The rise and enduring success of the podcast

On my usual dog walk, I was listening to 'Midlife', a regular podcast by TV sports presenter Gabby Logan where she was chatting with retail consultant and broadcaster Mary Portas. The chat ended with Mary saying that "we'll have less but we'll have better." She was referring to the gradual change from materialism to more responsible buying habits and it struck me that these little snippets that I occasionally listen to, have a profound effect on me and the way I view and live my life.

Image credit: Juja Han
'Podcast' - a digital audio file made available on the internet for downloading to a computer or mobile device, typically available as a series, new instalments of which can be received by subscribers automatically. That is the dictionary definition but the humble podcast is so much more than that. Rooted in the 1980s with the advent of 'audioblogs', podcasting really began to catch on in 2004 when broadband and devices such as iPods started to take off. Instead of doing your daily workout, dog walk, the dreaded housework or, dare I say it, writing up the minutes of this morning's meeting while bopping along (actually or mentally) to the latest pop tunes or rock anthems, a whole new world of portable listening opened up.
Image credit: Florian Schmetz
The heady Walkman days of yore are long gone (fondly remembered but obsolete nonetheless) and most of us have several generations of listening devices under our belts, but who could have guessed twenty years ago that a large proportion of our lives would be encased in a shiny metal, glass and plastic object not much bigger than a wallet?
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The isolation experienced during Covid-19 lockdowns gave an additional impetus to podcast newbies and devotees alike, as well as building momentum for a new wave of podcasters looking for ways to connect or reconnect with their audience, real or imagined.

The traditional favourite, radio talk shows did not die a death however, and they still have their place, but a whole new audience of people perpetually on the move could now tune in and listen to anything from short stories to poetry, or gardening tips to meditation. Your favourite radio station is actually available on the move via your digital device but the beauty of podcasts is their encapsulated nature. You can choose from a myriad of topics and within that topic, you can select a podcast of suitable length to fit the time you have available.
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For instance, on a one-hour walk, I can comfortably fit in an episode of Happy Place with Fearne Cotton, How to Fail with Elizabeth Day, Midlife with Gabby Logan or (if I'm feeling frivolous), The Pirate Ship with Tom Kerridge and Chris Stark. You're probably thinking that I am a smorgasbord of middle-aged, slightly anxious, in need of cheering up with a side order of WTF (and you're correct in at least one of those assumptions). The reality, however, is that each podcast (and I have listened to a lot before creating my library of faves) has its own message that resonates.
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A few notable episodes include Elizabeth Day's chat with Andi Oliver (TV chef and broadcaster, formerly part of 80s punk band Rip Rig + Panic) where Andi described her experiences of racism as a young schoolgirl. I laughed and cried in equal measure but was luckily in a fairly wooded area with no-one but my spaniel to hear my carry on.
Image credit: Tereza Hošková
Another episode that has stuck with me is Fearne Cotton's talk to Björn Natthiko Lindeblad, a former executive who became a Buddhist monk in Thailand's jungle where he learnt calm clarity of thought, that walking meditation is preferable to sitting and that freedom can come from not being bound to material possessions. At the time of recording, Björn was very ill with ALS, a progressively debilitating nervous system disease and knew that he would not be alive when the episode was aired. His time as a monk helped him to make peace with the idea of death.
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“Listening to others viewpoints may reveal the one thing needed to complete your goals.” - D. Ridgley

There are other podcasts, such as Feel Better, Live More with Dr Rangan Chatterjee, Unlocking Us with Brené Brown, and the hilarious Grounded with Louis Theroux. I think you can probably see a pattern emerging here but suffice to say, all have struck a chord in one way or another and yes, perhaps I fell into a certain 'style' of listening at a low point, but the overriding message is that there really is something for everyone. The 'something' that floats your boat, lifts your luggage, or lights your candle is potentially a way to tap into thoughts, ideas and behaviours that might otherwise remain on the periphery, unacknowledged or out of reach.
Image credit: Jessica Fadel
Recently, my thoughts have taken a more 'creative' turn and I have begun to explore podcasts with an arts and crafts feel such as The Crafts Council, Craft a Life you Love with Amy Tangerine, Art Juice and more. As with the broader spectrum of general interest podcasts, I'm in the early stages of weeding out the ones that don't resonate with me (as in, 3 seconds and NOPE, I'm out!), but the overriding message is that there is so much interesting and inspiring stuff out there. I still love listening to music - can't get through a day of housework without a bit of a mooch through an 80s back catalogue ("Alexa, play Spandau Ballet") - but a great podcast is my usual go to these days and my mind is thanking me for it!
Image Credit: Sam on Unsplash / Daisy Ray, CraftCourses

Here are a few ideas for crafty podcasts to keep the arts and crafts juices flowing:

The Capital of Craft - Sarah James  talks with makers and thinkers about what it means to be a maker and how it can change your life.

Knit British - Join Louise in championing all things British wool and yarn including fun chats, interesting reviews, and motivating hints and tips all while supporting British rare breeds, British wool and yarn processing, and UK designers.

I make - A Guernsey girl shares her love of everything creative and handmade. Episodes cover a wide variety of crafts including knitting, paper crafts, sewing, jewellery making, cooking, photography, gardening and much more along with a fascinating look at Guernsey culture.

Shinybees - A knitting, comedy and yarn podcast bringing together inspiration, techniques and a liberal dose of knitting chat!

Curious Handmade Podcast
- Knitwear designer Helen talks about knitting and creating a life of happiness.

Don't worry, to be an avid podcast listener you won't have to look like your teenage son or daughter with a pair of Beats headphones! There are many more discreet options for listening that won't make you resemble a slightly less cool version of that rapper whose name escapes you but it sounds like your neighbour's dog (Fleazy E, Snoopy the pooch, Barky Bark)!!
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"I like to listen. I have learned a great deal from listening carefully. Most people never listen." - Ernest Hemingway

If listening is less your thing than doing, just go ahead and do! Try something new, learn a new skill, broaden your horizons, start crafting!

Browse the selection of workshops, craft kits and more at CraftCourses. Like the world of podcasts, there's something for everyone.

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