January 16, 2021

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5 top podcasts getting us through the pandemic!

Clodagh Dooley and Ciaran O Conluain share their favourite podcasts at the moment


There are so many podcasts that can offer us a sense of release from what has been a very difficult time. From podcasts related to mindfulness to crime series, there’s something for all tastes and preferences. 

And there are a lot of benefits to listening to podcasts. Clodagh says that “they can often offer us the same level of entertainment as a TV series, but you don’t feel as guilty when you spend hours listening to a podcast! This is because you can listen to a podcast as you do other productive things at the same time, like clean your house.”

Ciaran, on the other hand, loves how nurturing podcasts can be for the brain, particularly when it comes to business matters. He says, “I really like to be focused on my listening and that’s why I moved away from radio to podcasts. I get to decide exactly what will benefit me and can get access to really amazing content producers. Usually for free.”

So, here are Clodagh and Ciaran’s top five podcast recommendations, which:

  • Are free to listen to
  • Are suitable for different interests
  • Will make you think about things in a different way

Grounded with Louis Theroux 

Legendary British-American journalist and documentary maker Louis Theroux has had some extraordinary experiences in his lifetime. From staying two weeks in the notorious San Quentin State Prison to attending a naked ‘sensual eating workshop’, to spending time with controversial celebrities including the late Jimmy Savile. In fact, Louis even interviewed Joe Exotic for BBC long before Tiger King became a thing on Netflix! 

Louis’ approach to certain situations might be like Marmite to many. But there is no doubt that he has an incredible ability to keep us entertained, while shining a light on very real topics. Having watched many of Louis’ documentaries, it was music to my ears to hear he has recently started his own podcast during lockdown. Grounded with Louis Theroux, broadcast on the BBC Sounds app and Radio 4, is a weekly series where Louis has in-depth conversations with some big names he has been longing to speak to. 

There are only five episodes so far, but these are updated weekly and each episode is about an hour long. So you’ll have plenty of Louis content to catch up on before the next episode arrives next week. I really enjoyed his chat with Helena Bonham Carter, who I loved in the Harry Potter films and Fight Club, as well as the new series of The Crown. She came across as such a lovable character. It was interesting to get an insight into how much her image has been criticised over the years, for not meeting certain ‘sex symbol’ expectations. She also discusses her own Harvey Weinstein horror story. In the most recent episode, Louis speaks to actress and activist Rose McGowan, who played a major role in taking on Harvey.

I just love how honest Louis is. What you see (or hear!) is what you get with him. This especially shows through his first interview with rival documentary maker Jon Ronson. He says to Jon, “As much as I like you and as much as I admire you, there’s a little part of me that continues to feel a bit of rivalry. And there’s some nastiness mixed in with it, which I don’t endorse.” 

If you’re a fan of Louis or not, I’d recommend giving the podcast a listen. If you haven’t watched his documentaries, then give some of them a watch first, to truly get an appreciation of the lengths he goes to, to create his content.

Listen to here on BBC Radio 4. Or search for Grounded by Louis Theroux in your Podcasts app on your phone

The Glow Up by STELLAR Magazine

I’m an avid reader of monthly Irish magazine, STELLAR. I find during quarantine, its lifestyle features have been a positive distraction from the ongoing challenges happening today. What I like about STELLAR is that the team’s personalities shine through the pages. You feel like you know each of them on a personal level. I find all of the features are so relatable – it’s actually like they read my mind!

STELLAR has brought the bubbliness of their magazine to life with their podcast, The Glow Up. The podcast had been released well before lockdown, back in 2018, in fact. But truthfully, I actually only started listening to it during lockdown. And it’s been a wonderful release from real life. 

There are two series (38 episodes) so far and the basis of the podcast is beauty, which is a favourite subject of hosts Vicki Notaro and Valerie Loftus! But whether you’re a beauty lover or not, the incredible guests alone make it a great listen. From TV’s Doireann Garrihy and Stacey Solomon, to author Marian Keyes, each guest shares an insight into their lives and their beauty bags! You might wonder why anybody would really care about what’s in someone else’s make-up bag during the crisis. But I think beauty is actually beneficial during a time like this. 

Putting back on your favourite lipstick or mascara can instil a sense of confidence and make you feel good about yourself. I’ve also upped my skincare game during lockdown. I’ve seen such an improvement in my skin by taking the time to properly moisturise and cleanse my skin. So I particularly enjoyed the recent episode featuring The Skin Nerd (Jennifer Rock). She’s all about finding the right skincare products for her clients, without having to pay massive amounts of money a month.

