When New Zealand first went into lockdown in early 2020, Otago Access Radio invited Professor Samuel Mann, co-host of the Sustainable Lens series, to consider a new series about life in lockdown, while people were isolating in their "bubbles". Sam invited Mawera Karetai, also of Otago Polytechnic, to join him, and Blowing Bubbles was born. Sam and Mawera's conversations with interviewees in their bubbles, were broadcast into listeners' bubbles.
Sam and Mawera chose interesting people from New Zealand and overseas who would provide different perspectives, in order to capture diverse voices and experiences in a shared situation. They have interviewed politicians, truck drivers, children, teachers, and elderly people. Each interviewee is asked "how was your bubble life?" and invited to pick two songs. Sam and Mawera ask interviewees what they do and why they do it and what their aspirations are. These aspirations can be personal or professional or for humanity, both reflecting and influencing interviewees' social contexts. The interviews provide an opportunity to see the world through someone else's eyes, to capture their story, and provide insight into a time of significant social change.
The show has been broadcast five days per week during lockdowns, and three days per week at other times. Over 400 recorded episodes are freely available as a podcast series. Sam and Mawera have found that despite all going through similar COVID-19 restrictions, people have different stories and experiences. Some people thrived while others have struggled. Some themes have emerged, for example about what matters to people, which Sam and Mawera intend to publish in a book.