When I sat to speak with Brian about his upcoming Christmas podcast “Brian Dowling’s Big Camp Christmas Chat’s” his infectious enthusiasm for all things Christmas became immediately clear. After first thanking him for doing the interview he replied “Not at all I love Christmas!” with a childlike enthusiasm that only Brian can! He told me;
When I recently put up a poll on my Instagram asking people did the mind the early Christmas posts, because it can actually trigger some people, 93% actually said they liked it, they liked hearing about Christmas in September/October so I thought great, there we go, I’ve been given the green light!
Christmas brings so much joy and taking in your career transition into the world of podcast with the phenomenal success of “Death Becomes Him”, how do you find the balance of switching from such a sombre theme to a more upbeat on in your Christmas podcast?
The DBH podcast is funnily enough probably one of the most successful things I’ve ever done which is a very strange thing. It’s the one thing that I will get a dm on Instagram about and have done every day about that podcast, and it’s about a year and a half old. I now get stopped by people who want to talk about it, I’m so proud of what that podcast has created, I think it has allowed people to talk publicly about their grief, their vulnerability and people don’t see it as a weakness. I’ve been saying all along that I believe talking is therapy, its helped so many people and when I was actually doing DBH initially it was such a very heavy and sombre subject matter that I said to my husband Arthur that I’d love to do a podcast to bring a bit of light and love, I think I’ll do a Christmas podcast! He was like really?! I said yes I’m going to do one and I’m going to call it “Brians Big Camp Christmas Chats”. I contacted 7 people we ran it for 7 days back to back which was a lot. But this year I’m doing it for 5 weeks so it’s one episode a week and it was so good being able to talk to people about something so fun and positive. The first question was always “How has 2020 been for you?” because 2020 is a year we will all remember and then everyone gets asked the same Christmas related questions. When you sit down to do any podcast your guests bring a whole different vibe and different tone. Christmas is a bit like grief really, every individual has a different experience of it.
In terms of your own memories of Christmas growing up, is there anything in particular that instilled that love of Christmas into you?
I grew up with 6 sisters and to us Christmas was always more about family than the presents. I do remember one-year Mom locked the sitting room door because she didn’t want us getting up early and seeing what Santa had brought for us. I remembered I knew where she put the key so I got up at 3am and I went around to all my sisters and woke them up and we went down to find the presents. Mom and Dad got up and had the fire going, we were exhausted, I think I was only 10 at the time? Mom, you would think she would have killed us but not at all she relished in it. I remember the toys we would get, the new toy smell! We would only use the sitting room at Christmas because we were children back in the day so it was such a novelty to be in the sitting room with the fire, full of toys, we could eat what we wanted. Christmas day dinner is my favourite dinner ever. I just love everything about Christmas, it’s about family and love. Arthur and I are having all of the family here at our house on St Stephens day so it’s going to be full on, lunch for 25 people but we will all bring something as in one sister is bringing a ham, another sister a turkey, my neighbour Heather is doing the stuffing for me. We’ll put tables and chair together along with my theme of red and gold. I mean probably at 6pm I’ll be like oh god pass me a Cosmo but it’s so nice to be able to do it, especially now that Arthur and I have our own place here in Ireland.
Marrying your two podcasts together, is there any advice you would give to someone grieving for the first time through Christmas?
Yes, definitely, it was only recently I was talking about Christmas and I opened some dm’s and people tell me how triggered they are because they’ve lost someone close to them and the idea of Christmas fills them with dread. For us personally we have turned the negative into a positive, having lost Mom in 2018. For someone who had loved Christmas for 39 years, I was dreading that first Christmas but because we knew our Mom loved Christmas so much it helped us to fake our way through it? I remember on Christmas day our baby sister Tara who lives at home with Harvey and Dad, she cooked the whole dinner Mom would have and we were all very aware of that. I got up and gave a little speech and of course we all cried, we all felt the emotion. So now the Christmas tree at home goes up on the 10th of December, the date of Mom’s birthday in honour of her. I think you have to be able to do that and it takes a lot of courage to be able to do it, especially because Christmas is a very emotional time of the year. We go to the grave Christmas morning, we light a candle at Christmas mass, we bring flowers and all of that and talk about her a lot, memories of her that make us smile. You really have to force yourself to tell yourself your strong enough.
So Brian coming back to Big Camp Christmas chats, can you tell us what we have to look forward to on this year’s podcast?
I’m still currently casting it so I’m doing 5 episodes over 5 weeks starting on Sunday the 21st of November and it will run until 19th of December. I have 3 amazing guests confirmed already, you want to have a really good mix of people, different people but the good thing about it is no matter who I contacted absolutely love Christmas too! This time though I think I’m going to encourage people to drink, when Pippa O Connor and I did an episode last season I think we had downed a bottle of rose before we even started and you could tell! When I listen back I think oh my god I sound drunk but I sound fabulous so this year I shall be encouraging all my guests to have some pink fizz or something! For season one I had such amazing people, Doireann Garrihy, Pippa, Donal Skeahan, Tommy Bowe and Amy Huberman. I think season one did so well, it trended number one all over Christmas which probably puts more pressure on season 2. Season two will be equally as fun, equally as camp but just a little tipsier!
Lastly Brian, with the podcasts being such a huge success have you any plans to take it into a documentary or television format?
With DBH we were in talks to do that into a TV show but the issue with that was I wanted to retain as much rights and power as I could and honestly there was an issue with that, I was reluctant to give away any share to it because Arthur and I had worked so hard on it. I’m so passionate about the show, this podcast saved me from a lot because it really is my therapy, all of my guests have been my therapists. I would never rule it out though. We are doing a tour of DBH next year all around Ireland, we have 4 venues confirmed and it will be titled “Death Becomes Him; The Talking and Therapy Tour”. Basically it will be the podcast live with special guests and some experts. Even though the podcast can be sad and uncomfortable to listen to there is humour in there as well. My only fear is that if we took it to TV if there were cameras there would people be as vulnerable and open? With the Christmas podcast we are hoping to take it live next year, everyone loves Christmas so guests could play silly games, get drunk, dance etc. We are lucky these days we can make anything as interactive as we like? So who knows, I’d never rule anything out!
Brian’s Big Camp Christmas chats will be available on Spotify on November 21st