An Australian, Hannaford has lived in Hong Kong since 2000. She is inspired by the city’s ability to serve as home base – attracting and acting as a transit hub for fascinating people from around the world.
“I saw how transient this city is, and I noticed I was meeting some really incredible people,” says Hannaford, who has always been interested in people’s stories. “It felt like the most natural thing to start trying to tell stories about the people in Hong Kong.”
The Hong Kong Confidential podcast series is presented in interview format and deals with interesting and sometimes sensitive issues. Hannaford’s background as a teacher, student advisor and mother has given her the ability to ask the questions that get to the heart of the topics at hand.
She says despite some of the episodes’ challenging material – forced arranged marriage, abuse, sexuality – it is by telling stories and listening to people’s individual journeys that we are able to learn from them. The episodes often cover ways in which Hong Kong is unique – such as the quirky dating culture – as well as other aspects that make it such a cultural melting pot.
The premiere episode featured a Hong Kong-based doula (birthing companion) and nearly 20 episodes later has included, among others, a relationship coach, abuse survivors, a children’s book author, LGBTIQ advocates and activists, and a psychologist.
Feedback for Hannaford’s podcast has so far been extremely positive, including being featured as a new podcast on Auscast Network in Australia and it is now available on Spotify.
“What I love about doing this work is that although these people are speaking from the perspective of being in Hong Kong, their stories are globally relevant,” says Hannaford.
A recent episode featured Dr Michael Carr-Gregg, a child and adolescent Psychologist who was in Hong Kong to speak at an English Schools Foundation (ESF) education conference.
Carr-Gregg lives in Australia and speaks internationally on the topics of youth wellbeing, parenting, and supporting young people in education. He makes the connection between patterns seen in the youth in Australia and similar patterns around the world.
According to Carr-Gregg, we are parenting and teaching the most vulnerable generation yet, and he offers some key insights for incorporating some of the best research and knowledge into supporting our young people.
While visiting Hong Kong for the recent Human Dignity Festival sponsored by Planet Ally, Ugandan LGBTIQ activist Kamoga Hassan met with Hannaford to talk about his life as a gay man in Uganda and the way that he uses film to tackle social justice issues and raise awareness in the hope of changing hearts, minds and laws in his home country where homosexuality is illegal.
Jane Engelmann, who is behind the ‘Unsung Heroes,’ a choir of domestic helpers based in Hong Kong, offers insight into the special kind of sacrifice that these women make in leaving their families and children in their home countries, and working long days and hours to be able to support them.
Hannaford has also interviewed Matt Friedman of the Mekong Club, an organization dedicated to raising awareness about and stopping human trafficking and modern-day slavery. He shares personal stories about some of the victims that he has worked with and the shame associated with being forced into sex slavery.
Hannaford certainly is channeling her passion for stories and her curiosity around what it means to be human into this podcast, which is gaining traction in the hearts and minds of people in Hong Kong, Australia and around the world.
“The project seems to be nurturing itself,” she says. “I have some very interesting people already lined up for interviews.”
Hannaford’s efforts appear to be paying off. This year she was invited to appear at the Adelaide Podcast Festival in Australia and conducted a Hong Kong Confidential live interview in front of an international audience. She is also planning to be among the 2,000 podcasters attending the Podcast Movement Festival in Philadelphia this July.
“I’m so excited to see where this will go and how far I can spread these amazing stories,” she says.
If Hannaford continues to stay aligned with her mission – to tell inspiring, sometimes hard-hitting stories about real people – Hong Kong Confidential seems likely to continue its upward trajectory, while also making an impact.
(Note: Zara Hannaford is Jules’ daughter.)