Hornet heaven, UK elections, and trans children in the USA - this week's podcast recommendations

OK, I’ll get it out of the way, in the UK there’s going to be a general election. Everything’s going to get very political and fraught. So if you don’t want to read anything about it, visit the Museum of Failure and come back after recommendation 1 for two election-free podcasts afterwards. Ready?

What does Brexit have to do with the election? - Brexit Means

Jon Henley and Dan Roberts discuss the General Election 2017 for the Brexit Means podcast
Jon Henley and Dan Roberts discuss the General Election 2017 for the Brexit Means podcast Photograph: Rowan Slaney for the Guardian

Look at you, getting a glimpse of our studios. What a treat. On 18 April, the British Prime Minister, Theresa May, revealed there’d be a mystery announcement at 11:30am. Naturally, at 11:10am she let us all know that she had been planning a snap general election, set for 7 weeks time. The Guardian went into overdrive and amongst the storm, I decided that this was the perfect opportunity to launch our new (and improved) remake of Brexit Means ...

Previously a 40-minute podcast ‘as and when you need it’, Brexit means ... has evolved into a now-weekly 10-20 minute pod, which will discuss themes across the Brexit landscape, whatever that means. So where better to start than with this election news?

John Henley and Dan Roberts discuss the election with solely Brexit in mind. It’s not a podcast that will reveal all the nooks and crannies about who, what, why and where (for that you should listen to this week’s Politics Weekly), but it is one that’ll give you a 11 minute briefing on Brexit’s role and future, now that there’s an additional spanner in the works.

How to be a girl

How to be a girl podcast. Animated episode 1. Marlo Mack

Freddy McConnell, a video producer here at the Guardian, sang this podcast’s praises to me and I’ve got to say, he couldn’t be more right about it. It’s so fantastic. This is what Fred had to say:

‘This is a podcast in which an anonymous single mum and her young daughter navigate life, after the ‘kiddo’ comes out as transgender. This otherwise unremarkable, middle-class family have a solid support network and the ability to dabble in political activism. The kid’s father is actively involved and becomes one of the series’ most compassionate voices. It’s essentially an audio diary of one mum’s imperfect, tender and ultimately joyful letting go of having a son and embracing the reality of having a daughter.

So it’s a podcast about the power of love, but it’s equally about the sometimes painful reality that love is not all you need in order to live a happy and secure life. After establishing their adorable rapport and optimistic outlooks, our key players (the mum presents the show but her child’s scratchy voice is ever present) start revealing the ways in which life is not easy for a trans girl and her parents, even in their progressive north-west corner of the US.

The episodes are short, intimate and dreamily edited. It might be tempting to dismiss them as nothing but cute vignettes, were each one not infused with the weight and tension of one socio-political conundrum after another. These aren’t themes so much as an intimidating array of high stakes that the family must negotiate, which, for our benefit, they’re doing on tape. The immediacy of this show is reinforced by the fact that episodes are sporadic. There’s no filler, just real-life – almost real-time – responses to unforeseen threats (e.g. bathroom bills and Trump) and everyday problems (e.g. play dates, role models). Whenever a new episode pops up in my feed, it feels simultaneously like an affable ‘hi’ from a distant friend and a call to action. This is what I want from any podcast. I never expected to find it in this form.

It shouldn’t need saying, but just in case: you don’t have to be trans or even know a trans person to become an avid listener. In fact, it’s a great place to start if you’re unfamiliar with the challenges that trans communities face, especially their youngest members. There is no lecturing and only the subtlest of attempts at universal truth telling. After Trump’s election, for example, one of the most comforting responses I heard from any quarter was this 8-year-old’s advice to ‘eat popcorn and stay calm’ followed by a classic kid joke. That alone should be reason enough to listen.’

Hornet Heaven

Hornet Heaven Podcast
Hornet Heaven Podcast Illustration: Hornet Heaven Podcast

Hornet Heaven is the place Watford FC fans go to in the afterlife. As it turns out, you’re not ‘Watford ‘til you die’ – you’re Watford for all eternity. This podcast is the setting for a narrated comedy drama that’s warm, funny and often poignant. Each episode blends fact and fiction to bring to life the reality of supporting Watford Football Club forever.

Avid podder Gill Sharp got in touch to tell us why she loves it so much:

‘There’s nothing else like it, it’s massively refreshing. I listen to a lot of football podcasts and they’re normally just pundits giving their opinions about the latest matches, but this one tells the made-up stories that get their points across much more gently, with a lot of humour and quite a lot of sadness. The points being made stay with you long after each episode has finished.

I love the characters. The generational relationship between the man, who looks after the programmes, and the boy who works for him. The man from the Victorian-era who founded the club, who attends matches with a modern-day hipster and wannabe gangster. Then the steward who used to be a hooligan, and is in endless hope that trouble to break out in a place that’s meant to be a paradise. And many more.

I don’t usually listen to many fictional podcasts, but this one somehow feels real and engaging. Although it’s based in heaven, it uses real places, real football matches and real feelings.

This podcast is original, funny and moving in a way that I’ve never come across before. I could go on for hours about it – I do, with my friends, you should give it a go.’

That’s it for this week. To get in touch with your recommendations, email podcasts@theguardian.com

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