Radio review: Podcasts offer a window into other worlds

Nuala McCann

I'm not saying the C word nor even the P for pandemic word, but in a strange new world when some broadcasters were forced to operate from the back of their large wardrobes – best acoustics when we're all in lockdown and lucky them for having big wardrobes – the quality was still superb.

Looking back on the last year, the sheer infinite variety is what I hail as well as the beauty of being unshackled from the demands of a tight radio schedule.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not the only one who, on a drive, gets hooked on an afternoon radio play and ends up sitting in the car outside the house just to catch the ending.

But the beauty of podcasts and BBC Sounds and RTE radio is the any-time nature of it.

Regular readers will know of my passion for Desert Island Discs – actor Brian Cox stood out this year. It was his description of humble beginnings when the scraps from the chip shop made for a dinner and his socialist principles as well as his love of fine clothes.

But visit the website and you can choose any number of people whose lives make for powerful listening – from Martina Navratilova who defected to the west to pursue a tennis career but missed her parents so much, to Maya Angelou who became mute at seven years old as the result of trauma.

RTE Radio One documentaries are always worth the listen and the arts programmes like Sunday Miscellany are central to weekends.

But podcasts are where it's at … they're more mainstream, often eclectic – the windows they offer on other worlds are astounding.

I'm a sucker for the laid back, chatty Fortunately with Fi and Jane, enjoy Love and Radio although it can, at times, prove deeply unsettling.

Prepare to be riveted if deeply unsettled too by the excellent Where is George Gibney? - the story of Ireland's national and Olympic swimming coach charged with child sex abuse who never stood trial. He vanished, but reporter Mark Horgan set out on his trail.

And then there's Falling Tree Productions. Time and again, you will find that this is radio at its finest. This is sheer magic on so many levels. My top tip would be to seek out anything with Eleanor McDowall's touch – you will not be disappointed.

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