Quiet, dull-ish podcasts with UK accents
January 21, 2020 3:16 PM   Subscribe

A friend who is dealing with grief and anxiety at the moment, and having trouble sleeping, is looking for unexciting podcasts for the middle of the night. Delivery slower and not too in one's face; topics not bleak, which rules out a lot of history or natural world stuff; UK accents. Assume she has heard of anything from Radio 4 - for instance, Clare Balding's Ramblings, which fits the bill. Thanks.
posted by paduasoy to Society & Culture (38 answers total) 39 users marked this as a favorite
It's Radio 4, so she's probably heard of it, but In Our Time is the most calming podcast I have ever listened to. I use it as a sleep aid - I avoid the darker topics (e.g. Spanish Inquisition) and listen to lovely podcasts about feathered dinosaurs or the Ice Ages instead.
posted by jb at 3:19 PM on January 21, 2020 [18 favorites]

Beef and dairy network podcast.
posted by Dalton at 3:21 PM on January 21, 2020 [2 favorites]

Hmmmm, UK accent -- that limits my suggestion.

But as a bonafide 3 AM-er (I tend to always wake up then) I've had the best results for falling back to sleep gently with the Otis Gray's Sleepy podcast. He's everywhere that pods are hosted. (He's also cute!)

Not sure if that fits the bill either tho, maybe she wants to be awake longer. Here's hoping her healing process is gentle.

And thanks for this post, I'm gonna follow it as I'm always looking for subdued, no bells and whistles or bellowing hosts podcasts.
posted by zenpop at 3:26 PM on January 21, 2020

Sleep With Me. I can verify it works.
posted by MexicanYenta at 3:26 PM on January 21, 2020

This might be too much on the dull side, but there's the BBC's Shipping Forecast. It's weather reports and forecasts relevant to the shipping industry, delivered in an exceptionally soothing voice.
posted by leslietron at 3:30 PM on January 21, 2020 [8 favorites]

My spouse turns to old Poirot radio plays when she can't sleep. I'm not sure if it counts as not bleak. But, it works for her, and there are something like a hundred hours of it.
posted by eotvos at 3:34 PM on January 21, 2020 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks - to re-state, she already knows about any R4 / BBC podcasts (In Our Time and the Shipping Forecast), and does want something with UK accents (so not Otis Gray, who Google tells me is American). I don't think she is especially looking for podcasts to help her sleep or focussed on insomnia. Thanks for the good wishes, zenpops, will pass them on.
posted by paduasoy at 3:36 PM on January 21, 2020

Also BBC 4: The Living World
posted by space2k at 3:46 PM on January 21, 2020

Robin Pierson from The History of Byzantium has an utterly mellifluous voice. The topic is bleak--especially if you are rooting for the Romans--but there are plenty of episodes devoted to society, culture, esoteric religious infighting, etc...to make it more than just a summary of military defeats. I've fallen asleep to this podcast hundreds of times, so it might be a good fit for your friend.
posted by El_Marto at 3:47 PM on January 21, 2020

Response by poster: Thanks - to be totally clear, I don't need any BBC R4 recommendations, she really is all over that.
posted by paduasoy at 3:55 PM on January 21, 2020 [1 favorite]

The Allusionist? One of the two hosts on Gastropod is British, if half is good enough.
posted by jeather at 4:03 PM on January 21, 2020

I think The Allusionist is distributed by an American network, though I can't remember which one off the top of my head. Not the BBC, at any rate. (Jinx!)

Pretty sure they quit making SRSLY, but that was The New Statesman, not BBC. Not sure if she'd be interested in back episodes or not, but maybe it's just as well if she doesn't find them terribly engaging.

Not sure if either of these would qualify as "slower delivery," but I do find them... maybe "gentle", at least?
posted by slenderloris at 4:05 PM on January 21, 2020

Seconding Beef and Dairy Network.

Selected episodes from The Guardian's Audio Long Reads (e.g. cave art).
posted by maudlin at 4:09 PM on January 21, 2020 [2 favorites]

The Honest Guys do relaxation meditations and are very, very English.
posted by scruss at 4:20 PM on January 21, 2020

Does she actively NOT want sleep-related podcasts, or are they just not a requirement? If she doesn’t mind them, I like Dan Jones sleep stories. I play them off youtube, but they’re available on podcast platforms as well.
posted by tan_coul at 4:28 PM on January 21, 2020 [1 favorite]

Reasons to be Cheerful with Ed Milliband and Geoff Lloyd - not, in fact, a laugh a minute, mostly two blokes talking at length about earnest good causes.
Sue Perkins: An hour or so with... When she's got a British guest.
The Royal Court Playwrights' Podcast Perhaps most suitable if she's not into contemporary theatre so won't find it interesting. Contemporary plays can be harrowing but often the playwrights in person are kind of moderate-level-chipper and talking more about their career than their plays.
Putting it Together - Scottish theatre podcast which I honestly find it hard to concentrate on even when I know the guest/am interested in the topic. Even the extended introduction before the guest arrives will send me off, it's so long and rambling.
Tartan Running Shorts - Scottish running podcast, mostly just two guys talking. They do probably laugh a bit here and there but it's a long, talky thing, so might work, especially if she's no interest in running in Scotland. Have only listened to one or two eps but I think worth a try.
All the best to your friend.
posted by penguin pie at 4:43 PM on January 21, 2020 [5 favorites]

