Podcasts for Patchworkers
Sometimes there's nothing better than curling up on the sofa, headphones on, and simply listening to great radio. Whether you’re looking for a heart-warming drama with themes of advocacy at its heart or an informative interview on flex, this list of shows relating to Patchwork Hub’s ethos might have the perfect thing for you!
Drama and Sitcoms
By far the funniest show on this list, Lee Ridley (winner of Britain’s Got Talent 2018) draws on his own experiences of living with a disability to create this wonderfully entertaining sitcom. Like Lee, the main character, Matt, has cerebral palsy and, among other things, this means that he can only speak via a computer. While this might at first seem problematic for radio, Lee ingeniously adds an additional character, Matt’s ‘Inner Voice’, to audibly express Matt’semotions and give the listener unique access to Matt’s thoughts. Interactions with his carer, Bob, and his friend, Jess, provide the basis for hilarious plotlines, which are made all the funnier by his mischievous and at times self-deprecating humour and narration. To date, there are 2 series of 4 half-hour episodes. This sitcom is not to be missed!
2. Tinsel Girl
This comedy-drama is at times as poignant as it is funny. Maz, the main character, is fresh out of drama school but recently had to start using a wheelchair. Her determination to lead a ‘normal’ life despite her connective tissue disorder leads to the mishaps and adventures which underpin the storyline of each series. But her stubbornness is not always positive, and her reluctance to receive help or accept her limitations can sometimes be uncomfortable to listen to. Despite this, the drama is ultimately uplifting and always entertaining. There are 3 series in total with an additional 45-minute episode from 2019.
3. The Pursuits of Darleen Fyles
With an impressive 9 series, this comedy-drama can sometimes feel more like a soap opera! Marriage, death, long-lost family members, and the ups and downs of Darleen's life make for some dramatic plotlines at times, but the basis of each series is how she navigates life as a young woman with learning difficulties. Her relationship with her mother, Treena, is both comic and heartfelt, but it is her relationship with Jamie, her boyfriend, which becomes most central to the story. Both parts are played by actors with learning disabilities and the script is partly improvised by them. Inspired by true stories, this drama is both humorous and poignant, and always heart-warming.
Half-drama, half-documentary, Rowena the Wonderful offers a remarkably personal insight into the life of a unique and caring family. Rowena, born with severe disabilities, cannot speak so her thoughts and feelings are imagined and creatively portrayed by an actor. Real recordings of the home environment, in which we hear the sounds Rowena makes as she plays and interacts with her twin brother, are accompanied by honest and loving accounts from her family and teachers, all voiced by themselves. There are just 2 episodes, ‘Rowena the Wonderful’ from 2013 which tells us of Rowena as an 11-year-old, and ‘The Return of Rowena the Wonderful’ from 2020 which is more contemplative and looks at the the17-year-old Rowena, wondering what her future as an adult might look like.
Interviews and Documentaries
1. What the flex are you doing?
Uniquely, this podcast is targeted at employers or companies looking into a more flexible approach for their workplace but who are uncertain or nervous about making this change. By interviewing people from companies with flexible approaches in place, Paul Halbrook (creator of Diary Detox) is able to offer insight into how to make flexible working work by looking at both the problems and successes they faced when implementing it. As an advocate of flexible working, the podcast also aims to allay common fears surrounding flex, particularly from the perspective of the employer but also of their staff. The informal format of the episodes, in which he and his guest go for a walk, makes it easy to listen to and creates an atmosphere of chatty openness. A very new podcast but nonetheless informative, this is highly recommended for anyone interested in flexible working.
This astonishingly personal and honest documentary gives a unique insight into life with a disability. Louise is the mum of an 8-year-old and a self-employed therapist, and her audio diaries, which were recorded over a year, reveal how she manages work, motherhood and a degenerative muscle-wasting disease. She does not shy away from the huge difficulties she faces on a daily basis, often describing her feelings and struggles with brutal honesty. The format allows for these uniquely personal monologues as well as recording her interactions with those around her. Her son and husband feature in every episode, with appearances also from her dad, delivery drivers, and the reactions of strangers when she goes to the swimming pool or to hospital appointments. Another recurring interaction is with ‘Brian’, her mobility scooter, and with her stairlift at home, each with its own audio presence. This creates an evocative soundscape for each episode, which, coupled with the real dialogue and her own ‘diary-entries’, makes for a moving, funny, and beautifully portrayed documentary.
Jane Johnson is an advocate of flexible working and her podcast reflects this. As the title suggests, balancing a career with motherhood is a theme for most episodes, but the podcast is suitable for anyone who is looking at starting, re-starting or changing their career with a view to achieving a better work-life balance. Jane interviews inspiring women and mothers who share their stories of managing careers, as well as discusses other topical issues like coming back from redundancy and the effect of Covid-19 on the workplace. As the founder of a recruitment agency which promotes flexible working, Jane is also able to offer useful insights into the world of flex and will frequently share this expertise. Her calm manner and supportive attitude make this podcast as soothing as it is informative and full of excellent and encouraging advice.
(If you are interested in the difficulties faced by mothers returning to work or requiring more flexibility at work, this episode of Woman’s Hour from September 2019 also addresses this issue and includes advice from Timewise, the flexible working consultancy.)
This half-hour documentary explores the possibility of a shorter working week by looking at cases from other countries and interviewing experts. The episode is engagingly created with a non-linear structure and music interspersed throughout. Easy to listen to and creatively portrayed, this episode is to be recommended for anyone interested in flexible working and in the way a shorter week might profoundly impact all aspects of life. For a more serious discussion of the shorter working week, listen to this episode of Radio 4’s Bottom Line, in which the 4-day-week is debated with regard to its wider social and economic impact. It includes the opposing views of two academics as well as a CEO who is already implementing this model.
Describing itself as “real disability talk”, this longstanding BBC podcast is a wonderfully broad platform for anything relating to all possible types of disability. Its format is almost as varied as its content, ranging from informal chats and topical discussions, to talk shows and inspiring interviews. Recent guests include Silent Witness star Liz Carr, comedian Alex Brooker and Baroness Jane Campbell, talking about ways in which they have overcome problems and prejudice in their life, in their careers and, in Alex’s case, in parenthood. Particularly pertinent to Patchwork Hub, this episode on the disability employment gap from 2017 is frighteningly relevant today, featuring an interesting discussion with the then CEO of Mencapand an employee with learning difficulties. Informative and entertaining in turn, this podcast has something for everyone, regardless of personal circumstances.
Irwin Mitchell’s podcast Let's Talk About It gives disability issues a voice. Brimming with real-life experiences and useful information, this series brings together a range of different guests, from people living with disabilities to campaigners and experts. Exploring the topics that often don’t get talked about and the things that need to be talked about, this podcast ultimately explores the things that matter to you. Thirty minutes in length, these episodes have discussed openly current and important topics such as Disability Sport, Transport and Employment.
You might also enjoy…
● This recent one-off special presented by actor and writer Mat Fraser called What If Everyone Was Disabled? This explores and exposes the difficulties imposed on those who are not ‘normal’, both in terms of accessibility and social expectations.
● An episode of Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs in which activist, teacher and fashionista Sinead Burke talks about being, in her words, “a little person” and the astonishing way she has overcome challenges and continues to campaign for greater inclusivity. You can also hear her on BBC Ouchfrom November 2019.
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