Miranda Sawyer’s best audio of 2021 | Radio

A busy, busy yr for audio. As in 2020, lockdown gave all audio a lift – in standing, in addition to listeners. The dearth of gigs, theatre, artwork reveals or cinema from January to March meant that audio (radio, podcasts, music) jumped up the cultural ladder. Podcasts had been additionally boosted by but extra celebrities deciding to fill their lonelier hours with a “speaking to my well-known mates” present. Listeners responded, and podcasts at the moment are the quickest rising audio medium (although reside radio nonetheless makes up most of what we take heed to).

Anita Rani.
Anita Rani. {Photograph}: Antonio Olmos/The Observer

2021 noticed some fascinating big-name radio appointments. Emma Barnett and Anita Rani joined Lady’s Hour to nice success, although the previous began contentiously (Kelechi Okafor refused to look when she overheard Barnett discussing with producers whether or not Okafor was antisemitic). Amol Rajan moved to In the present day, the place he has introduced a extra conversational really feel (when he remembers to decelerate his pure gabble). In late spring, much-loved Radio 1 stalwarts Annie MacManus and Nick Grimshaw each introduced their departures, with MacManus’s closing hyperlink attaining a life of its own on social media (“Life is brief. It thunders by. In the event you just like the music, you’ve got to rise up and dance. Simply do it”). And 6 Music’s afternoon dafty Shaun Keaveny additionally left, however sadly not of his personal accord: his funky substitute, Craig Charles, is upbeat however much less of a pure match. Graham Norton give up his Radio 2 Saturday morning present to do the identical on Saturdays and Sundays for Virgin Radio (no impact on Virgin’s Rajars so far). On 5 reside breakfast, Rick Edwards joined Rachel Burden, changing Nicky Campbell with out fuss or hassle.

In March, the BBC introduced a gradual however obligatory transfer to the areas. A lot of this Large Shift About meant modifications for radio manufacturing groups: Newsbeat journalists are off to Birmingham, expertise hacks to Glasgow, and extra of Radio 3 and 6 Music’s output should come from exterior the capital (Charles’s present relies in Salford). A number of old-timers, together with the good expertise correspondent Rory Cellan-Jones, selected to retire somewhat than transfer.

The Battersea Poltergeist.
‘Spooky real-life tales’: The Battersea Poltergeist. {Photograph}: BBC

In industrial radio, area of interest continues to be king, with Growth Radio, which launched in February, aiming for the sixtysomethings, and Biggest Hits for the uncool Gen X-ers (the likes of Alex Lester and Mark Goodier had been joined by Simon Mayo in March). Occasions Radio has carried out effectively in its first yr (round 640,000 weekly listeners), providing a sparky different to Radio 4 and 5 reside.

Outdoors radio, huge firms are getting critical about our ears. Spotify gave us podcasts from real midlife superstars Barack and Bruce (Renegades), the UK’s biggest YouTubers, the Sidemen (The Fellas, What’s Good With Miniminter and Randolph) and the most well-liked podcaster on the planet (Joe Rogan). Its reward was to overhaul Apple and BBC Sounds as the most well-liked podcast platform for youthful audiences. Audible, recognized for audiobooks, has quietly been making some gripping UK podcasts, together with investigative reveals Finding Q, Death at Deepcut, and ingenious dramas such because the Jed Mercurio-exec’d Zoetrope. Wondery, dependable banger-out of US true crime, added some UK reveals this yr, resembling the superb Harsh Reality.

With huge firms comes huge cash: in June, US-celebrities-interviewing-their-mates present Smartless was purchased for a reputed $80m by Amazon Music, which additionally snapped up Wondery. However amid all these greenback indicators, the query is whether or not there’s sufficient promoting income to assist the impartial podcast sector. Some glorious reveals are discovering it tougher to safe these all-important mattress/ bush-trimmer/ web site design advertisements, as they’re all being hoovered up by, you guessed it, new movie star reveals. Nonetheless, there isn’t a doubt that since lockdown 2020, audio has boomed. Anticipate much more subsequent yr.

The highest 10 reveals/podcasts of 2021

Former Liverpool and England winger John Barnes, one of the subjects of Coming in from the Cold.
Former Liverpool and England winger John Barnes, one of the themes of Coming in from the Chilly. {Photograph}: Christopher Thomond/The Guardian
Jon Ronson.
Jon Ronson.

1. Issues Fell Aside
(Radio 4)
Jon Ronson traces the customarily shocking origin tales of at this time’s raging tradition wars.

2. Welcome to Your Fantasy
(Pineapple Road Studios/Gimlet)
Sensible in-depth telling of the true crime story you by no means knew you wished: the historical past of the Chippendales. Host Natalia Petrzela is great all through.

3. Finding Q: My Journey Into QAnon
Journalist Nicky Woolf reveals the wreckage that QAnon leaves in its path, and will get a face-to-face interview with the person most definitely to be Q.

4. Harsh Actuality
Wondery makes use of its long-established true crime strategies to look at the life of trans girl Miriam Rivera, and the way a UK actuality present exploited her and others.

5. Uncanny/The Battersea Poltergeist
(Radio 4)
Danny Robins’s two good Radio 4 sequence in regards to the paranormal: The Battersea Poltergeist, a documentary (with drama sections) in regards to the 12-year haunting of an abnormal household; and Uncanny, which examines 10 spooky real-life tales.

6. Coming in from the Cold
(TalkSport/Unedited Tales
This glorious six-part sequence traces the historical past of black gamers in English soccer, and consists of testimony from Cyrille Regis, John Barnes and Raheem Sterling.

7. Windrush Stories
(Nationwide Jail Radio)
Full-length tales from the Windrush era and their kids, produced and offered by DJ Flight. NPR is nurturing some critical expertise (see additionally Brenda Birungi, winner of best host: speech audio at this yr’s Audio Manufacturing awards)

8. Consolation Consuming
(The Guardian)
Well-known individuals as diverse as Scarlett Moffatt and Bernardine Evaristo talk about their previous by way of the medium of their favorite consolation meals with Guardian restaurant critic Grace Dent.

We Didn’t Start The Fire

9. We Didn’t Start the Fire
(Crowd Community)
A witty and engaging trendy historical past lesson from Katie Puckrik and Tom Fordyce, by way of the lyrics of Billy Joel’s hit.

10. Sweet Bobby
A mad story of the immensely sophisticated catfishing of a shiny younger UK girl, which begins off brilliantly however – as is usually the case with true crime – falls away quickly as soon as the baddie is revealed.


Any podcast of a celeb interviewing one other celeb
With a number of honourable exceptions, such podcasts are at all times too cosy to supply something greater than boring anecdotes and mutual stanning. We all know you want the eye, well-known individuals, however you may all cease now.

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