Q&A

HOT City podcast aims to tackle Halifax issues

‘Hali-centric’ podcast looks at love, youth engagement and more

A new podcast in Halifax is looking to make the community a better, more inclusive and more accessible place.

Heart of the City (HOT City) is a weekly podcast produced by ReachAbility, a non-profit organization that provides programs and services to people with disabilities.

“What we wanted to do was create an inclusive podcast that looked at what I call some of the sharper edges on some of those subjects that are truly Hali-centric,” said Tova Sherman, CEO, co-founder and HOT City host.

Patrick Fulgencio - HOT City
Tova Sherman (left) speaking to guest, Bruce Mills, during a recording of HOT City.   Patrick Fulgencio

The HOT City team has produced eight episodes on topics such as complaining, love, and youth engagement. Guests have included composer Bruce Mills, musican DJ Ace and Jana Henderson, co-director of the Bluenose-Ability Film Festival. The first show was released on Nov. 8, with new episodes airing every Tuesday, on Soundcloud through the ReachAbility website, until Dec. 20.

The episodes were recorded at the Halifax Central Library. On Nov. 19, during the last recording session, Sherman spoke to The Signal about the project and her experiences thus far.

What made you want to start HOT city?

We really wanted to create Heart of the City as an opportunity for like-minded people to create questions, not solutions. You’ll notice we don’t give a lot of ‘this is how you solve something’ but rather ask the questions, ‘what would you do? What are your thoughts on this?’ and try to create a narrative where people will talk to each other about it. If we just sit on TV (or other mediums, like radio shows or podcasts) and spout answers I think it’s both presumptuous and a little obnoxious, whereas my goal is to create questions and sort of do it in a fun, a little bit fearless, within the dynamic of appropriate, but still stay a little fearless in what we’re doing. Our hope was that people will start dialogues because when you give answers, you don’t create discussion. But when you leave lots of questions on a relevant subject, which is what we’re trying to do and then give resources to determine how you feel about it and to look a little closer to that, then I think we’re doing a good thing for everybody.

What kind of guests do you aim to have in HOT city?

Because (we are) aiming to be a weekly podcast, we load every Tuesday a new episode. As a result, we want to keep it broad enough to reach a lot of different subject matter. But at the same time, stay within the context of people who have creative, sometimes controversial ideas. That allows us to challenge what we’ve always assumed to be the status quo. Nothing makes me more uncomfortable than status quo.

Why is that?

I’m uncomfortable with the status quo because I think that means we’re not challenging ourselves. I always say to people, if you are comfortable, you’re not diverse. If you’re not in a room feeling a little awkward, that means you’re too comfortable with everyone and you’re learning nothing and you’re growing nowhere. So I’m committed to the idea of people being different. I don’t want them to be the same; I don’t want them to be like minded. I challenge and I look for people who are diverse, who often don’t agree with me because I’m curious (about) what got them there. I’m curious what got me there and I hope there are people listening who are equally as curious about where they stand.

Do you think HOT City is the only podcast of its kind in Halifax?

I think we’re the only podcast of our kind anywhere in Canada. What I mean by that is we are creating a specific voice that is Hali-centric, that is certainly transferrable in the sense that we are focused on inclusive issues. But I think we might be the only ones, certainly in one of the ten most beautiful libraries in the world and we are the only one coming from the centre of a library that’s really trying to create the atmosphere of being here every day. So I like to think that we’re pretty unique in a number of ways. And also, unlike a lot of the podcasts … we’re not going for answers; we’re just going to leave the questions.

Do you think you’re making a difference?

I believe in making a difference, even if it’s not going to make the change. Roosevelt said years ago that ‘we will never wipe out stigma of persons with disabilities, but that does not mean we don’t try.’ And another one of my favourite quotes is by Edward Hale … he was a poet and writer and what he said is ‘I will never allow that which I cannot do get in the way of that which I can do.’ And I think that that’s a really profound statement for all of us. So am I going to make the big difference? Maybe not. But I’m certainly not going to allow the fact that I won’t blow the roof off the place to stop me from trying to, maybe, create a crack in the ceiling.