The Best Podcasts We Listened To In 2020, As Picked By HuffPosters

2020 has been the year of the podcast – and not just because we launched three of our own.

2020 has well and truly been the year of the podcast. Not just because HuffPost UK launched three of our own* (oh, yes we did) – but because we’ve spent so much of the year on our government-mandated walks. And what better way to while away a walk than by listening to a podcast?

To find out what has been occupying HuffPost ears this year, we asked staffers to recommend one podcast they’ve really enjoyed in 2020. From crime to pop culture and a bit of celeb gossip, here’s our round-up.

Storyteller

Recommended by: Jayson Mansaray, Video producer

I’m really enjoying Storyteller with Lisa Golden. The premise of the podcast is how and why we tell stories, which Golden explores by speaking to creatives from around the world. It’s created, produced and presented by Lisa who’s an old colleague of mine from HuffPost – so of course I was going to listen!

Storyteller informed some of the HuffPost video series I’ve been making myself, #BlackVoicesHPUK – particularly the episode where Lisa spoke with The Black Curriculum about how we teach Black British history. They discussed what it means for Black children to see people who look like them in history for the first time in the context of slavery or colonialism. It made me think about how powerful representation is and the kind of messaging young people are being taught. There are two other episodes I’d also recommend: ‘YouTubers: How YouTube Shook Up TV and Created a New Generation of Stars’ and the episode with our own Opinion editor Lucy Pasha-Robinson, titled ‘Wellness Culture Can F*** Off’, all about the HuffPost podcast she launched, Chronic.

Who The Hell Is Hamish?

Recommended by: Amy Packham, life editor

I have vivid memories of lying on a grassy common near my flat in the summer, listening to Who The Hell is Hamish? for hours every evening, desperate to eek out the sun after work. Produced by The Australian newspaper, which also made 2018′s Teacher’s Pet, it’s another true crime podcast, this time about a serial conman. Hamish duped loads of people out of loads of money, and the podcast follows his life – and the people he met – as well as how he managed to dodge the authorities for so long. The details from the people he conned are fascinating, and it makes you wonder whether you’d fall for it, too. It’s one of those “I’ve got to listen to the next episode” type podcasts.

The Daily’s Sunday Read

Recommended by: Brogan Driscoll, life editor

If you’re anything like me, you bookmark dozens of long reads you never quite get round to starting – let alone finishing. So, when a friend recommended The Sunday Read to me, an hour(ish) long podcast where one such article is read out, I quickly became hooked as I walked for hours around my local area. The articles selected are some of the best long reads published on The New York Times, a welcome relief in the podcast sphere if you’re not really into the whole celebrity genre. My favourite episode – and the one I recommend to anyone who’ll listen (hiya!) – is ‘David’s Ankles’, about Michelangelo’s David in Florence, Italy. And this is from someone who knows very little about Michelangelo and art history in general. The episode is full of amusing tidbits about the statue’s creation (let’s just say it wasn’t plain sailing) and how it is consumed today (tourists taking selfies with his genitals are quite common, apparently). It’s an exploration of perfectionism in art and, more broadly, in life, made even better when read out by actor Eduardo Ballerini who talks, according to the author, “as if Michelangelo sculpted voices”.

Grounded with Louis Theroux

Recommended by: Adam Bloodworth, features writer

I’ll admit that given the thousands of podcasts out there, getting stuck into Louis Theroux’s lockdown project was hardly the most challenging listening – but then again, it was lockdown and I wasn’t feeling a challenge. I was craving Theroux’s reliably comforting voice: his well-paced, cleverly worded conversational questioning, which I got in droves when I smashed through the first series. At times, like when he waxes lyrical with his old private school mate Helena Bonham Carter, it veers into uncomfortably privileged territory, but the chat about how he differed from his brothers at school is revealing. Lenny Henry, Boy George, Gail Porter and Miriam Margoyles are thrilling guests: there’s the sense that Theroux would have bowled over to these people to have these conversations IRL anyway. With some time on his hands during lockdown, he’s just had them with the recorder turned on.

You’re Dead To Me

Recommended by: Jasmin Gray, news reporter

If you loved CBBC’s Horrible Histories as a kid, You’re Dead To Me is the podcast you should already be listening to. Hosted by historian Greg Jenner – who is actually the brains behind the CBBC show – You’re Dead To Me is his offering for adults who still love the gruesome, shocking and hilarious aspects of the past. In each episode, he’s joined by a comedian and an expert with seriously impressive credentials on the topic up for discussion. In the first two series, the podcast has covered the likes of Neanderthals, Blackbeard, the history of chocolate, the ancient Olympics and Mary Shelley. Expect to walk away having had some laughs and banked some excellent facts for your next Zoom quiz.

Nice White Parents

Recommended by: Sam Mackereth, head of video

Nice White Parents was the conversation starter in parenting circles this summer. The timing of its release made it particularly relevant to me as my daughter was preparing to start school. The podcast examines racial inequalities in the education system and how they have only been deepened by well-intended, predominantly white, parents who aspired to close that gap. Though the story is told through the history of a public school in Brooklyn, New York, the themes seem to be pretty interchangeable to any city or country around the world. I found myself feeling almost embarrassed listening to it as I identified with the parents who were causing harm while empathising with those being hurt – a very uncomfortable, and necessary, path to self-awareness. I’d recommend this podcast, and not only to parents, because the more we understand the ways that systems affect our societies, the more we can work to change them for the better.

Twenty Twenty

Recommended by: Angela Hui, life reporter

We all know 2020 has been a shit show of a year, but what if we could go back twenty years to a simpler time? Picture it now: the Millennium Dome had just been built, Craig David dominated the charts and everyone was playing snake on the Nokia 3310. Well, now you can, with Twenty Twenty, as hosts Observer’s film critic Simran Hans and gal-dem’s music editor Tara Joshi give intelligent and thoughtful analysis and discussions on the pop culture phenomenons that were all the rage at the start of the millennia. From one of the world’s best-selling computer game The Sims to reality TV show Big Brother and the chopping and changing of Destiny’s Child band members, relive the glory days with a fresh and new perspective that’ll transport you to yesteryear.

Short Cuts

Recommended by: Nancy Groves, head of life

Living alone through lockdown, often struggling to sleep, I craved company and calm. BBC’s Short Cuts – now in its 24th series – offered me both. Presented by comedian Josie Long, this anthology of “brief encounters, true stories, radio adventures and found sound” is a varied audio experience that veers from the ambient and abstract to some highly specific storytelling. Long bookends each themed episode with companionable chill and honesty about how weird the year has been. There are so many worth your time, but shout out to ‘The Sea, The Sea’ for sustaining me when I felt desperately landlocked in London.

In fact, since the Beeb sorted out the Sounds app, I’ve discovered more from its podcast slate. Freddy McConnell’s Pride & Joy is a joyous look at “how queers make kids”, which shows that families start with love, however else they are formed. You’ll Do sees comedian couple Sarah Keyworth and Catherine Bohart ask fellow funny folk how they make their relationships work (though the hosts have since split). Sadly, Sadia Azmat and Monty Onanuga’s pairing on No Country For Young Women has also come to an end, but in a year that brought a renewed reckoning on racism, the duo’s commentary on living in a “white man’s world” was always on point.

* In 2020, HuffPost UK launched Am I Making You Uncomfortable?, a podcast about women’s health, bodies and private lives; Chronic, a wellness podcast for when you’re chronically unwell; and Running Mate, a US election podcast for Brits – alongside our longstanding politics podcast, Commons People.