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Wikipedia

This article is about the radio series. For other uses, see The Archers (disambiguation).

The Archers is a BBC radio drama on BBC Radio 4, their main spoken-word channel. Broadcast since 1951, it was initially billed as "an everyday story of country folk" and is now promoted as "a contemporary drama in a rural setting". Having aired over 19,500 episodes, it is the world's longest-running drama by number of episodes.

The Archers
GenreRadio drama
Running time12 minutes
Country of originUnited Kingdom
Home stationBBC Light Programme (1951–1967)
BBC Radio 4 (1967–present)
Created byGodfrey Baseley
Produced byJulie Beckett
Edited byJeremy Howe
Recording studioBBC Birmingham
Original release1 January 1951 – present
No. of episodes19,712 (as of 10 June 2022)
Audio formatStereophonic sound
Opening themeBarwick Green
WebsiteArchers homepage
PodcastThe Archers podcast ...

Five pilot episodes were aired in 1950 and the first episode was broadcast nationally on New Year's Day 1951. A significant show in British popular culture, and with over five million listeners, it is Radio 4's most listened-to non-news programme, and with over one million listeners via the internet, the programme holds the record for BBC Radio online listening figures. In February 2019, a panel of 46 broadcasting industry experts, of which 42 had a professional connection to the BBC, listed The Archers as the second-greatest radio programme of all time. Partly established with the aim towards educating farmers following World War II, The Archers soon became a popular source of entertainment for the population at large, attracting nine million listeners by 1953.

Contents

The Archers is set in the fictional village of Ambridge in the fictional county of Borsetshire, in England. Borsetshire is situated between what are, in reality, the contiguous counties of Worcestershire and Warwickshire, south of Birmingham in The Midlands of England. Ambridge is possibly based on the village of Cutnall Green, though various other villages claim to be the inspiration for Ambridge; The Bull, Ambridge's pub, is modelled on The Old Bull in Inkberrow, whereas Hanbury's St Mary the Virgin is often used as a stand-in for Ambridge's parish church, St Stephen's.

Other fictional villages include Penny Hassett, Loxley Barrett, Darrington, Hollerton, Edgeley, Waterley Cross and Lakey Green. The county town of Borsetshire is Borchester, and the nearest big city is the cathedral city of Felpersham. Felpersham also has a university. Anywhere further from Ambridge may be referred to humorously with comments such as "that's on the other side of Felpersham!", but characters do occasionally venture further: several attended the Countryside Alliance march in London, there have been references to the gay scene in Manchester's Canal Street. There have been scenes set in other places in the United Kingdom and abroad, with some characters residing overseas such as in South Africa and Hungary.

Since Easter Sunday 1998, there have been six episodes a week, from Sunday to Friday, broadcast at around 19:03 following the news summary. All except the Friday evening episode are repeated the following day at 14:02. The six episodes are re-run unabridged in the Sunday morning omnibus at 10:00. On Remembrance Sunday, the omnibus edition begins at the earlier time of 09:15.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions, weekly programming reduced to four episodes, omitting episodes on Sunday and Friday. The Sunday omnibus was correspondingly reduced in length. After continuing with pre-recorded episodes and repeating some classic episodes, new episodes started that had been recorded remotely, to a mixed reception. On 15 August 2021, the Sunday evening episode resumed regular broadcast, as did the Friday evening episode on 3 June 2022.

