As with many of the things we do, it’s hard to pin down exactly where the idea for Riot Ensemble’s new Podcast Chest of Toys actually came from.  A number of our musicians listen regularly to podcasts – including, of course, great ones about music such as Meet the Composer, the late Bob Gilmore’s  Tentative Affinities, Between the Liner Notes and (more recently) The Recital Roombut also a loads of others.

Then a couple years ago, one of our musicians pointed me to a BBC Radio programme where – in a review of the Huddersfield Festival of Contemporary Music – a comedian quoted an anonymous attendee who said: “the problem with contemporary music is that so much of it sounds like a chest of children’s toys coming down the stairs.”

And we firstly thought this was absolutely hilarious – but also, quite quickly, that it was also really a rather beautiful image of our world.  Loads of us teach young children, and we can tell you that there’s hardly anything in the world they’d rather hear than something so cacophonous, colourful and mischievous.

So we’ve been talking about this idea for some time now, and really thinking about what we might have to add to the current world of podcasts.  One thing we have noticed is that music podcasts were often (wonderfully) composer-focused, and seemed to have a kind of “drill-down” mentality.  Let’s find out everything about this piece, or this performance, or this moment in music history.

The deep context this brings to new music is vital, and being done wonderfully already, so what else could we bring?

One thing we noticed was that many of our favourite podcasts outside of this world approached their world more loosely, as a starting place to find stories that colour and shade the world they’re investigating for insiders and outsiders alike.  The way Reply All is ‘about’ the internet, 99% Invisible is ‘about’ design, or Radiolab is about science and philosophy.

So, we though, why not try that?  In Chest of Toys we’re going to be bringing you all sorts of interesting, cacophonous stories from the world of new music.  How health problems can lead an artist down a different path, the way a city comes together to celebrate their artists, the way music can be an escape route to a different part of the world and just what the heck performers do when some of these scores first turn up in their inbox.

The first three episodes will be released here, on the Sampler, over the next three months.  You can visit us – and find out more about each episode on our website.  And if you do tune in, and have some idea or ideas for other stories we could tell, we’d love to hear from you.  Please e-mail us at


We’re looking forward to sharing the stories with you!


Click to listen!