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.

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