Episode 4. Nick Hilton of The Town That Didn’t Stare

“The Town That Didn’t Stare is a podcast documentary about Britain’s Twin Peaks: East Grinstead, the home of alternative religions and spirituality in the UK.”

Over six episodes, writer and producer Nick Hilton explores how East Grinstead became a “figure of national curiosity” in England. The culprits? The Mormons, Scientologists, Guinea Pigs, prime meridian and maybe even Led Zeppelin.

Located in the South East of England, East Grinstead has an unusual history for a small town. It is home to a surprising array of religious groups and is perhaps best known for its association with Scientology. L Ron Hubbard, founder of the Church of Scientology set up residence and international headquarters there in 1967.

During World War II, an innovative medical institution was founded in the town. Directed by Sir Archibald McIndoe, the centre specialised in reconstructive surgery and other experimental treatments for RAF burn victims. It became known as The Guinea Pig Club.

Nick pursues an explanation for East Grinstead’s status as a “hot spot of alternative thought” through interviews with Jon Ronson, Ian Sellar, Itiel Dror, John Sweeney and others. The Town That Didn’t Stare is an informative and entertaining podcast that is also a serious and humorous listen.

In this episode of MetaPod, Nick Hilton talks to us about influences on The Town That Didn’t Stare. These include Jon Ronson‘s The Butterfly Effect, Kevin Roose‘s Rabbit Hole podcast and the soundtrack of Stranger Things. We also discuss the state of play for independent podcast producers, podcast marketing and the role of influencers in podcasting.⁠

Show notes for The Town That Didn’t Stare

About Nick Hilton

Raised in the East Grinstead area, Nick Hilton is now a journalist and podcast producer. He was previously broadcast editor at The Spectator before starting his own company Podot, which specialises in current affairs and makes a slate of podcasts including A Podcast of One’s Own with Julia Gillard, The Everyman Podcast with James Naughtie, and House Work with Harriet Harman. He is also the podcast editor at the New Statesman, producing the biweekly New Statesman Podcast, as well as World Review and Skylines. As a journalist he has written for The Guardian, Vice, The Independent, the I, and Prospect, as well as The Spectator and New Statesman.