13th January 2021
Naomi – I Weigh
Jameela Jamil, best known for playing Tahani on the hit philosophical comedy The Good Place, started I Weigh as a social media account two years ago. Fed up of celebrities and influencers promoting toxic diet culture and unhealthy attitudes to body image, Jamil started I Weigh as an Instagram account that encouraged anybody to submit a photograph of themselves and what they weighed – not in the physical sense of pounds and kilos – but their worth in achievements and their identity. The account took off in body-positive, feminist, BIPOC and queer movements and now boasts 1.3 million followers.
Since the podcast began in March, Jamil has interviewed numerous activists, writers, celebrities, influencers and thought leaders on what they personally “weigh”, touching on topics of intersectional feminism, mental health, and overcoming shame. While each guest brings a different style, the results are comedic, yet vulnerable, authentic, and empowering.
I started listening to it during a great time of learning this year, in a conscious effort to make sure I was listening to a diverse range of voices. One episode that resonated with me was the interview with writer Caitlin Moran, in which both her and Jamil provided perspectives on living through and helping people with eating disorders. The episode with Josie Naughton about her charity Choose Love which helps refugees brought to light issues that have not disappeared in 2020, but in a sensitive and accessible way. And an episode that made me howl with laughter was her interview with Aisling Bea, in which they discussed loneliness and why women should brag. There are a wealth of other episodes with equally captivating guests, with plenty more to come in the year ahead.
Ariana – Ologies
As I bundle up and grab my keys, wallet and mask for my Wednesday walk, I complete my ensemble with my phone, earbuds and the latest Ologies podcast. The host, Dad Ward aka Alie Ward, entertains me on my strolls with her audible gasps and squeals of excitement about learning new facts, sometimes leading me to burst out with spontaneous sidewalk laughter.
Like the name suggests, Ologies episodes feature interviews of people that study different ologies, from space archaeology to gynaecology. Unlike many other science-y podcasts, Alie Ward makes the otherwise very serious guests seem relatable with her quirky sidenote analogies and her motto “ask smart people stupid questions”. While geared towards an American audience, the host is very keen to be gender and racially inclusive, acting as a platform for young, female, queer or black scientists to have a voice.
I rode out the first 2020 lockdown in snowy Minnesota, and my itch to get outside into nature kept growing. Luckily, many of the Ologies episodes cover topics surrounding wildlife and conservation, and I became hooked immediately. Surprisingly, though, some of my favourite episodes have not been about nature. In a double episode, Alie explored the topic of fear with none other than an Imperial SciComm graduate Mary Poffenroth. As I spooked myself out whilst listening to these episodes alone in a dark cabin in forest, the interviewee provided some helpful hints on recognizing, identifying and addressing the situation. For those like myself who are more inclined to the natural world, Merlin Tuttle with chiropterology (the study of bats) is a great place to begin growing your love for fun facts, stupid questions and eccentric personalities.
Scarlett – GABA
I have chosen a mystical favourite for my top pod of the year: Adam Martin’s GABA Podcast. I first listened to it when the first lockdown started, a time when rejuvenation and solace were needed more than ever. I am a strong advocate for talking about mental health and the name GABA – a calming neurochemical in the brain that relieves anxiety – spoke to me.
A romantic at heart, listening to GABA inspired me to put pen to paper and write poetry. I think it is the way Martin dares to be different and embraces vulnerability. I try to do that in my writing. In the short and sweet 15-25 minutes of each episode, you’re whisked away on an ethereal journey into a wonderworld sprinkled with soundbites and poetic prose. Martin signs off every meditation with a bespoke rendition of his trademark phrase, “love and kindness, that’s what it’s all about. The rest is never dancing like a butterfly.”
When I open my eyes after a GABA meditation, I am moved as though I have just been to the cinema to see one of those films that makes the world a bit brighter. One that shakes you up and gives you a new perspective.
Martin recites a lyrical commentary on nature and humanity. You are tickled with curiosity. You wander in the wilderness. From Dame Helen Mirren and her lockdown kittens to Sean Connery on bonfire night and Shakespeare on what it means to love, there is subtle wisdom and conspicuous joy in every episode. A recent favourite of mine is Blackberry Jam, a magical appreciation of the cyclicality of nature. Though, you can start anywhere, cherry picking as I often do, whatever takes your fancy.
That is our selection for now but stay tuned for more top recommendations to get you through lockdown. Keep safe, stay home, socially distance, wear your masks, all that jazz, and most importantly, pop your headphones on to escape from it all! – Fatima, Reviews Editor
Fatima Sheriff is a freelance film critic, academic quizzer and part-time Science Communication student. She can be found on Twitter @sheriffscience and a compilation of her other good words can be found at http://fatimasheriff.contently.com