1. Please tell us about who you are and what you do.
I’m Scott Allsop, a history teacher at the British School of Bucharest and creator of the HistoryPod podcast.
2. Share your backstory with us. How did your business or organisation come about and what was it that switched you on to this area in the first place?
I began teaching in 2004, in quite a challenging school in the UK. It was around the time that portable MP3 players were becoming more affordable, and I realised I could record educational material for my exam classes to listen to. The students got to look cool with an MP3 player, but they’d still be accessing some history. My original podcast (www.mrallsophistory.com) took off from there, and was the first educational history podcast to be listed on iTunes in the UK.
By 2015 I was keen to broaden my reading and understanding of the past beyond ‘the syllabus’, and had become fixated on the idea that something significant happened every day of the year. I consequently set myself the challenge of creating HistoryPod (www.historypod.net) – a 3 minute overview of one event that happened on that day, released every day. Five years later it’s a top-100 iTunes podcast and has spawned two books that had their launches here in Romania.
3. What do you think or hope the future has in store for you and your business? Where do you see yourself or your organisation five years from now?
My focus, first and foremost, is on teaching history. In five years’ time I’d love to still be in a classroom helping students grapple with the complexities of the past.
Regarding podcasts, the past couple of years have seen the medium move from the realm of the enthusiastic amateur into a playground for large media companies. Over the next five years I expect independent creators like myself to be drowned out by commercial content and advertising. I intend to keep producing HistoryPod, but will be adding audio-visual content to my existing YouTube channel to expand the potential audience. I’ve also received expressions of interest to write another volume of my book series based on the podcast, so this is something I will gradually work on over the next few years – but I’m not in any rush.
4. How has lockdown been for you and for your business and what have you done that has helped you personally and professionally?
As an educator, who continued to teach full-time while also looking after two young kids at home, every waking moment became work. As we settled into a better routine things calmed down a bit, but there was a huge uptick in the amount of work I was doing in the evenings and at weekends. This ate into the time I’d otherwise be writing and creating. However, the fact I’ve got a home-recording setup for my podcasting has been really useful for me as a classroom teacher as I can easily just plug in and teach my classes remotely.
As for podcasting, the medium across the board has experienced a huge hit as a result of lockdown – global estimates are that podcast downloads have dropped by at least 1/3. This is because a lot of people listen during their commute, and with people working from home that audience has disappeared. However, my back-catalogue of existing educational episodes has been used by teachers around the globe to help them deliver lessons to their own students while schools have been closed. It’s quite overwhelming to know that my materials are being used by so many people.
5. What’s your take on Bucharest and Romania. What are the highs and the lows in your opinion?
As a family we really enjoy living in Romania, a country of so many contrasts and with so much to explore. Visitors love the openness of the people here, and Bucharest in particular is a great city as it offers so much in a small geographical footprint. The number of parks and playgrounds mean we often spend a lot of time outside with our kids, but we also love getting locked in an escape room so are spoilt for choice here and have been really impressed by the way the companies have produced online offerings during lockdown. In terms of lows, it’s really frustrating that the Bucharest Metro system never seems to go exactly where you want it to!
6. What is your must do/must visit/favourite thing to do or show off to visitors here in Bucharest and Romania at large?
A lot depends on how much time people have, but a morning in the Village Museum enables us to tick off numerous things in just a few hours! We also like wandering from Piața Revoluției down Calea Victoriei and through the Old Town, stopping off for some sarmale… that food could keep me in Romania forever. We were also lucky to have arrived in the city just as the craft beer industry really started to take off, so we also enjoy taking people for a guided tasting of craft beers from around Romania at the Beer Institute.
7. What is your number 1 recommendation now for a book/film/series/app/ or gadget?
We recently stayed at a remote cabin on the Transfăgărășan where I was introduced to the Muntii Nostri app. The mapping of the trails is excellent, and the GPS function is great when showing kids how far we’ve walked and/or how much further we have to go!
8. If you could eat in any restaurant in all of Romania and have dinner with anyone in the world (not a husband/wife/relative) which restaurant would that be and with which person?
Purely for its location, the terrace at Hotel Posada Vidraru on the Transfăgărășan. The view over the lake is sublime, and once it hits evening all the day-trippers have gone so it’s lovely and quiet. Our kids also swear their papanași with chocolate is the most incredible thing they’ve ever tasted.
In terms of a guest this may be a bit leftfield, but I think I’d opt for Darron Speck from the first series of the BBC series Race Across the World. I don’t know anything about his background or even what he does as a day-job, but in those six episodes as he raced against 5 other teams overland from Greenwich to Singapore with his son I was blown away by his attitude and outlook on life and thought “that’s someone I’d love to get to know”. To drive halfway up ‘the best road in the world’ with him and put the world to rights over a few too many dark beers would be fabulous.
9. Sum up your business in one sentence, what it is and why should people engage with it.
HistoryPod proves that something important happened somewhere, and to someone, on every day of the year.
10. Describe your Romania in one word.