  • The Archers' family farm, Brookfield, combines arable, dairy, beef, and sheep. It is a typical example of mixed farming which has been passed down the generations from Dan, the original farmer, to his son Phil and is now co-owned by Phil and Jill's four children: David, who manages it with his wife Ruth; Shula Hebden-Lloyd, owner of the riding stables, was married to Alistair, a vet; her twin Kenton, runs the village's only pub with his wife Jolene; and the widowed Elizabeth Pargeter. Jill lives in Brookfield with her son David, his wife Ruth and their children Pip, Josh, and Ben and Pip's daughter, Rosie.
  • The Aldridges at Home Farm. Brian, who is portrayed as a money-driven agribusinessman and his wife Jennifer. They have five children: the two Jennifer brought into their marriage: Adam, a farmer married to chef Ian Craig and Debbie a farmer based in Hungary; two born into the marriage, Kate with a family abandoned in South Africa, and Alice married to farrier Chris Carter; and schoolboy Ruairi, Brian's son by one of his affairs. The family also includes Kate's daughter Phoebe and Jennifer's sister Lilian.
  • The Bridge Farm Archers practise organic farming. Their operations include a farm shop, a farm café, a vegetable box scheme and a dairy. Tony and Pat's children are Helen and Tom, and their three grandchildren: Johnny, who is the son of their dead son John; and Helen's sons, Henry and Jack.
  • The Pargetters, a landed gentry family who have to make their stately home, Lower Loxley Hall, pay the bills as a public attraction. The family includes Nigel Pargetter's widow, Elizabethnée Archer, her son Freddie and his twin sister Lily.
  • The Grundys, formerly struggling tenant farmers who were brought to prominence in the late 1970s and early 1980s as comic characters, but are now seen as doggedly battling adversity.
  • The Carters, Neil and Susan. Their son, Chris, is married to Alice Aldridge; their daughter, Emma, has successively married brothers Will and Edward Grundy.
  • The Snells; Lynda, married to the long-suffering Robert, is the butt of many jokes, although her sheer energy makes her a stalwart of village life.
  • Arkwright Hall is a large Victorian mansion with a 17th-century atmosphere. The building served as a community centre for many years, containing a soundproofed room and field studies centre. Later it fell into disrepair, but was renovated when Jack Woolley leased the mansion to the Landmark Trust; architect Lewis Carmichael led the restoration of the building to its Victorian splendour.
  • Bridge Farm is a 168-acre (68 ha) farm previously on Berrow Estate, but now owned by Pat and Tony Archer. The farm became wholly dedicated to organic farming in 1984, in a storyline inspired by a scriptwriter's visit to Brynllys farm in Ceredigion, the home of Rachel's Organic. In 2003, Tom Archer began producing his Bridge Farm pork sausages. In early 2013, the family decided to sell their dairy herd and buy organic milk instead and the following year, Tony Archer bought a small Aberdeen Angus herd.
  • Brookfield Farm is a 469-acre (190 ha) mixed farm which was managed by Dan Archer and then by his son Phil. After Phil's retirement in 2001, his son David Archer took over.
  • Grange Farm was a working farm run by the Grundys until their eviction in 2000. The farmhouse, along with 50 acres (20 ha) of land, was sold to Oliver Sterling.
  • Grey Gables, once a country club, is now a luxurious hotel. The late Caroline Sterling bought it with her husband Oliver Sterling. The hotel boasts a pool, spa, health club and a golf course. Ian Craig is the executive chef.
  • Home Farm is a 1,922-acre (778 ha) farm, by far the largest in Ambridge, owned by the Aldridge family. In recent years, Home Farm expanded into soft fruit and deer farming.
  • Lower Loxley Hall is a large 300-year-old country house located just outside Ambridge. It serves primarily as a conference centre.
  • The Bull, the village's only pub, is perhaps the most recognisable structure in Ambridge
  • St. Stephen's Church, established in 1281, dates back to Norman times. The church has undergone many changes over the years, including a number of different vicars. The eight bells are rung by a group led by Neil Carter.
  • Ambridge still has a village shop and post office, originally thanks to Jack Woolley's philanthropy. The business is now a community shop managed by Susan and run by a team of volunteers.
  • Willow Farm is owned by the Tucker family. After Betty's death in 2005, the house was divided to accommodate Roy and his family. The farmland is home to Neil Carter's pigs.

Unlike some soap operas, episodes of The Archers portray events taking place on the date of broadcast, allowing many topical subjects to be included. Real-life events which can be readily predicted are often written into the script, such as the annual Oxford Farming Conference and the FIFA World Cup. On some occasions, scenes recorded at these events are planned and edited into episodes shortly before transmission.

More challengingly for the production team, some significant but unforeseen events require scenes to be rewritten and rerecorded at short notice, such as the death of Princess Margaret (particularly poignant because she had appeared as herself on the programme), the World Trade Center attacks, and the 7 July 2005 London bombings. The events and implications of the 2001 foot-and-mouth crisis required many "topical inserts" and the rewriting of several storylines.

In January 2012, Oliver Sterling, owner of Grange Farm, together with his tenant, Ed Grundy, elected to vaccinate the badgers on their farm in an attempt to prevent the spread of bovine tuberculosis. The plotline came within weeks of the government confirming a badger cull trial.

It was announced on 29 March 2020 that the programme would include reference to the COVID-19 pandemic from 4 May onwards.

Unlike television soaps, The Archers actors are not held on retainers and work on the series usually for a few days a month. By the nature of the storylines concentrating on particular groups of characters, in any one week out of a cast of about 60, the episodes include approximately 20–30 speaking-characters. Most of the cast do acting work on other projects and can disappear for long periods if they are working on commitments such as films or television series. Tamsin Greig plays Debbie Aldridge and has appeared on many television series such as Green Wing, Love Soup, Black Books and Episodes, so Debbie manages a farm in Hungary and her visits to Ambridge are infrequent. Felicity Jones played Emma Carter from the age of 15 but after a period of studying at Wadham College, Oxford, she gave up the role to move into television and cinema.

