For Media Enquiries, please email [media] at theveganoption [dot] org.
You can download high resolution images here, including Ian at a Jain temple, at the British Museum, and attempting to interview some sheep.
Potted Notes On:
Ian McDonald produces and presents The Vegan Option, with the help of a range of co-hosts. He is a BBC-trained radio producer and a full-time digital media nerd. His career is broad-ranging – a licensed London Underground busker, computational biochemistry PhD, game designer, software engineer, BBC blogger. project manager, and radio producer.
He has producer credits on BBC Radio 3 (the national cultural station), but the majority of his output is on London’s art radio station, Resonance 104.4 FM.
The Vegan Option
In 2011, Ian developed The Vegan Option to fill a niche. There were excellent vegan podcasts based around casual conversation, but no-one was applying the values of built speech radio that he’d been trained to do. Like vegan bakeries that win mainstream awards, he wanted to make “really interesting radio that just happened to be vegan”.
He became the first person to interview the 2010-15 parliament’s three vegan MPs, and sought out people who’d appeared on TV in 1976 as vegan babies. The show was nominated for the 2012 national VegFestUK awards. Startup “British Public Radio” chose The Vegan Option as part of their showcase of the best of the UK’s independent public radio, with director Matt Hopper saying:
“The Vegan Option” is put together with production values that put it way beyond ‘podcast’ status, and the programmes will sit well alongside our existing output. Any worries that “The Vegan Option” would only be of interest to vegans were soon dispelled – it’s a good listen for everyone.
In the 2011/2 season, Dr Diana Fleischman, a senior lecturer at the University of Portsmouth, co-hosted. Co-hosts during the 2012/3 season included Erin “Red” Gray, Catherine Laurence and, in a live show, award-winning baker Ms Cupcake.
In 2014, The Vegan Option began broadcasting on the UK’s leading art radio station, Resonance FM.
Vegetarianism: The Story So Far
This is a landmark narrative history series of 15 half-hour episodes, broadcast monthly on Resonance 104.4FM. It covers the whole backstory of today’s vegetarian and vegan movements as far back as the dawn of history.
As the project began, Ian commented:
Researching the history of vegetarianism, I quickly realised it was a much bigger and more exciting topic than would fit into a couple of episodes. It needs a full on series, full of interesting characters and amazing twists, from Pythagoras’ vegetarian mathematical musical cult to the Indian conqueror who repented from violence and boasted in stone edicts of the number of animals his kitchen spared.
To tell it properly is a much bigger project than The Vegan Option has ever done before.
At the beginning of 2014, 123 backers from all over the world raised over £3,564 in a successful crowdfunding campaign.
This crucial funding enabled Ian to go to the places where the story unfolded. Over the course of five weeks in India, he slept in trains nine nights out of 35 – at one point for four nights running so he could double back and make multiple interviews. Crossing the subcontinent West to East and North to South, he gathered material at Mohandas K Gandhi’s Ashram, at the birthplace of Buddhism and Jainism, the edict of King Ashoka by his bloodiest battlefield, and the temple erected by the eighteenth century Tamil diarist, Ananda Ranga Pillai.
Ian also gathered material in Paris (visiting the home of Rousseau and the coffee-house frequented by Voltaire), in New England (including the failed vegan commune that inspired the novel “Little Women”), and in Salford (the radical church that produced much of modern vegetarianism).
The series premièred inside the chapel of a Victorian “settlement” in the East End on January 17th. Backers like Ed Pizzi praised its intellectual rigour saying:
I loved the narrative, and it took me back to the religious studies courses I took in school – trying to reconstruct ancient traditions from a mix of historical and religious sources.
The series is broadcast at 5pm on the first Tuesday of each month on Resonance 104.4FM/DAB, repeated at 10.30am the following Tuesday. The first episode broadcast on 2 Feb 2016, with the last scheduled for 2 May 2017.