Encouraged by a couple of brilliant recent examples, I’m on the lookout for audio documentaries. I thought I’d share a couple of my all-time favourites and ask you to do the same.
What really got me back into the art of audio storytelling was the now infamous Serial podcast. Or podcasts – the 12 episodes at the end of 2014 presenting the real-life evidence for and against convicted killer Adnan Syed made riveting listening. Never mind whatever Scandi-HBO clone you’re watching on TV at present, if you haven’t heard Serial then start at episode 1 now and instantly lose a day of your life.
And Iggy Pop, always an engaging talker, presented an excellent BBC documentary about William Burroughs, recently given another run out for what would have been Burroughs’ 101st birthday.
But here are two of my absolute favourites. Firstly, an amazing story brilliantly edited into just 14 lean minutes. Runaway Train tells the true story of Wesley MacDonald’s attempt to stop the out-of-control goods train he was driving from causing a disaster in 1980s Canada. Amazingly, there’s taped communication of Wesley’s conversation with traffic control as the inevitable nears. It’s gripping and emotional.
Listen to Runaway Train:
And then there’s Don’t Hang Up: Nightlines. Don’t Hang Up was a late night series where the presenter, Alan Dein, called public payphones all over the world and tried to chat with whoever answered. He never knew where he was calling and this particular episode won a Sony Silver Award. It’s all great but one particular conversation, with a young girl from Margate, slowly develops from exhibitionism to confession and becomes quite affecting.