The week in audio: the British podcast awards 2020 – review

By doorstepping its winners in real time, this year’s ceremony was the kind of joyous celebration we all needed

The British podcast awards, held a week ago, are in their fourth year. And the ceremony’s star quotient has risen, with Louis Theroux, Mel Giedroyc, George the Poet and others opening gold envelopes and reading out winners. This indicates the medium’s contemporary cultural significance, and also that the award-givers have podcasts of their own.

The ceremony was, of course, online, and thus extremely socially distanced. Hosts Clara Amfo and Rhianna Dhillon were livestreamed via YouTube; the celebrities opened the gold envelopes in front of laptop cameras; potential winners waved from inside Zoom panels. But the live-ness really came to life with the physical award–giving: straight after each announcement, the winners were handed their actual gold awards on their actual front doorsteps. This was a genius touch that led to emotional speeches, silly costumes and a general upbeat and celebratory atmosphere. After an hour or so, Dhillon took off her heels and Amfo loosened the top button on her trousers (“bloating is real!”), which only added to the right-here-right-now atmosphere. It was fun.

As is customary during such proceedings, I was chatting to a friend throughout. Usually this is done in whispers on the balcony at the back; this time round, our comments (“Alice Levine’s hair is fire!” “Look at all the Post-it notes in George’s office!” “Who is that and where are his trousers?”) were in text form. And we weren’t the only ones chatting: on YouTube the comments were plentiful. They were nearly all about one thing: Sh**ged Married Annoyed and how it should win everything.

Rosie and Chris Ramsey (and son Robin) accept the listeners’ choice award for Sh**ged Married Annoyed.
Rosie and Chris Ramsey (and son Robin) accept the listeners’ choice award for Sh**ged Married Annoyed. Photograph: British Podcast Awards/Getty Images

SMA, a podcast from real-life couple Chris and Rosie Ramsey, was up for two awards: best new podcast (it got bronze) and the listeners’ choice award, voted for by the public, which it won. Given that the show has only been going for 18 months, this is impressive. It arrived fully formed in February 2019, each episode a full hour of… well, just daft domestic chat. The Ramseys take the smallest of topics – “Would you like to be buried or cremated?” – and riff on it (that one ended with Chris being stuffed and positioned in the living room, willy out, with scaffolding around his todger manned by small Lego characters). Does this sound awful? It’s not: SMA is an amiable, listenable, funny show. Though Chris is the professional comedian, it’s Rosie who makes it work; not least because she’s great on Instagram and asked all her followers to vote for the show.

The podcast of the year award was won by Brown Girls Do It Too, a show from BBC Asian Network about Asian girls and sex that has only put out seven episodes so far. Let’s hope more are in-coming, as presenters Roya, Rubina and Poppy are frank and funny. Golds also went to the Guardian’s Today in Focus, Tunnel 29, Kurupt FM and Paradise; all well-reviewed, all great. Still, one of the joys of the BPAs is that they highlight smaller shows. The Rob Auton Daily Podcast, which won best daily podcast, is one of these: a show, sometimes just one minute long, that makes you see the world differently. Each podcast is like a little poem, or a song-scrap, a tiny, off-beat snapshot of life.

Winner of best arts and culture podcast, The Rule of Three, gets comedians and writers to reveal their comedy craft through talking about what makes them laugh. The Sound of Anger, from the Centre for the History of Emotions, is a thoughtful eight-episode series that looks at anger – its sounds, its performance, how it feels – through interviews and drama. Both are worth a like and subscribe.

Renay Richardson, producer and company-runner, won podcast champion 2020. Richardson did not appear on her doorstep. Instead, she voiced a short essay about equality and diversity in podcasting. Richardson is behind the Equality in Audio Pact, and with others has worked hard to get podcast-makers to sign up to it, including big hitters such as the BBC, Spotify, Radiotopia and Somethin’ Else (there are still companies that are hesitating, as she noted). The pledge is this: “Pay interns. Hire minorities on projects not only related to their identities. If you release gender-pay reports, release the race or ethnicity reports. No longer take part in unrepresentative panels. Be transparent about who works for you.”

In her speech she highlighted how we need to do better. “All of us… We are all individually responsible for our actions and collectively responsible for the inaction. The inaction when we only amplified and rewarded voices from one race.” The full speech is eloquent and serious. Check it out.

Three cheering radio voices

Dotun Adebayo
Adebayo has long been a late-night presenter, hosting 5 Live’s Up All Night three nights a week for many years (Rhod Sharp did the other nights). With Sharp leaving, Adebayo is now doing Monday to Friday 1am to 5am, and he sounds as relaxed and open as ever. The new format emphasises listeners calling in, rightly: during lockdown, Adebayo did a similar overnight show on BBC Radio London, and there were a lot of calls. He handles callers kindly and without ego, getting stories and encouraging opinions without the argy-bargy of most phone-in shows.

David Sedaris
Meet David Sedaris is well established as one of Radio 4’s best 6.30pm shows. We’re now on series six, and, as ever, Sedaris is hilarious. His shows are sort of diary extracts/sort of essays about his life, present and past, read out in front of an audience. His voice is unusual – mannered and almost childlike – and his timing is impeccable. And he has such an eye for emotional minutiae, for the niggles and obsessions that make up our daily lives. At the moment, Sedaris is worried about local foxes. He’s feeding one (Carol), but he wants acknowledgment. “This is about me, not them.”

Ashley “Dotty” Charles.
Catch her while you can… Ashley Charles, AKA Dotty. Photograph: Suki Dhanda/The Observer

Ashley Charles, AKA Amplify Dot, AKA Dotty, has been 1Xtra’s breakfast show host for the past four years. If you’ve not yet caught her upbeat, hilarious, get-up-and-atcha presentation then you’d better be quick: she’s leaving 1Xtra in a couple of weeks. She’s got a book out (Outraged: Why Everyone Is Shouting and No One Is Talking), a second baby on the way, plus a couple of podcasts (Too Rude for Radio, What to Watch on Netflix). The woman is BUSY. I do hope radio will be part of her future, though: she makes me smile every time I hear her.


Miranda Sawyer

The GuardianTramp

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