Oh! And one I've only just discovered but having listened to just the first 30 seconds I think it might be exactly what she's after if she likes Ramblings - Swim Wild podcast - wild swimmers talking calmly about doing a nice thing in nature.
posted by penguin pie at 4:56 PM on January 21, 2020

Seconding SLEEP WITH ME podcast. Boring/soothing people to sleep is the pod's very purpose!
posted by diabolik at 4:57 PM on January 21, 2020

No Such Thing as a Fish. Possibly a bit too cheery as there's lots of laughing, but because the conversation is mostly tangents and not very linear, I very easily get distracted and forget to listen. I find it easy to fall asleep to.
posted by kjs4 at 5:07 PM on January 21, 2020 [3 favorites]

There’s a wonderful app called Insight Timer that has an entire section of 1,000+ free recordings dedicated to sleep, including honest to goodness bedtime stories. One of the British (Scottish, in fact) contributors is Andrew Johnson who reads Khalil Gibran’s “The Prophet.” Although she’s not British, I have to recommend the yoga nidra guided meditations by Jennifer Piercy as I’ve found them to be a balm for my sleeplessness.
posted by ReginaHart at 5:30 PM on January 21, 2020 [2 favorites]

Sodajerker on Songwriting. A Liverpudlian songwriting duo interview singer/songwriters about their processs. Incredibly interesting and calming at the same time.
posted by Champagne Supernova at 5:55 PM on January 21, 2020

The "Calm" app, available for Android, Apple and web, has "Sleep Stories", and the free version of the app includes "Blue Gold", a rambly description of lavender fields in Provence, narrated by Stephen Fry. Bliss! (I'm not sure how many of the other sleep stories have UK accents, but the premium version seems to have voices from a variety of backgrounds, and you can get a 7 day trial, which unlocks all the stories, for free).
posted by Cheese Monster at 5:59 PM on January 21, 2020

The Guardian’s book podcast meets your criteria.
posted by EXISTENZ IS PAUSED at 6:12 PM on January 21, 2020 [1 favorite]

Philosophy Now's podcast might do the trick, works for me for the same reasons.
posted by marylynn at 6:41 PM on January 21, 2020

I love the Beef and Dairy Network but no offense, I'm not sure it's going to be a cure for insomnia. It starts off normal enough as a parody of what a beef industry podcast would be, but by the end of the first season it is thoroughly batshit. Maybe some of the earliest episodes would work. I do recommend it as a podcast in general though.

I didn't really get into it, but I might recommend David Tennant Does a Podcast With... which as far as I know is just him interviewing other celebrities, at least some of whom are also from the UK.
posted by cali59 at 7:40 PM on January 21, 2020

Answer Me This could be a good fit- it’s got Helen Zaltzman from The Allusionist (which I’d also nth). (Actually, all three people on that show have podcasts so maybe....

Shut Up and Sit Down has a board game podcast and YouTube that I find soothing even though I’m not an active board game player.

Maybe Tim Clare’s Death of 1000 Cuts? It’s about writing so it might be less hefty depending on the episode...
posted by actionpact at 9:00 PM on January 21, 2020 [1 favorite]

A History of Rock Music in 500 Songs fits your criteria.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 11:48 PM on January 21, 2020

Response by poster: Thank you, this is all very helpful.
posted by paduasoy at 12:37 AM on January 22, 2020

I assume if she listens to a lots of R4 she’s already explored all of the BBC Sounds archives (there’s plenty of stuff from the World Service and R3, and lots of older one-offs from R4. She should have a look through the other channels too, I’ve found some amazing programmes on Radio Ulster and the Asian Network).

Assuming she’s listening on her phone, the other thing I’d suggest is listening to TV programmes with the screen off - depending on the programme, it doesn’t make much difference to comprehension. I listen to the Collected Works of Time Team, which have that comforting nice-people-having-a-chat-not-much-happening feel, things like Bettany Hughes documentaries and UK History Channel programmes are also very amenable to audio-only.
posted by tinkletown at 2:33 AM on January 22, 2020 [3 favorites]

Would audiobooks fit the bill? I have gone through something very similar and eerily find subjects of history explored with a British accent to be just what the doctor ordered. These aren’t podcasts though:

A Distant Mirror, by Barbara Tuchman - read by a lady who sounds like a strict but kind professor. Like being lectured on medieval history by a lady who is one half Mary Poppins and one half the host of The Weakest Link.

Norse Mythology, Neil Gaiman: literally this is just Neil Gaiman reading Norse myths at you in his pleasant voice until you drift peacefully asleep. Every once in a while you might wake up to hear him talking about someone getting their eyes gouged out though.

