A North Yorkshire woman and her friend reached the top 10 of the Apple iTunes charts with their new pop culture podcast after releasing an episode on tourism in York.

Sarah Illingworth from Sutton on the Forest and her friend Lisa Williams, who lives in Norway, launched their podcast Straight to the Comments in March, covering topics around pop culture, entertainment, and celebrity gossip, and our societal attitudes.

They were inspired by what people say in online comments and how they influence the way we think.

The release of their episode, Magic and Mayhem, inspired by tourism in York, reached number eight in the UK Entertainment News category of Apple podcasts on April 25.

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In the episode, the women discuss how Shambles has changed since the rise of Instagram and release of Harry Potter, The Ghost Merchants going viral on Tik Tok, and how tourism affects the lives of residents.

Sarah, 39, explained: "Lisa and I went into the Shambles after having not been for a while, and we were struck at how it was full of Harry Potter - despite it not being linked in any way!

"The Visit York website says Diagon Alley in the books was inspired by the Shambles, but in 2020, JK Rowling said in a Tweet that it isn't, and she has never even been to the Shambles.

"The Shambles is beautiful in itself, it doesn't need this untruth to help tourism."

York Press: JK Rowling's Tweet at the timeJK Rowling's Tweet at the time (Image: Newsquest staff)

As reported in The Press at the time, Paul Whiting, former head of marketing at Make It York, tweeted in response: "The Shambles helped inspire the film version of Diagon Alley.

"Over the years the message has always been that producers of the films came to York to get inspiration. Doesn’t take away the magic from the books or one of the most beautiful medieval streets in the world."

Sarah added: "We were also struck by The Ghost Merchants queue and the millions of views it gets on Tik Tok. A taxi driver told us that people get picked up from the station to go straight there and queue for hours.

"Why has York gone so hard on the wizardry when it has distinct periods of authentic and beautiful history that are alive and sell themselves?

“The Shambles was also full of people just there to take Instagram photos. We need to balance the need for tourism and commercialism with the impact on locals.”

Sarah and Lisa started the podcast as they wanted to do something creative.

"It was so exciting to reach number eight, especially after having had no existing social media profile,” Sarah said.

"We take away the guilt we can feel from celebrity gossip, remembering that celebrities are humans by being compassionate and looking at what we can learn from them." 

Listeners can find Straight to the Comments on all major podcasting platforms, including Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and Google Podcasts