This summer’s best podcasts
Lockdown made podcasters out of a lot of people who should really have stuck with the day job but among all the chaff, there most definitely is some wheat. Here’s Muddy’s pick of podcasts worth the MBs.
Conflict of Interest
Coming from the Imperial War Museum Institute, this fascinating seven-episode series takes recent conflicts of our time – for instance, The Troubles or the ongoing issues in Syria – and gets a celebrity to ask questions about it that we, as lay people, wouldn’t mind knowing ourselves. And said guests are taken on a tour around London, talking to people, objects and places that bring the story to life. So we have Guilty Feminist Deborah Frances-White asking about the Yugoslav Wars; Carey Mulligan hearing about Syria; Jamali Maddix talking about Afghanistan. You will probably end up sadder but definitely way smarter.
A Bit of a Stretch
A rather harrowing look into the prison system by BAFTA-winning documentary maker Chris Atkins who, back in 2016, spent nine months inside Wandsworth Prison for tax fraud. He’s since interviewed 20 former convicts and those interviews form the basis of this eight part series that is both fascinating and depressing as it reveals a system that is close to collapse, which does little to serve either inmates or society.
It Happened to Me
You might know comedian Michael Spicer from Twitter and his The Room Next Door Man YouTube channel. And if you don’t, you should: he basically pretends he’s the PR man for public figures when they give unforgivable public speeches, such as Donald Trump discussing the benefits of disinfectant. Here, there are seven ‘real life’ stories – all just a touch away from probable – and he plays every guest. Such as Keith Norcross, who wants to erect a statue of a slave trader in his little town of Chopple.
The Lazarus Heist
This stellar true crime podcast began on the BBC back in April and is still thrilling its audience and getting new fans on board every day. It deals with the Sony Pictures hacks back in 2014 that revealed confidential information about various Hollywood stars and personal data of around 4,000 employees. The hackers were North Korean and it was all linked to that Seth Rogan film The Interview about the North Korean regime that, all too clearly, didn’t impress Kim Jong-Un. Start listening now; episode 11 is about to drop.
The Ballad of Anne & Mary
If you’re a fan of musical theatre and are longing for the West End, this might keep you going for a bit. Bringing in stars from the shows and delivered almost entirely in song, The Ballad of Anne & Mary tells the tale of two fearsome female pirates in early Georgian London and a down-on-his-luck journalist who needs a good tale to keep the pennies rolling in.
BBC Radio 4’s Limelight programme has been devised to bring in fans of cliff-hanging drama, such as Line of Duty, and its very first offering – The System – is, sure enough, getting listeners hooked. The six-part thriller follows a young man called Jake who signs up to a mysterious personal development programme and gets involved in something far bigger and far more nefarious. BAFTA nominee Siena Kelly stars.
This nine-episode series tackles Britain’s interaction with the transatlantic slave trade and illustrates how even the most rural corners of this country are somehow tied up in that brutal slice of history. Journalist Moya Lothian-McLean, a descendant of both white slavers and black African slaves, presents the series that unearths stories you probably weren’t told in school.
A Brief History of Stuff
Over to The Science Museum for this one that takes host BBC 5 Live’s Nihal Arthanayake, a seemingly completely anodyne object – such as a rubber duck – and then explores the extraordinary story behind it. Other episodes include ‘Sticky Tape’ and ‘Vacuum Cleaners’. You’ll never look at your home the same way again.
Mitchell on Meetings
Can I speak for the nation and say we’ve all had enough of Zoom meetings for the foreseeable? In fact, can we widen that out to all meetings, ever? And while that may be the case, it hasn’t stopped them being a staple of working life. In this three-part series, comedian David Mitchell has decided to explore where meetings came from and if our meeting culture is tumbling out of control. (Answer: yes.)
A Life Less Ordinary with Sophie Elwes
Well now, this is life affirming. Sophie Elwes suffered a life-changing incident in 2011 when, aged 22, she fell from a balcony and crushed her spinal cord. Not that it stopped her from becoming a Team GB paralympics waterskier – and the host of this 20-episode podcast. Every episode a new guest, each who has overcome their own personal obstacles, relates to Sophie how they made it through the darkest times to the other side. The word ‘perspective’ comes to mind.