The week in audio: British Podcast Awards 2022; Media storm; Decode; Songbook and more | Podcasts

UK Podcast Awards 2022
media storm (The House of the Guilty Feminist) | Apple.com
Decode | Spotify
Songbook (White Rabbit) | Apple.com
We miss Amy Winehouse | Spotify
The Bad Vibes Museum | BBC Sounds

Last weekend UK Podcast Awards was the usual fun affair, although distributing the gongs took a long time. Thirty-three awards! Instead of 18 in 2017, the very first, showing how podcasting has exploded in the UK. There were some beautiful moments throughout, the most poignant being Lauren Mahon of You, me and the Big C accepting her Podcast Champion award alone, now that Rachael Bland and Dame Deborah James have lost their lives to cancer. What a strange, upsetting and uplifting thing for Mahon. She did it with enormous grace.

Other moments? Podcast hosts Ki and Dee (Chiara Hunter and Diana Vickers) sing their awards speech, hilariously. The real excitement that swept across the room when Idris Elba and Sabrina Dhowre Elba arrived to present the wellness award. 5 live’s Elis James and John Robins hosted the entire event: plenty of jokes about John Lewis costumes, event sponsors, and bad podcast ideas, all delivered with their tangy heat.

Idris Elba and Sabrina Dhowre Elba at the British Podcast Awards 2022. Photography: Tim P Whitby/Getty Images

The awards are great for showcasing non-mainstream audio gems (in 2019, award organizers invited George the Poet to enter and he swept the board, winning five awards). One of those pleasures this year was media storm, hosted by Mathilda Mallinson and Helena Wadia, which won gold for Best Current Affairs Podcast. He looks at the news from the perspective of those who are at the center of the stories but often don’t have the floor; Mallinson and Wadia started it after noticing that migrant reports rarely featured real migrants. The journalism is excellent, thorough and empathetic, and they both have a great talent for revealing issues. If you’re new, you might want to rewatch a few shows, as the most recent episode isn’t representative: choose from drug laws, sex worker laws, even treatment for chronic urinary tract infections (developer).

The last episode is about non-delinquent pedophiles: people who are sexually attracted to children and young adolescents but who do not act on this attraction. (So: pretty obvious trigger warning.) Mallinson travels to Germany to talk to a psychotherapist who set up a clinic in 2005 to help non-offending pedophiles control their behavior. He explains that humans develop their sexual orientation around age 14 and don’t get rid of it no matter what. She talks to others, including a single pedophile and a man who realized he was attracted to children when he was very young himself, so he turned to the internet to get help and was exploited. An extremely difficult subject, well treated by Mallinson, deeply questioned by Wadia. I’ve been thinking about the episode ever since I listened to it.

Another BPA winner was DecodeSpotify’s UK version of the US hit show Dissect. It takes an album and goes through it track by track, stripping down lyrics and music, contextualizing the artist’s story. So far the decoders have tackled Dave Psychodrama and Skepta Konnichiwa, two albums that deserve a closer look (I loved the episode on Skepta’s Shutdown). It’s a reassuringly corny show, a little bombastic at times, but informed and well produced, and the host, poet Kayo Chingonyi, is a great listener.

Kayo Chingonyi presents Decode
Kayo Chingonyi, presenter of Decode, who analyzes an album track by track: ‘a beautiful listening’. Photograph: Richard Saker/The Observer

If that’s your kind of thing, here are two new music analysis shows. Songbook is hosted by music journalist and pop culture expert Jude Rogers, whose work is often in the Observer. It’s an interview program which, each week, deals with a book on music. Later episodes promise Vashti Bunyan and Adelle Stripe (the series will feature more women than men, exceptionally), but the opener has Suede’s Brett Anderson discussing, with his usual wit and intelligence, Starlust, which features fans’ thoughts on their beloved stars. “It was mundane in places,” he says, “which I liked.”

And here We miss Amy Winehouse, by comedian Suchandrika Chakrabarti. She’s an engaging audio presence, good at emotional reactions if a little woolly when it comes to analysis (Back to Black doesn’t feel like a funeral march to the end!). We hear all of the tracks mentioned, which is a total joy. With both shows, I’d be happier with a harder edit, but that’s just me.

The Bad Vibes Museum is another exciting new show from the BBC Sounds Audio Lab, a program aimed at helping new podcast creators. In each episode, host Hanna Adan (Excellent) examines a different museum artifact. Each object’s origin is far from the UK, but they now live in British museums, on display or – more heartbreakingly – in a box, out of sight. Some of these artifacts were made for active worship or come from a culture that believes they are a living presence. Adan’s storyline is great, the repatriation discussion fascinating, and the objects’ expression of feelings far less irritating than you’d fear. This could be rewarded next year.

About Elaine Morales

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