In sharing the products that enhance their lives, guests often evoke certain nostalgia. For example, when Marian spoke about her memories of her mother using a face cream at her dressing table, which inspired her own love of beauty. I’m sure if we think back to products we all started using at the beginning of our beauty love affair, we’d have some fond memories too. And ones we might perhaps want to forget! I know I definitely have, one of which involves too much blue eyeshadow!

You can check out The Glow Up on Apple

Private Education by Aisling Keenan

Now, this is a podcast I adore for two main reasons. Number one is Aisling, who comes across as such a likeable, friendly person. I met her once before and she actually used to work with the content creation company that I now work for. Though unfortunately way before I arrived. This is probably a good thing, as I can’t imagine I would get much work done if we were in an office together. I’d want to keep chatting! 

Second reason I love this podcast is because it’s about sex. Who doesn’t like listening into conversations about sex, especially in this Normal People era? Apart from those who call into Joe Duffy, of course. 

Sit back and relax as she provides, what she describes as ‘sex ed for adults’. She covers everything from sex dreams and embarrassing sex stories, as well as bringing in special guests like Physicist and Researcher Andrea Doyle (Dr Dre) to help with listeners’ relationship woes. The conversations are just so open and refreshing.  It kind of feels like you’re having those talks with your friends about your sex life, but without having to feel awkward about it (although who should feel awkward about it anymore, we’re living in, what should be, a modern 21st century!). 

Private Education does have a serious element to it when dealing with people’s problems. However, it’s also lighthearted with lots of humour and I just feel like Aisling and her guests can often cheer me up if I’m having a bad day. Definitely one to listen to if you want an escape.

Listen to Private Education on Apple

And, here are Ciaran’s choices…

The David McWilliams Podcast 

Economics can be a tough sell to many. For me, I like to keep up to speed with how the business world will be changing around us, especially after the impact of Covid-19. 

David McWilliams is an Irish economist and broadcaster, who is famous for predicting the 2008 recession. He was ranked as the 10th most influential economist in the world. So, when you get a chance to hear him speak (weekly!), it is worth a listen. 

The podcast is very accessible, there are currently 61 episodes and each is an average of 50 minutes. David and his co-host have a great balance between friendly banter and getting the important information across. In their recent episode, they coined the phrase “Pandession” which is a recession brought on purely by a pandemic. They describe how this could become a common occurrence and how it’s sharp and sudden impact makes “Panessions” unlike any other usual economic event. 

They have also looked into the past at how similar pandemics have hit economies around the world. It is always done with sensitivity and with a humour that makes it an easy listen. If you feel you want to get a slightly deeper (yet still fun and accessible) dive into how the current crisis will affect you, then this is for you.

Available on Apple Podcasts, YouTube or search The David McWilliams Podcast in your player. Visit www.davidmcwilliams.ie

Revisionist History by Malcolm Gladwell


A podcast by one of your favourite writers is a real treat. With season five about to drop, this is perfect timing to catch up if you haven’t already. Malcolm Gladwell is a Canadian writer for The New Yorker and has written “must-read” books such as Tipping Point (named one of the books of the decade) and Blink. These are some of the most thought-provoking books I have ever read. 

The writer has a way of picking one thought and weaving in such brilliant stories to explain his way of thinking, that you will find yourself referencing it regularly. He was also named Time Magazine’s Top 100 Most Influential People, so that says a lot!

The podcast was launched in 2016. It was such a success, Malcolm set up his own podcasting company which produces some stimulating audio. Revisionist History looks back at past events that are possibly misunderstood and can bring subjects to light that you would have never thought of. The podcast has given me some of my most memorable listening moments. I would often tell a story to friends and sound smart, purely by regurgitating the facts I heard on the show.

One example which really interested me was his analysis of Elvis singing “Are you Lonesome Tonight”. He went through the details of how Elvis’s marriage fell apart and he could no longer sing that song live without forgetting the words. A song so famous and one he has sung hundreds of times. There are more like this and I am really looking forward to season five this summer. There are currently 59 episodes which are about 45 minutes each. You still have time to catch up now if you haven’t already!

Available here on Apple or search for Revisionist History.  

Book and TV lovers should also check out our review we did on the top five upcoming book-to-screen adaptations here  

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