The 12 greatest radio shows of the past 10 years

The top 12 radio moments from the last decade
The top 12 radio moments from the last decade - Francesco Carta fotografo
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Here’s a small selection of some of the best radio programmes and moments from the last decade. These are the shows, series and podcasts that I’ve returned to as comfort listening, that I’ve recommended to other people countless times, or just that made me gasp with horror, collapse into laughter, or start sobbing while unloading the dishwasher. But radio is a peculiarly personal thing, and these may well be completely different from the snippets of radio that you remember most – what are your favourite radio moments?


1. The Missing Cryptoqueen (BBC Sounds, 2019)

A gripping series from Jamie Bartlett and Georgia Catt that all but reinvented the investigative podcast genre, moving it on from introspective detective work to take on bolder cases with global consequences. It was also artistically made, with beautiful original music. Available on BBC Sounds


2. The Bright Side of Life (Radio 4, 2023)

The Dimbleby family in 1953 (father Richard, mother Dilys, and children Sally, Nicholas and Jonathan)
The Dimbleby family in 1953 (father Richard, mother Dilys, and children Sally, Nicholas and Jonathan) - Popperfoto

This intensely moving and personal record of the Dimbleby family’s experience of MND was truly unforgettable. Available on BBC Sounds


3. Fortunately... / Off Air with Fi and Jane (BBC Sounds and Times Radio)

Fortunately... / Off Air with Fi and Jane
Fortunately... / Off Air with Fi and Jane - Suki Dhanda

Fi Glover and Jane Garvey are wise and hilarious co-presenters, and their interview with London Hughes in particular was gloriously anarchic. I especially like the first London Hughes episode (August 2021) and suggest starting it from around the 00:15:20 mark when London Hughes is telling good stories. Available on BBC Sounds


4. Welcome to Your Fantasy (Gimlet, 2021)

Think you know about the Chippendales? This absorbing, troubling series reveals far more than just what’s beneath the clothes of the famous hunks. Available via Gilmletmedia.com


5. Fear in the Furrows (Radio 4, 2019)

Radio 4’s Fear in the Furrows explored the darker underside of the pastoral idyll
Radio 4’s Fear in the Furrows explored the darker underside of the pastoral idyll

Folk Horror is one of the most seductive contemporary moods of film, TV and literature, and this thoroughly spooky programme from Simon Hollis fascinatingly explores why and how folk horror thrills and chills us. Available on BBC Sounds


6. PopMaster (Radio 2 / Greatest Hits Radio)

PopMaster is the best radio quiz format in the country. The on-air marriage proposal (29 January 2021) was a delightful moment that demonstrated PopMaster’s central place in the nation’s hearts.


7. Once Upon a Time at Bennington College (Audacy Studios, 2021)

The captivatingly told story of how Donna Tartt, Jonathan Lethem and Bret Easton Ellis became literary enfants terribles together. Available via Apple Podcasts


8. The Dark is Rising (The World Service, 2022)

The Dark is Rising (The World Service, 2022)
The Dark is Rising (The World Service, 2022) - BBC

Simply radio drama at its best: a spellbinding adaptation of Susan Cooper’s literary classic. Available on BBC Sounds


9. Jilly Cooper on Desert Island Discs (Radio 4, 2016)

Author Jilly Cooper
Author Jilly Cooper - Stephen Shepherd

Jilly Cooper has to have been one of the best Desert Island Discs guests of all time: funny, revealing, sharp, and entirely herself. Available on BBC Sounds


10. The Archers: Rob Titchener and Helen Archer (Radio 4, 2016-23)

Louiza Patikas and Rob Titchener from the Archers
Louiza Patikas and Rob Titchener from the Archers - Pete Dadds

A nation rejoiced when villainous Rob Titchener got his comeuppance, but it was only the beginning of his wife Helen Archer’s woes. This storyline was one of the most dramatic and devastating in the history of The Archers. I suggest clipping the episode aired on 3 April 2016 which is when Helen stabbed Rob.


11. Elis James and John Robins (Radio X / BBC 5 Live, 2013-present)

Elis James and John Robins
Elis James and John Robins - Rii Schroer

Listening to Elis and John feels like hanging out with some of your funniest friends. They play off against each other perfectly: anxious, introspective poetry fan John Robins versus laid-back, overgrown indie kid Elis James.

Episode suggestions: the bowling episode from February 2020, about 11 minutes in. Also, the Crazy Golf episode from February 2020 and the pub quiz episode from December 2019. Available on BBC Sounds


12. Folk on Foot (Matthew Bannister, 2018-present)


Matthew Bannister invites folk musicians to give walking tours of their local area, discussing and performing their music along the way. Folk music situated within its organic context, enriched with additional meaning and storytelling, consistently makes for one of the most immersive and enchanting podcasts I’ve ever heard.

Episode suggestions: Johnny Flynn on the Hackney Marshes, September 2020, or Maddy Prior in Cumbria, January 2023. Available via folkonfoot.com

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