By Simon O’Hagan
Last time round I featured one of the BBC’s most successful radio programmes-turned-podcasts – the World Service and Radio 4 series 50 Things that Made the Modern Economy. This week it’s the turn of a standalone BBC podcast — a show with all the quality and type of personnel you’d expect from a Radio 4 or 5 Live offering but which exists completely outside any network.
The show is the Jane Garvey- and Fi Glover-hosted Fortunately, the official description of which reads, “Surprising, annoying and unforgettable radio moments along with stories of on air heroism and disaster”. It’s a show that lifts the lid on the inner workings of radio, dives off into other areas, and showcases the comedic talents of two presenters — both of them familiar to Radio 4 listeners — who otherwise wouldn’t have much of an outlet for them.
It’s a terrifically funny show, in which Garvey — a regular host of Woman’s Hour — and Glover — best known as the host of The Listening Project — glory in self-deprecating chat, score a few points, offer up plenty of jokes at the BBC’s expense, and generally loosen the stays. It feels like a slightly tipsy extension of Woman’s Hour.
“Jane and I have been making programmes for years and sat in studios and worked from scripts, and we both wanted to do something more freeform,” Glover told me. “We can let rip about the inadequacies of our own lives.”
At the same time, one of the messages that the pair want to send out is that as two middle-aged women — Garvey is 53, Glover 48 — they are “not fading away”, and certainly no one in BBC management can be in any doubt about that after Garvey led the response from women presenters in the wake of the equal-pay controversy of a few weeks ago.
Fortunately had just gone off-air at the time — its first series of 16 weekly podcasts series ended in mid-July — but when it returns on Friday (8th September), Glover says that they “might just find a way” to address the topic.
The second series will differ from the first in that each podcast will feature a guest — a notable BBC figure whom Garvey and Glover like to ensnare in what passes for their “studio”, aka the media café at Broadcasting House in London where they “plonk themselves down” with their recording equipment and start extemporising.
Cameo appearances by Jeremy Vine and Paddy O’Connell in series one offer a flavour of what to expect from series two’s guests, and Glover says that listeners have “loved the peeling back of the layers of broadcasting”.
The birth of Fortunately can be traced back to the Radio Festival in Salford in 2013, which Garvey and Glover co-hosted. “Our paths had never crossed, but we had a really nice time and a right old laugh, both in the dressing room and on stage, and I think people thought, they’re quite funny,” Glover recalled. “It all started from there, quite a slow burner.”
Fortunately broke into the iTunes top 50, and has had a big response on social media. “The podcasting world comes back at you much more than the broadcasting one does,” Glover said. “There’s way more chatter. People feel a real closeness to the show.”
I put it to Glover that they could be the new Mel and Sue, to which she cited the comparison someone had made to Hinge and Bracket. Maybe they are somewhere between the two — not a bad place to be, I’d say.
All 16 episodes of series one of Fortunately are available here. The first podcast in series two goes out at 4pm on Friday