Since the gripping, investigative-journalism podcast, Serial, kick-started an ‘aural revolution’ in 2014, podcasts have been cultural talking points to rival our favourite TV shows. And never more so than during the coronavirus pandemic: early spring saw a 7% increase in global podcast listening. This surge is predicted to continue, with researchers expecting monthly listeners to reach one billion by the end of the year (up from 484 million in 2017) and 1.8 billion by 2023. Plus, with a recent BBC survey revealing that podcast listeners want to be connected to a community of like-minded people, escape, and learn something new, we think ‘podcast’n’chill’ could be the phrase of summer 2020. So we asked top reviewer Hannah Verdier (find her work in The Guardian and her own regular email newsletter ‘Podcast Bangers’) to share her recommendations for your listening pleasure.
Download: BBC Radio 5 Live’s Fit & Fearless
The lowdown: The personal trainers behind @thegirlgains (an online community set up to educate, empower and inspire), Tally Rye, Zanna van Dijk and Victoria Spence are a three-headed force of fitness inspiration. Keeping it real, busting myths (ie don’t avoid fruit just because it contains natural sugars) and eating and exercising intuitively is their game. Guests include journalist and author Bryony Gordon, Strictly’s Gemma Atkinson and Gorka Marquez, and the legend that is Mr Motivator. It’s all about exercising for health rather than watching the scales.
Nugget you need: ‘Don’t wait on your weight to live your life.’ Tally Rye
Download: Happy Mum, Happy Baby
The lowdown: Giovanna Fletcher is the mum friend you wish you had, interviewing mamas from Kate Ferdinand and Katherine Jenkins to – drum roll – The Duchess of Cambridge (who talks about how terrifying it was bringing Prince George home from hospital). Want reassurance that it’s not just you going through that tricky stage? Gi’s got you. Nugget you need: ‘My kids have taught me so much. Probably the biggest thing of all is patience.’ Davina McCall
Download: Savage Lovecast
The lowdown: American sex columnist Dan Savage isn’t afraid to stray into X-rated, NSFW territory with his witty, no-holds-barred advice on everything from fantasies (‘You can have a long-term, committed, intimate, romantic relationship with someone that you get freaky with’) to navigating that ‘I’m not ready for a relationship’ talk.
Nugget you need: ‘Good sex is a skill – you need to think about it, work at it, and invite a little criticism. Sometimes you give pleasure without expectation of an immediate that.’ Dan Savage
Download: Mel Giedroyc Is Quilting
The lowdown: A podcast about making a quilt? Surprisingly, it works, because the soft-voiced chat that surrounds the sewing is so relaxing and funny. Ex Bake Off presenter Mel and her pal, Andy Bush, meander through conversations about life, kindness and random things such as spin bikes as they learn their craft. It’s a lesson in the value of being present as you sit down for a good chat with friends. Pure mindfulness.
Nugget you need: ‘It’s not about the race; it’s about the relaxation.’ Mel Giedroyc
Download: Work Like A Woman
The lowdown: This Mary Portas careers podcast proves you can combine ambition with kindness. If you need
a cheerleader egging you on to stand up for your rights or ask for that pay rise (when things are back to normal!), Mary has your back. Career experts also give advice on flexible working and embracing failure, among other dilemmas.
Nugget you need: ‘Employers need you as much as you need them.’ Mary Portas
Hosted by the amazing Yale professor, Dr Laurie Santos, each episode uses extraordinary human stories and expert insight to unpick what it is that makes us happy – and it’s not necessarily what we think. A must-listen for these unsettled times.
Helen Daly, content director
Think chat about yummy food with celebs. Plus, the banter Jessie has with her mum makes you feel like you’re in the room with them. It improved my cooking knowledge, too (essential during lockdown).
Abbie-Joelle Skliarsky, lifestyle writer
Listeners write in with true crime stories, then American hosts Karen and Georgia research the facts and read them aloud. Listening to them has helped distract me from any Covid-based health anxieties, albeit with gruesome tales of murder!
Kelly During, senior advertising manager
Entertaining pulling-apart of well known figures (Elvis, Margaret Thatcher, Picasso, Nina Simone), with panels that represent the ‘for’ and ‘against’ camps.
Geraldine Lynch, creative director
This always features inspiring people with incredible life stories to share – such as the now chief fire officer who spent time homeless when she was a teenager.
Michelle Daburn, advertising director