BBC, the producer has a stick in the corner which she uses to prod people when they go off-mic. I hope the story is as exaggerated as that in truth. I hope it’s true. I also want one of those sticks.

What are your side hustles?

Writing for theatre is my life sentence. I also produce audiobooks, which most of the time means hanging out with amazing actors, checking waveforms and reading brilliant books

How did you get into audiobook producing?

A friend from university dropped me a message while I was working at Theatre Deli and said they were looking for more producers where he was working, and asked if I’d I be interested. I thought: it’s not often you get offered an opportunity like that…so I had an interview, worked full-time as Production Assistant then Production Manager, then went freelance to focus on producing. .

How long have you worked with Deli, and in what capacity?

Since September 2014. I moved to London to work in theatre without a job to go to, just rent to pay, and Deli graciously gave me a job as a Duty Manager. I’d become fascinated with theatre happening in unconventional spaces at university, so really wanted to work there. I found the Farringdon building completely magical right up until the end. Even when I was closing the building at 2am, I’d take a moment just to listen to it and explore. (Not sure I’ve ever admitted that.) Anyway, it’s always been a relatively small core team of driven, passionate people who chip in and do whatever needs doing, so I was also doing a bit of marketing, box office, rehearsal room bookings, building management, data analysis…I remember finding it really hard to write my job description when I moved on to producing audiobooks. After I left, I was back again 6 months later to do the odd weekend shift alongside my full-time job. Now I balance it with freelance work.

What keeps you working in the arts?

I spoke to Jon Cooper (of DifferencEngine) about this recently. I was having a creative wobble, and he made me feel a million times better by absolutely nailing why a lot of us continue working in the arts: it’s something we started a career in because when we were younger, it was all just fun and amazing. The further you get into your career, the more you get smacked by admin, closed doors and hurdles that no one tells you are there in the beginning, but now it’s too late to turn back, so you’ve just got to stick at it to save face.

…I’m also in it because I believe it’s fundamental to human health to have an outlet for expression, creativity, and a place to garner community and conversation. My greatest wish is for more and more and more diverse audiences to at least be given opportunity to try watching theatre. I listened to a podcast interview with the choreographer Wayne McGregor, and he talked about people not liking something before they’ve even had an opportunity to experience it. After we’ve seen something, we can form whatever opinion we want. But how can people love dance, love theatre, if the ticket prices are too high or it seems like there’s a class distinction? That really stayed with me.

How would 16 year old Lydia describe herself in 3 words?

Stressed, confused, heartbroken. (Weren’t we all?)

How would you describe yourself (currently) in 3 words?

Hmm. Better at pretending.

Which books should we read?

On the afternoon of writing this I read ‘Things I Don’t Want to Know’ by Deborah Levy and I never want it to leave my side. For writers, feminists, human beings, I recommend it. Also ‘Pond’ by Claire-Louise Bennett, and ‘Any Human Heart’ by William Boyd. Audiobook-wise, some of my favourites have been ‘The Healing of Luther Grove’, ‘Strange Weather in Tokyo’, ‘Adventures in Human Being’ and ‘The Inner Life of Animals’.

Why should we listen to the Theatre Deli Podcast?

After the first couple of interviews we recorded, Roland and I talked about this strange thing that happens when you sit in a small room together - with no extraneous distractions - and simply talk. The interviews are honest, patient, thoughtful and questioning in a way that you don’t often get sat with that person in a theatre bar. They are with a range of very inspiring individuals who have been on different journeys to figure out how/where/when/why they do what they do now, and I - personally - have found renewed strength and resilience in my career because of their stories. They are conversations about ourselves as artists, our place in artistic communities, and most prominently, our place and duty in relation to audiences. Emerging artists should absolutely listen and soak up the wisdom on offer, but each episode is also just a glance at the climate of the industry we’re working in now, so there’s a lot to take away for anyone interested in the arts.

…Also, listen for Roland’s top bantz, of course.

What's your motto?

Say yes to stuff.

What's your theme song?

Woozy with Cider by James Yorkston on the outside, the entire first Spice Girls album on the inside.