There is no doubt that 2020 has been hard for everyone. We’ve all been looking for coping mechanisms, be it binge-watching beloved TV shows or baking bread. Now, as parts of the UK are in a second lockdown, finding these moments of light relief are more important than ever. If escaping into a podcast is your idea of bliss, then we’ve got some recommendations for you. Below, five Time Out editors give their picks for the podcasts that have helped them get through this year. Pod perfect stuff.
The earnestness of ‘serious’ podcasts isn’t for me, which is why I loved this witty meta horrorcast from the BBC, the successor to 2018’s ‘The Case of Charles Dexter Ward’. It reunites us with the hosts of Mystery Machine, a fictional podcast devoted to exploring unusual true crimes. And once again, it’s a modern spin on an HP Lovecraft tale that manages to mock the conventions of the genre while also scaring the living heck out of you. Andrzej Łukowski
As someone whose child reached the badlands of toddlerhood as this all started, this one has been a life saver. With episodes including Meltdowns at Bedtime, Why Is My Child Behaving This Way? and Is It Okay Just to Stick Them on eBay? (okay, made that one up), child whisperer Janet Lansbury calmly talks you off whatever ledge you’re on at the time. Not only is she expert in the dos (stay patient) and don’ts (run away) of parenting in lockdown, her voice also has powerful ASMR qualities. Phil de Semlyen
The downside of getting your knowledge of the past via ‘Horrible Histories’ is that you can end up seeing it just as a series of factoids about poop, gruesome deaths and mad rulers. If that’s you – and, honestly, same – let me introduce you to the BBC’s adult version. Greg Jenner hosts 30-minute episodes on everything from LGBTQ+ history to the Byzantine Empire. When the chemistry is right between the guests (a historian and comedian), there are some real laugh-out-loud moments. Rose Johnstone
America could scarcely be more divided but Dolly Parton manages to unite people from all political stripes in this podcast. And her life story has so much to tell us about the workings of American society – all of which host Jad Abumrad uncovers in this nine-episode series. If you don’t like her music, don’t worry – this is mainly for people who want to get a better understanding of what makes America tick. Although, yes, there are some country bangers too. Alex Plim
Queen of the nightclub, Jodie Harsh, has swapped hosting parties for hosting podcasts. Her candid chats with fellow big-name DJs and party people – Fatboy Slim, Munroe Bergdorf, Erol Alkan – are a reminiscence of formative clubbing experiences and the parties they once played. It’s like ‘This iI Your Life’, but if Michael Aspel was more clued-up on class As. It mourns clubs that have closed recently as well as those that London has lost to million-pound flat conversions. Discovering it has felt like finding a therapy group, ideal for those of us who once used the dancefloor to blow off a bit of steam. Laura Richards
Looking for more great podcasts? Here are the best podcasts about music.