Out of Your Mind, Alan Watts: He talks about very calming concepts like being one with the universe, coupled with some historical context for eastern religions and philosophy, and all with his charming accent and you can practically hear the twinkle in his eye. Some of the recordings are poor and his talks don’t always age well, but this is a big go-to for me when I’m feeling anxious.

Tarot for Beginners, 5 Books In One, narrated by Lucy Cook: This is an odd recommendation, because it’s about tarot which is very new agey, and the reader is Australian (I think). BUT, it is very calming to listen to this woman just list out the cards and their histories and their meanings. This isn’t a religion book or too focused on metaphysical woo stuff, it is very practical and focused on the factual history of tarot as well as the objective meanings and artwork on the cards. Bonus, there are 5 books so it is repetitive but in slightly different ways. Sooooo soothing.
posted by pazazygeek at 3:34 AM on January 22, 2020 [1 favorite]

I quite enjoy the Adam Buxton Podcast. Most of the episodes are him having thoughtful and restrained conversations with people. There is also quite a lot of him wandering around a muddy paddock with his dog.
posted by AndrewStephens at 7:48 AM on January 22, 2020 [1 favorite]

There is also quite a lot of him wandering around a muddy paddock with his dog.

That reminds me, Stone Clearing with Richard Herring is literally Richard Herring walking round a field with his dog, picking up stones. And Me1 vs Me2 with Richard Herring is him playing himself at snooker.

They're supposed to be so dull that they circle right round again and become funny, but the one time I tried listening to each of them they were genuinely dull enough that I didn't bother again. Might be good for these purposes.

His better-known RHLSTP (RHLSTP! for those in the know) aka Richard Herring's Leicester Square Theatre Podcast, is him inteviewing other people, mostly comedians, but it's in front of an audience and is probably too raucous for these purposes. But the Comedian's Comedian podcast, where Stuart Goldsmith interviews other comedians, is IIRC, slightly more inclined towards straight chat, so might be worth a go.
posted by penguin pie at 9:17 AM on January 22, 2020

The History in the Bible Podcast, hosted by an Australian named Garry Stevens, is perfect for me. The content is interesting enough that I don't mind if it doesn't put me to sleep. If it does, I listen to it the next day.

Old Testament teaser:
Until the 1970s, archaeologists of Israel and Palestine saw their job as demonstrating the historical validity of the Bible. A new band of archaeologists and scholars has overturned that notion. The Bible is no longer seen as a document whose words must be proven, but as a starting point in providing a new and reliable history of the Jews, and the development of Judaism.
New Testament teaser:
A quite separate and distinct re-evaluation of the New Testament has been bubbling along since the late 1700's. The archaeologists have little do with this. This battle has been conducted on a literary level, between people sitting in comfy chairs; not trench-workers in the desert heat digging in the dusty earth for weeks at a time. I will explore the exotically named Third Quest for the Historical Jesus, and the New Perspectives on Paul approach.
posted by kingless at 1:41 PM on January 22, 2020

Words To That Effect, which I learned about from the Shedunnit podcast. The hosts from both podcasts are UK-based with UK accents.

Note: not all episodes are stress-free, but a generous percentage are. I enjoy listening to the easygoing episodes from both podcasts to help fall asleep.
posted by Goblin Barbarian at 9:37 AM on January 23, 2020

The only thing that has ever worked for me consistently (I function much the same way as your friend in listening to UK-accented radio/tv when I want to fall asleep - Radio 4/ 4 Extra sometimes works, sometimes doesn't,) is to listen to episodes of the Vicar of Dibley on my phone. It is a tv show, but I don't watch the screen. The show is incredibly quaint, cheery without being irritating, and quietly uplifting. Episodes are available on YouTube and Dailymotion.
posted by Everydayville at 3:15 PM on January 23, 2020

‘Bootstrap Cook’ Jack Monroe has just started a video series of reading recipes aloud. Episodes: 1 2
posted by Morfil Ffyrnig at 2:53 PM on January 24, 2020

Very entertaining thread and picking up some useful tips, thanks all!
I listen to a fair few UK podcasts on the overnight and can confirm/ recommend:

Adam Buxton, he's bright and funny, guests are wide ranging and always interesting, he's been at it awhile: 100+ to choose from
BBC History Extra podcast, if you love history, lots of great author interviews
Radio 3 Documentary podcast - it's not Radio 4! check it out
Guardian Long Reads, meaty and satisfying, the original and still the best
The History of England with David Crowther recording in his shed, probably my favourite as his voice is so sedate and sweet, his jokes are corny, and the material is so good - there are 200+ episodes and counting

OK it's a bit history heavy here - but hopefully soporific enough for you - good luck
posted by henry scobie at 6:03 PM on January 24, 2020 [1 favorite]

The boring talks might be a good fit.
posted by larkery at 8:41 AM on February 18, 2020

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