As she launches awards for women’s podcasts, Marlow local and equine vet Naomi Mellor talks about smashing the ceiling
When I spent a little time out of work during the winter lockdown of 2020, I considered switching careers and following up my love of animals, before journalism pulled me back in once again. Perhaps I should have spoken to Naomi Mellor back then as undoubtedly she would have inspired me to tackle a couple of careers at once.
“My life is comprised of a collection of jobs these days, some would say it’s a ‘portfolio career’, but I consider it a wonderful mix of opportunities and varied experiences that keeps me out of trouble,” smiles the Marlow local. “For the last three years I’ve worked part-time as a vet in horse racing at racecourses around the south east of England, which I balance with podcasting, running The Skylark Collective and the International Women’s Podcast Awards, and some other hosting and presenting work. Each week is different, and I could be anywhere from Buckinghamshire to Brighton or Bath. I have now got a colour-coded Google diary to keep me in the right place at the right time with the right hat on!”
Of her many hats, it’s the podcasting side that is currently taking centre stage, especially The Skylark Collective. “It is a global collective for women in podcasting,” Mellor says of the organisation she founded, “a place for women to connect, collaborate and celebrate their achievements, with the aim of raising the profile of female podcasters worldwide and levelling the playing field in the industry. There are women’s networks across the UK in a range of different sectors and I thought it was time to start one for women in podcasting too. One of my passions in life is meeting new people and connecting others, and I’m aiming to create a place where women meet like-minded friends and contacts for collaboration and, quite honestly, a bit of fun. We all need that post-Covid!”
With The Skylark Collective idea brewing, Mellor was already thinking about how she could take her mission a step further. “I realised that there was no awards ceremony anywhere in the world dedicated to championing the brilliant work of women and non-binary podcasters, so there was a real opportunity to start that kind of celebration and organise an event,” she explains. “The kernel of an idea has grown and developed, so the first International Women’s Podcast Awards will be presented by Vick Hope of BBC Radio 1 at Allbright in London on 23 September. To me, the joy of podcasting lies in its intimacy, and in the atmosphere created between the host, guest and listener. I so often hear people talking about moments of incredible sensitivity, humour or honesty that have kept them engrossed. The Awards celebrate these intimate moments of podcasting brilliance and the women that make them happen.”
It was Mellor’s own unique career path that inspired her to try something new. “My original podcast, Smashing The Ceiling, tells the stories of women with unusual, interesting and inspiring careers,” she says. “I love to talk to women who have taken ‘the road less travelled’ job-wise, and to hear how they have done it. We have featured everything from a motor racing driver and underwater camerawoman, to a disabled fashion designer and naked yoga instructor.
“I started Smashing The Ceiling as a challenge to myself after having a bit of an unsettled time in my professional life as a vet,” Mellor continues. “Things were a bit up in the air work-wise, so I decided to set myself two personal goals: to launch a podcast and run an ultramarathon. Sarah Williams, founder of the Tough Girl podcast, was my mentor and taught me everything I needed to know. She helped me to get started in podcasting and prepare for the ultramarathon, and things have gone on from there.”
Mellor has been a vet for 14 years and specialises in horses, particularly racehorses. Despite the flourishing podcasting side to her life, Mellor is still enthusiastic when she recounts her career as an equine vet. “I’ve been really lucky to have worked on an island in the South Pacific and Australia earlier in my career, and closer to home I now often work at Royal Ascot, the Derby and Cheltenham Festival. Being a vet has been a passport for me to see the world and be gainfully employed in the process, and I really embraced the opportunities to travel and live abroad when they presented themselves in my 20s. It’s also a fantastic buzz and a real treat to be part of the team at such prestigious and traditional events that are a real part of the fabric of British life.”
Whether it’s tending to horses or running a group of talented female podcasters, Naomi Mellor has excelled – and it seems like only the sky’s the limit to where she goes from here.
NAOMI MELLOR’S MARLOW MOMENTS
How long have you lived in Marlow?
I’ve been around Marlow since 2012, with spells out in Wiltshire and Suffolk between 2017 and 2019, but we always seem to come back! I’ve previously lived in the centre of Marlow and absolutely love the buzz of the high street. We’re currently a few miles away in the village of Lane End – we can walk out from our front door into the Hambleden Valley, which has been a real relief during lockdown. I spent hours walking my dog round the Valley whilst on furlough from work last year and discovered some wonderful new areas right on our doorstep that we’d never really had time to explore before.
What do you love about the area?
When I moved here in my 20s, most of my friends lived in London and I loved the proximity to the city whilst also being by the river. Now I appreciate the countryside more, and the open space that’s around. I love being in and around nature, and try to spend as much time as possible by the Thames. We love swimming and stand up paddle boarding, and although the beach is our ideal home, the river makes a pretty good substitute.
Is it the perfect place for animals of all shapes and sizes?
Absolutely. Buckinghamshire is a haven for dog walkers and horse riders due to its great network of footpaths and bridlepaths, and there’s space for everyone, whether you’ve got a hamster or guinea pig for the kids, or a few sheep or alpacas at home!
Naomi Mellor is the founder of The Skylark Collective and the International Women’s Podcast Awards. You can listen to her podcast, Smashing The Ceiling, telling the stories of women with unusual and interesting careers on Apple or Spotify