Top Five Spoken Word Podcasts and Radio Shows
When done well, spoken word on the radio has immense power to inform, entertain and influence listeners. There are more voices than ever on the radio waves and online. Here are some I regularly tune into.
The Moth, 'True Stories Told LIve.'
The story telling event that started in the living room of writer George Dawes Green now runs in venues across the country and has a huge audience for its radio shows and podcasts. The stories are sad, surprising, funny, moving but always true and told in front of a live audience without notes.
Famous writers, comedians, artists and entertainers have told stories on The Moth, as have members of the public from all walks of life who have stepped up to the mic and told stories which have drawn audiences in like moths to a flame.
Details on how you can listen to The Moth, attend an event, and tell your story can be found on the website themoth.org.
The Truth is produced by an innovative team of writers and actors who use a variety of writing and production techniques to create what they describe as ‘movies for your ears.’ In these days of 3D cinema, HD and special FX The Truth demonstrates the power of radio and proves that the most powerful images are the ones in your mind. thetruthapm.com.
A weird selection of micro-fiction, poetry, dialogues and sketches from Brighton based Fug Press. The one hour shows are accompanied by an eclectic and lo-fi music selection. It's a show reminiscent of some of Ivor Cutler’s radio programmes. www.mixcloud.com/fugaudio
This American Life
This American Life is like a sun round which other speech based shows orbit like planets. Indeed I first heard The Moth and The Truth on TAL. Ira Glass is a genial host with an engaging personality. At the start of the show it feels as if he is striking up a conversation with the listener. He usually launches straight into an anecdote or interview that makes up the prologue section. The rest of the programme is divided into acts: pieces of fiction, non-fiction, reportage and investigative journalism that focus on a particular theme. The content is sad, serious, funny, lighthearted, thought provoking and always well done.
It has expanded beyond the airwaves onto TV and into cinemas with live broadcasts of dynamic stage shows.
You probably know it already but if you don’t or you haven’t listened recently sign up for the podcast and catch up on past shows in the archive here: www.thislife.org.
Jad Abumrad and Robert Krulwich's slightly unorthodox show on WNYC explores life's big questions turning up some unexpected answers and huge mysteries yet to be solved. It delves into the complexities of science, mathematics and philosophy whilst remaining accessible and entertaining. Shows cover vast topics like space and everything and focus on rare individuals such as a premature baby, the inventor of the Heimlich maneuver and celebrated psychologist Oliver Sacks.
Always entertaining and educational.
I have tried to include a range of programmes in my top selection but there are many other worthy contenders. Radio veteran Garrison Keillor still brings the News From Lake Wobegon in a weekly free podcast. The Radio 4 Friday Night Comedy Podcast brings you the best British satire. I even broadcast a bit of spoken word myself on my fortnightly show on Cambridge 105. You can listen here. I hope you enjoy listening to these shows and please let me know about any of your favourites.
I've updated the selection with shows currently broadcasting. Former entry Evening under lamplight is no longer on air but it's worth checking out the archive of programmes still available at the address below.
Robert Louis Abrahamson presents music and spoken word on a different theme every other Sunday on Cambridge105.fm. Choices of music vary from classical to gangster rap but regularly include favourites Bob Dylan, and Ray Davies and The Kinks. He gives beautiful readings of poetry and short stories from sources as diverse as Shakespeare and Play Boy but always from namesake Robert Louis Stephenson.
But Robert Louis does not simply read words and play tunes. He invites listeners to ‘attend.’ Each selection is accompanied by a commentary that picks through the words line by line highlighting their significance, nuances and hidden meanings. He leaves listeners with an appreciation of what they have heard that goes beyond the momentary enjoyment of listening to something nice on the radio. It is a well-crafted show with each word chosen and delivered with the utmost care. The show is currently off air but previous episodes can be enjoyed at any time on Mixcloud.