I spend a really quite ludicrous amount of time listening to podcasts. A the very least it’s twenty hours a week I spend listening.
Why? One part of that is simple, I fell out of love with Radio 4 sometime in 2016 and working alone I need something to keep me company. Music rarely works, because music allows the mind to wander and the gerbils of doubt to creep in with their insidious whisperings. For similar reasons, audiobooks (which make up the other half of my listening) sometimes don’t hit the mark.
Audiobooks are passive. You’re listening to the story, lovely, but after a couple of hours… variety.
So podcasts. Initially, that was so I could stay listening to bespoke bits of Radio 4 (Thinking Aloud, Word of Mouth, both still wonderful, whilst still weaning myself off the news. Then I went exploring. Oooh, the landscape was delicious, and I’ve paddled in the shallows of so many podcasts since, fallen in love – and been abandoned.
What draws me, keeps me, gets me to gush on twitter about a podcast? I’ve been thinking, and there are things. Definite things.
What then? What gets me binging on that back catalogue? Length. I like length. Over forty five minutes please, and over an hour is beautiful, it allows me to get on with work and immerse myself in the subject. I rarely listen to things that are less than half an hour.
Lots though have that timespan but don’t compel. I like a conversation. I like talking, it’s one of my things, and while I can’t take part in a podcast, a good conversation draws you in and it’s as if you’re sitting there listening in on a conversation, quietly minding your own business as your friends ramble away whilst you sip your coffee.
So a long conversation. A long conversation that’s real, that’s important. Most of my podcast listening is independent pods, because they aren’t constrained by language concerns. I swear, my friends swear, our conversations are adult because we’re adult. I want the conversations I gate-crash to reflect the linguistic world I inhabit, not a sanitised media world one.
Long fucking conversations. Long fucking conversations about things. That’s a big thing, remember I came into this landscape as a refugee from Radio 4, I like things. They can be frivolous things, serious things, but things rather than just idly chatting. The wonderful Gayish explores an esoteric topic each week, Queer Longing discusses the queer pop-culture landscape, Tufty Club gives a humorously cynical view of Sheffield United’s weekend.
Those things in those long fucking conversations mean I learn things. You’ll notice from the list at the end that a lot of my listening is LGBTQ+ and gender related. I have an interest, but every one of those pods tells me something, opens my eyes a little wider, expands my understanding a little more. In some cases, Black in a Box say, those learning experiences are because they’re outside my experience, in others, such as Gender Journeys or Coming Out Stories, they are my life, my journey, but the presenters, guests, expand, illuminate and deepen my knowledge.
Which is the other thing. Me. The best pods are fun, engaging, have length, tell me things. They also help me think and grow. Listening to Gayish, Coming Out stories, Menkind has helped me understand my own journey so much more. I’ve listened and thought, understood. I’ve had moments when someone’s shared an anecdote and I’ve had to pause because it resonated so much. Or in Her Dark Materials, where the different perspectives mean I go back and read one of my favourite books with a new eye. Lost Spaces, recently discovered, takes me into lost queer spaces, in the company of those who were there, and I learn our history, I learn about my history, I learn about myself. That’s a pretty special thing to be able to do.
Which is the thing, these podcasts, these best of podcasts, that fill my days and ears for hours on end and keep me company in rain and snow, are recorded and produced in people’s spare time. I fanny about on twitter in my spare time. In their spare time, these amazing people find stories, tell stories, keep the gerbils at bay and have, every one, helped me in some way grow, become more comfortable being me and a happier, more knowledgeable me too.
So, thanks to every wonderful podcast recorder, and below are some of those I would really love you to listen to, they’re my distant friends.
Black in a Box
Coming Out Stories
Over the Rainbow
Goblet of wine
Her Dark Materials
Blades PodWord of Mouth