Pandora Sykes And Dolly Alderton On Why The High Low Was Always Going To End This Year and The Things They’d Never Discuss On Air…

'The final episode was the first time that we have ever edited an episode together, in person.'

Why did the high low podcast end?

by Anna Silverman |

As the High Low podcast draws to a close after four years, with a one-off live show tonight (all proceeds go to Blood Cancer UK - you can book your tickets here), we catch up with hosts Pandora Sykes and Dolly Alderton to find out what made them decide to hang up their headphones, what goes into producing the High Low each week, and what's next for the pair...

At the end of every beloved show all everyone ever wants to know is whether will you come back for a Christmas special or a special one off... will you?

Never say never! But we have no plans to currently.

What was it like recording that final episode?

It was the first time that we have ever edited an episode together, in person. Normally we record it together (or remotely) and then we listen and put forward our edits, separately. It felt fitting for the last one that we stayed up and did it together, finishing at midnight, a slightly eye-watering 16 hours after we first started working on it.

What happened after you took the headphones off for the last time?

We ate some pasta, drank some margaritas, and gassed about absolute rubbish, which is essentially what we did professionally, anyway.

What would a typical recording of The High Low look like?

The prep would be threaded across the week - news articles, magazine long-reads, memes, press releases and polls forwarded between inboxes, alongside a steady stream of voicenotes, whilst keeping an eye on letters landed in the mailbag and what Twitter threw up - and then the day of record we would spend three hours throwing ideas back and forth, after which our sub-editor Abby would then check our facts. We'd then record for two hours or so, our producer would go away and turn it into a semi-coherent show and then a couple of hours later, we'd edit it - which normally took between two and three hours - write the shownotes and upload it at midnight.

What is the one thing you can’t believe you ended up discussing?

I mean, we covered so much - from the tender to the ludicrous. We did draw the line at discussing our sex lives though and we only very vaguely would touch on family. The idea is for people to feel 'part' of the show, in a way that was quite boundaried.

How many emails would you get on average a week in the mail bag?

It's normally about 50, but the last few weeks have been around 300.

Were the episodes scripted or were you ad-libbing?

It's a bit of both. For something really grave, full of facts, that could potentially really upset people or shock them, it's mostly scripted. But for anything daft - National Sandwich Week, chin hair, Connell's Chain - it's ad libbed. We prefer ad libbing but we would be careful and a bit more pre-planned with something really delicate.

Was there ever a point over the past four years when you thought about stopping it sooner?

There were points when it was hard, for each of us separately. But we always had in our heads - and I know this sounds mad to people, but we're both quite like certain, in that once we commit to something we don't really change our minds - that we were all in, for 4 years. We wanted to go out on a high, and we feel like we've really honoured the show by ending it now.

CJ [The High Low's producer Charlie Jones] mentions in the final episode that all anyone wants to know is what you guys are like. How does it feel to know this?

It can be a bit nerve-wracking but I think we all do that, when we listen to someone on the radio, or watch them being interviewed on telly. We just try not to think about it, and be semi-decent human beings.

What is the biggest podcast do and don’t?

We are very much accidental podcast 'experts' and so we feel a bit cautious about supplying any hard and fast diktats. But there are a few things that tend to grate (which we used to do!) and now probably wouldn't.

Those are:

Do not Interrupt. It's very much a natural part of conversation, so it can feel quite alien to never jump in or talk over each other, but you do notice how frustrating that is as a listener experience, so we endeavoured to stop doing that so much

Don't create excessively long shows. Again, quite rich from us, as our finale is about 2 hours and 20 minutes, but we thought that was fine for the last ever! We tried to keep it to under 1 hour, which we didn't always succeed at.

Do invest in good audio quality. It's actually not hard to get studio quality at home, now - the microphones we were using during lockdown cost under £50.

Make sure you have a clear point of view and deliver original content. Podcasting is now a saturated market, so make sure you aren't doing something that lots of other people are currently doing.

What do you both have planned next?

Dolly is working on a TV project for the next 9 months. And Pandora's working on a podcast series for Podimo, which launches in a few weeks, called The Missing - which is about long-term missing people in the UK.

16 Of The Best Podcasts Every Woman Should Be Listening To

Gallery

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The Guilty Feminist covers all of the big topics through a uniquely feminist lens with a diverse range of whip-smart guests, making it one of the best podcasts you can get in your ears. Helmed by the inimitable Deborah Frances-White, each episode will have you cracking up and nodding vigorously in equal measure as the hosts kick things off with their trademark "I'm a feminist, but..." segment. The best example? "I'm a feminist, but... one time I went on a women's rights march, and I popped into a department store to use the loo, and I got distracted trying out face cream. And when I came out the march was gone."

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If you're a woman living in the UK, chances are you've listened to Dolly Alderton and Pandora Sykes' podcast The High Low. Once a week, Alderton and Sykes tackle the week's current affairs and pop culture stories and the biggest issues facing women in the UK and abroad. Consistently taking a top spot in the iTunes charts the programs signature mix of high low journalism, stellar recommendations and author specials have made it popular with women across the nation.

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Hosted by Aussie journalists Michelle Andrews and Zara McDonald, Shameless is the podcast for smart women who love dumb stuff and has quickly cemented itself as a must listen with the show reaching more women aged between 18 and 30 than any other Australian podcast. Zara and Michelle - who The Guardian described as "the voice of two generations" - cover everything from influencer culture to reality TV to the biggest stories affecting women in the news cycle and have quickly proved there's a huge market for their clever commentary after taking home the trophy for Most Popular Podcast at the Australian Podcast Awards.

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Yes, THAT Desert Island Discs. Thanks to podcasting, the BBC Radio institution (named the greatest radio programme of all time by industry experts) has helped put BBC podcasts on the map. With the show running on the airwaves since 1942, there's a hefty back catalogue that will keep you occupied on many commutes to come. And if you're looking for a stellar episode to kick start your listening, try war surgeon David Nott's 2016 appearance on the show. But be warned, you'll need tissues.

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Elizabeth Day's podcast on failure (that went on to inspire the book of the same name) has quickly risen through the charts since its 2018 launch with the London based journalist interviewing everyone from American author Tara Westover (the woman behind the searing memoir Educated) to Tony Blair's former spin doctor Alistair Campbell in a wonderfully candid interview format that sees Day's guests recounting their biggest failures - and the lessons they learned from them.

who weekly podcast
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Hosted by American journalists Bobby Finger and Lindsey Weber, Who? Weekly aptly describes itself as "everything you need to know about the celebrities you don't". Covering the who's (think, the entire cast of Love Island) and them's (the Dame Helen Mirren's of the world) of the news cycle with their signature wit and hilarious back and forth, Who? Weekly will bring you up to date with all those celebrities whose name you can't quite remember.

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Yes, we know Dolly Alderton's already on this list for The High Low. But her Love Stories podcast (there's two seasons available to keep you busy) is one of the most divine listens on the internet as Alderton interviews guests such as Stanley Tucci and Lily Allen to discuss, well, love stories. If you're a fan of Alderton's best-selling memoir Everything I Know About Love and are hungry for more lessons on love, you'll want these thoughtful conversations in your ears.

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All working women know that our experience in the workplace is markedly different from that of our male counterparts the The Broad Experience is one of the first podcasts I recommend to my female colleagues that want to dive deeper into understanding the relationship they have with their careers and success. Tackling everything from pregnancy (and pregnancy loss) to menopause, the art of negotiating, the hell that can be networking and how to say no to office housework, The Broad Experience offers an honest perspective on women and work.

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