The 7 best podcasts to banish lockdown blues

    16 April 2020

    What are you going to do with that extra hour or two a day usually spent on your morning commute?

    Trawl through social media looking at videos your friends are posting of their dogs? Alternatively you could grab a pair of trainers and some headphones and head out for a walk, all the while exploring ancient kingdoms, untangling the webs of the world’s most famous crimes and picking up new languages as you go.

    Here is our favourite selection of podcasts to keep you informed, entertained and most importantly, sane, during lockdown.

    No such thing as a fish

    The research team behind QI

    Did you know that Volkswagen sells more sausages than it does cars? Or that in 1567 the man with the world’s longest-ever beard broke his neck and died after tripping over it? If so, that’s because you’ve been tuning in to the podcast hosted by the ‘elves’ responsible for the research behind the weird and wonderful facts of QI.

    Just a handful of the treasures they dig up make it to the television show, so rather than letting them fall back into the ether of unknown trivia, each episode the four painfully witty presenters offer up their favourite fact of the week for discussion.

    Fake Heiress

    Anna Sorokin

    Millionaire heiress or scammer? Anna Sorokin duped the whole of New York’s elite social set into thinking she was one of them.

    Here journalist Vicky Baker and playwright Chloe Moss investigate how the daughter of a Russian van driver managed to become one of the world’s most successful fraudsters, conning America’s rich and famous into believing she was a German trust fund brat worth $60m and stealing $275,000 from her new friends.

    While Sorokin serves her time – up to 12 years in prison – Baker and Moss tell her story via dramatic reenactments and interviews with those who knew her, or thought they did.

    Netflix and HBO are already working on their own cinematic versions of her story.

    Witness History

    Crew of Apollo 13

    In this thought-provoking series you hear the real stories behind defining events in history from people who were present or participated in them.

    One morning you’ll find yourself listening to the engineer tasked by Saddam Hussein to build the world’s biggest gun, the next learning from Mr Rubik how and why he came up with his famous puzzle cube.

    Recent episodes have particular relevance, with recollections from the scientist who sequenced the genome for the 1918 Spanish flu and the professors at the forefront of battling the SARS epidemic.

    Off Menu

    James Acaster and Ed Gamble

    When you can’t get out to go to a restaurant, bring your dream restaurant to you. This is what comedians Ed Gamble and James Acaster do with a different special guest every week. Celebrities put together their ideal menu – comprising starter, main, dessert, side and drink – which could be anything from a dish they had once on holiday to a meal they remember from their childhood.

    The choices reveal quirky and intimate sides to their characters you’d never have imagined.

    Past guests have included television host Dara O’Briain and newsreader Krishnan Guru-Murthy. One of the highlights has to be star chef Tom Kerridge choosing a 24-pack of Stella Artois as his ideal drink.

    Coffee Break Spanish

    If you ever promised yourself you’d learn a new language, now is as good a time as any.

    Each episode deals with a typical scenario you may find yourself in – from ordering food in a restaurant to asking for directions.

    The presenter repeats everything multiple times – useful for anyone wanting to go at a slower pace. He has a “dummy” Spanish-learner repeat everything back at him and corrects their mistakes, meaning you pick up on them too.

    The bitesize episodes last around 20 minutes – so you can easily fit them into a lunch or coffee break. Spend the rest of your break dreaming of the first holiday you’ll take once countries reopen their borders.

    Drunk Women Solving Crime

    Hannah George, Catie Wilkins and Taylor Glenn

    Delve into true crimes from history with this fabulous trio. Famous guests including presenter Anneka Rice and comedian Zoe Lyons join hosts Hannah George, Catie Wilkins and Taylor Glenn to unriddle cold cases over a few glasses of vino (or whatever their tipple of choice).

    The format varies – sometimes the presenters will be discussing a crime the special guest has experienced, at others they’ll try to solve a famous crime from history or unravel a mystery a listener has sent in.

    That’s Life

    Comedian Geoff Norcott

    No podcast list would be complete without our very own That’s Life. Spectator Life’s best satirists sit down with comedians and commentators to poke fun at the news. It’s safe to say Covid-19 has left them with no shortage of material. With guests including Geoff Norcott, Simon Evans and Julia Hartley Brewer, this is the perfect podcast for those who don’t like taking life, or politics, too seriously.