Jonathan Wall, Controller of BBC Sounds:
Now more than ever, we know people want things which make them laugh and smile, tell them what’s going on and help support their health, education and wellbeing.
We’re making sure BBC Sounds is the best possible audio treasure trove for the nation over the coming months.
We’re adding special new titles and unlocking classics from the archive, so I wanted to share more about what people are going to be able to find on Sounds in the coming weeks and beyond.
BBC Sounds will play an important role in helping people in the UK impacted by the crisis with information, education and support. Our daily podcast The Coronavirus Newscast will keep listeners updated with the latest from Adam Fleming and other BBC correspondents. Next week we’ll have a podcast series called 10 Today, which will also be heard regularly on Radio 5 live sports extra; working with Sport England, they’re ten minute workouts aimed at older listeners to help them keep active. We also have special music mixes such as Pacesetter and new mix Solo Rave for those of all ages looking to work out – or rave - at home. Our children need help to fill the gap left by school closures so we will have two daily education podcasts, one aimed at primary and the other secondary students, and we’ll also have a new series of short, fun history lessons for all the family with Greg Jenner.
There are twenty classic novels in full on Sounds, and more than 100 short stories. All for free, and many such as Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson and Silas Marner by George Eliot appear on the GCSE syllabus. There are also fifteen children’s stories, including The Children’s Joke by Louisa May Alcott and Finn and the Scottish Giant by Harold F Hughes.
The BBC has an incredibly rich archive of audio, and we’re making sure there’s a huge variety of new and archive programmes on Sounds to help keep listeners of all ages entertained and connected to the world. We’ve especially brought back six series of the classic Hancock’s Half Hour and The Goon Show so whether you prefer those, classic episodes of Just A Minute, The Boosh and Flight of the Conchords, or one of the many episodes of Infinite Monkey Cage, there will be the best of comedy from across the decades to make everyone laugh at a time when it’s needed.
If you haven’t heard the radio series from some of today’s most popular comedians such as Mae Martin, Tez Ilyas, Sarah Millican and Twayna Mayne, they’re on Sounds now too.
Sounds is the place for the best of the BBC’s audio storytelling and escapism too. People can enjoy classic dramas such as Middlemarch, alongside all four series of conspiracy thriller Tracks (awarded best fiction at the British Podcast Awards) and more recent podcast dramas including The Whisperer in Darkness and Fake Heiress.
For those who want to get lost in an audiobook, we have lots for listeners to enjoy including: The Testaments by Margaret Atwood which we’ve just brought back to Sounds, Maya Angelou's Autobiographies, Life on Earth by (and read by) David Attenborough, Jon Ronson’s So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed, The Mirror and the Light by Hilary Mantel, Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams and Adults by Emma Jane Unsworth. All of these abridged books, and many more, are available for people to indulge in.
I’m one of the many, many people in the UK missing live sport. If you’re looking for a sports fix and good chat, we’ve got Colin Murray unearthing classic sports commentaries and interviews in Replay; our brilliant new podcast Match Of The Day: Top 10; forty of the most memorable conversations from Test Match Special’s View from Boundary archive with the likes of the youngest Nobel Prize laureate Malala Yousafzai, singer songwriter Lily Allen, comedy actor John Cleese, and writer Ben Travers (who was the first and watched WG Grace play cricket) are being re-released from next week; and the fourth series of hugely popular That Peter Crouch Podcast is arriving sooner to entertain its many fans.
All of this great classic and current audio sits alongside our new podcasts landing soon too. Radio 5 Live’s Elis and John are making special episodes – The Isolation Tapes – finding big laughs even amidst what’s currently happening, Too Rude for Radio with 1Xtra’s Dotty starts this month, and Perfect Sounds with the brilliant comedian James Acaster launches next month. New podcast You’ll Do has celebrity guests talking about the reality of relationships, and Radio 4 has just commissioned some of the biggest UK comedians including Rufus Hound, Marcus Brigstocke, Rachel Parris, Matt Lucas and Miranda Hart, who are currently not able to do their usual shows, to share their isolation experiences on Radio 4 and BBC Sounds in a new series.
We know how vital the news and analysis, music, entertainment and escapism we provide is in these challenging times. Last week live listening to our radio stations went up by 18% on BBC Sounds and there was the highest number of Sounds users – 3.5 million (200k more than the week before). Our top music mix, the Mindful Mix, had more plays last week than throughout February.
It’s because listeners turn to us during significant events that we’ll keep making sure Sounds has what people need over the next few months. In addition to the company of the BBC’s brilliant radio stations, we’ll give people classic and new programmes, audiobooks and podcasts for escapism and laughter, as well as things that help educate our kids, provide trusted information and means to help support the nation’s health and wellbeing.