Armchair Adventures: the surprise hit Manchester podcast taking to the skies on Virgin Atlantic planes

Armchair Adventures, a podcast for young listeners created by older people from across Manchester, was initially created during the Covid-19 pandemic when travel was heavily restricted.

A podcast made by a Manchester community group has quite literally taken off after a major airline included it in its in-flight entertainment.

Travellers on Virgin Atlantic planes can tune in to Armchair Adventures, created by Made by Mortals which works with older people and those with mental health conditions in the city-region.

The podcast was initially created at a time when no-one was able to go on any adventures at all and travel was heavily restricted by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Since then Armchair Adventures has gone from strength to strength, with the deal with the major airline coming on the back of it winning a national award.

What is Armchair Adventures?

Armchair Adventures is a podcast for children created by older people who attend Made by Mortals’ activities.

Made by Mortals runs participatory music and theatre sessions

The not-for-profit arts group brings older people’s experiences to life through music and theatre sessions and particularly works with residents who would not otherwise engage with culture and are at risk of exclusion and social isolation.

That became an even more pressing focus in March 2020 when the first lockdown was brought in to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus and people had to stay at home except for short periods of exercise.

Made by Mortals decided that its service users, confined within their four walls and unable to enjoy their usual programme of social interaction, needed an outlet which young and old alike could turn to for unity and support.

The result was Armchair Adventures, which is inspired by the experiences, knowledge and passions of its participants expressed through drama, music, movement, and song.

It follows the story of Connie, a young girl whose family-run travel agency is at risk of going bust as a result of the pandemic.

Working with her customers, who are portrayed by the group’s participants, together they create an alternative to a traditional holiday – an adventure from the armchair.

The podcast is also accompanied by activities including schools’ workshops, art installations, activity packs and a live theatre show.

Made by Mortals is continuing to work with groups of people across Manchester to create the episodes for series three of Armchair Adventures, which launches on Thursday 6 October.

Armchair Adventures can be enjoyed for free on all podcast platforms including Apple Podcasts, Spotify or Google Podcasts. New episodes are uploaded twice a month.

Awards success and a partnership with Virgin Atlantic

Armchair Adventures has enjoyed considerable success. It was described as a “positive podcast” by BBC Radio 4 and recently took home a Bronze prize for Best Family Podcast at this year’s British Podcast Awards.

It has also won accolades at the Digital City Awards and the Manchester Publicity Association Awards.

Virgin Atlantic has included Armchair Adventures in its in-flight entertainment. Photo: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

And in July major airline Virgin Atlantic decided it would make Armchair Adventures part of its in-flight entertainment offering.

Passengers can now tune in to the group’s efforts on flights to destinations across the world.

What has been said about the podcast’s success?

Made by Mortals is thrilled to have secured its high-profile partnership with a major international airline and with the success the podcast has enjoyed since it was created.

Paul Hine, one of Made by Mortals’ two directors, said: “The partnership is a really nice fit. Virgin Atlantic is going on a physical journey, and Armchair Adventures is a journey of the imagination. There’s a synergy between the brands, even despite their difference in scale.

“We are determined to change the perception of participatory arts and people viewing it as simply a nice thing to do. Partnering with Virgin Atlantic definitely helps us do that.

“When you bring a group of over 65s together under one roof, you’ll undoubtably be amazed by the journeys they have been on, the stories they have to tell and the lessons they picked up along the way.

“We believe in giving people a place to share their stories which can not only help bring them together and find purpose, but also educate and inspire young people in the process.”

Made by Mortals

Andy Smith, Paul’s fellow director at Made by Mortals, said: “When the pandemic hit, we wanted to keep the connection between the older people and younger generations that we had established through our theatre productions and workshops.

“We wanted to keep giving the participants the purpose many of them gained through creating the productions for the young people.

“We decided that since we couldn’t take the shows out to children anymore, we’d provide a podcast for them, an interactive and fun arts and culture experience.

“We quickly adapted to Zoom, upskilling the elderly people, setting them up on the software and equipping them with cameras and microphones – that’s where Armchair Adventures was born and even fully produced for its first few episodes!”

Cathy Walters, manager of inflight entertainment at Virgin Atlantic, said: “We love the story of Armchair Adventures, which brings different generations together through this fun, interactive podcast.

“We’re really proud to have them as part of our entertainment line-up and I’m sure children will enjoy letting their imaginations fly while onboard.”