If you’ve been scouring iTunes, desperately trying to find a podcast that’s interesting, gripping, hilarious and educational in equal measure, then search no longer. S’laughter ticks all the boxes. Recorded by two Notts teachers in their front room, this podcast is murderous comedy at its best...
Emma and Lucy are both teachers from Nottingham with a love of all things gruesome and slightly peculiar. Once a week, they huddle round some microphones in one of their front rooms, get a little bit tipsy, and tell us true crime stories from the UK and beyond.
The pair have been friends for almost twenty years, and you can tell. They share a sense of humour that make Mel and Sue seem as dry as the sponge on week one of Bake Off. They finish each other's sentences, and they aren’t afraid to take the piss out of themselves. They have listeners and supporters all over the world, especially in the US, which Emma puts down to their British accents. “They’re Anglophiles,” she says. “We went on a road trip to America together, and we found if you just go ‘I’m British’, they love it. We got out of a speeding ticket like that.”
Lucy explains how they first started telling the world about true crime: “I started listening to podcasts, and I said to Emma, ‘We could do that.’ We’ve always been into weird stuff, weird documentaries.”
“Yeah, when we hung out it would always be, ‘Let’s watch this one about people who have sex with dolls,’” adds Emma. “It’s usually always about people who have sex with objects. The original idea was to do something about the weird and the macabre, but true crime is easier because you’ve got a different story every time.”
“It’s the fringes of society we’re really interested in,” adds Lucy.
It hasn’t even been a year since the podcast launched, but already they’re drawing in 80,000 listeners every month. The teachers have limited experience in sound recording and editing, so the pair have been figuring it out as they go along. After asking them what the first recording was like, it was clear it was still a slightly touchy subject. It was all going well, until Lucy realised she hadn’t recorded any of it. “Emma wanted to kill me,” she says.
“I’d just spoken for a full half hour, and I was really nervous,” explains Emma. “The whole point of my story was that this woman kept on killing people and saying that they had typhus. I was trying to build the story up, so you’d see the pattern. The first time I told the story, Lucy was really shocked by it, and the second time, it was really fake. Another time, I was texting a boy during the recording, so you can hear loads of phone beeps all the way through that we couldn’t get rid of.”
As Lucy puts it, they “learnt a lot with that first episode,” and now, apart from the occasional hiccup with sound levels here and there, things run pretty smoothly.
Too often I’m put off podcasts by the amount of preamble and talk between the hosts; it can make me feel quite excluded and, to be honest, bored. Emma and Lucy manage to banter and talk about their lives in snippets throughout the episodes, and somehow, you feel part of it; you don’t feel like an outsider trying to fit in with the cool crowd.
One of my favourite quotes sits in an episode that tells the complicated and almost unbelievable story of Mark and John: two boys involved in a mess of online forums and aliases. One of them ends up getting stabbed in an alleyway, of course. The quote had me howling: “Can we all just get over the foot fetish now? There are so many people that have it, it’s practically pedestrian. If someone’s going to ask me for a picture over the internet... do you want my tits, vagina or feet? You’re gonna get the feet.”
The girls have recently organised a meet up in Birmingham for their fans to get together and talk about all things grisly, gruesome and grim. They also have sixty people who support them with monthly payments and they aren’t the only true crime podcasters out there. So what is it about the genre that keeps people hooked? Emma’s opinion is that “Everybody has fantasized one time or another about stabbing a pencil in someone’s eyeball at work. I think by listening to that sort of thing, it’s almost like you live through it a bit. We all know that we have those feelings at times, but you would never do it. It’s cool hearing about the people that actually went and did it.”
Lucy credits the iTunes charts for giving them a bit of a push along the way, to help them reach the listener numbers they see today. “We were featured on ‘Outside the M25’. They did a bit of a profile and we were right at the front of that.” However, just the idea of having a category that features everyone who’s not from London seems slightly bittersweet. Emma explains: “It pissed me off that the category was even called that to be honest. It was a bit like, ‘Oh, because the world is London and then everyone else.’”
Emma and Lucy are teachers. Emma teaches at a primary school, Lucy at a secondary school, so the burning question is: what do their students think to their foray into true crime podcasting? The answer is pretty simple: they don’t know. The pair are worried that if their respective employers find out about what they do in their spare time, they’ll be out of a job. “I haven’t said I do a podcast because they’ll look for it. I’m terrified that they’ll find it and I’ll lose my job and my career forever. I don’t think they’d appreciate it. It’s really scary.”
“Yeah,” continues Emma. “I think, in terms of the messages that we put out, we do slip in a lot of our own ideas, and we’re known for being quite feminist and liberal on the podcast. At the same time, there’s a few too many swears for the PTA. Every time I say something stupid, I see the headlines.”
While Emma and Lucy continue to spend their free time doing what they love most in secret, they do hope to be able to do it on better equipment and maybe even be financially secure enough to knock their teaching week down to four days. As Emma puts it: “Listen to the podcast, but don’t tell our bosses. Donate to keep us going on Patreon, and just support podcasts generally.”