Some of the actors, when not playing their characters, earn their money through different jobs altogether: Charlotte Connor, when not playing Susan Carter (credited as Charlotte Martin), works full-time as a senior research psychologist at the Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health Foundation; her office is a short walk from BBC Birmingham, and thus she is able to fit her work around recordings. Meanwhile, Graham Blockey, who plays Robert Snell, worked until 2017 as a full-time general practitioner in Surrey, commuting to and from BBC Birmingham at weekends and on his days off. He kept his role secret from his patients, for fear of losing their respect, until his retirement from medicine in March 2017. Other examples include Felicity Finch (Ruth Archer), who also works as a BBC journalist having travelled on a number of occasions to Afghanistan; and Ian Pepperell (Roy Tucker), who manages a pub in the New Forest.

A five-episode pilot series started on Whit Monday, 29 May 1950, and continued throughout that week. It was created by Godfrey Baseley and was broadcast to the English Midlands in the Regional Home Service, as 'a farming Dick Barton'. Recordings were sent to London, and the BBC decided to commission the series for a longer national run. In the five pilots the Archers owned Wimberton Farm, rather than Brookfield. Baseley subsequently edited The Archers for 22 years.

Since 1 January 1951, five 15-minute episodes (since 1998, six 12½-minute episodes) have been transmitted each week, at first on the BBC Light Programme and subsequently on the BBC Home Service (and Radio 4 from 1 October 1967). Early afternoon repeats of the previous evening's episode began on 14 December 1964. The original scriptwriters were Geoffrey Webb and Edward J. Mason, who were also working on the nightly thriller series about the special agent Dick Barton. The popularity of his adventures partly inspired The Archers, which eventually took over Barton's evening slot. At first, however, the national launch placed the serial at the "terrible" time of 11.45 am, but it moved to Dick Barton's former slot of 6.45 pm from 2 April 1951. An omnibus edition of the week's episodes began on 5 January 1952.

Originally produced with collaborative input from the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, The Archers was conceived as a means of disseminating information to farmers and smallholders to help increase productivity in the Postwar era of rationing and food shortages.

The Archers originally centred on the lives of three farmers; Dan Archer, farming efficiently with little cash, Walter Gabriel, farming inefficiently with little cash, and George Fairbrother, a wealthy businessman farming at a loss for tax purposes (which one could do in those days). The programme was hugely successful, winning the National Radio Awards' 'Most entertaining programme of the Year' award jointly with Take It from Here in 1954, and winning the award outright in 1955, in which year the audience was reported to have peaked at 20 million.

In the late 1950s, despite the growth of television and radio's consequent decline, the programme was still claiming eleven million listeners and was also being transmitted in Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. By the mid-1970s, however, the audience for the two daily broadcasts and the weekend omnibus combined was less than 3 million and in 1976 the BBC Radio Four Review Board twice considered whether or not the programme should be axed. The serial's woes at this time were seen to mirror the poor standing of radio drama in general, described as "a failure to fully shake off the conventions of non-realism which had prevailed in the 1940s and 1950s."

Programme chief Jock Gallagher, responsible for The Archers, described these as the serial's "dog days". Sweeping editorial reforms followed, included the introduction of women writers (there had been none before 1975), two of whom, Helen Leadbeater and Margaret Phelan, were credited with giving the programme a new definitive style of writing and content, although some listeners complained about their radical feminism.

In 1980 Julie Burchill commented that the women of Ambridge were no longer stuck with "the gallons of greengage jam old-guard male scriptwriters kept them occupied with for over twenty years"; but were 'into post-natal depression and alcoholism on the way to self-discovery'. By the mid-1980s the Radio Four Review Board noted that scripts, directing and acting was "very good" and sometimes "better than ever". In August 1985 The Listener said that the programme's revival was "sustained by some of the best acting, direction and writing on radio."

Tony Shryane MBE was the programme's producer from 1 January 1951 to 19 January 1979. Vanessa Whitburn was the programme's editor from 1992 till 2013. Whitburn took service leave from March to July 2012, when John Yorke, a former executive producer of EastEnders, was the acting editor. Yorke's arrival prompted charges that the programme was importing the values of EastEnders to Borsetshire, with fans and commentators complaining that characters were behaving unrealistically simply to generate conflict. This was denied by Yorke, who wrote that he agreed to take over "on one condition – that it stayed exactly as it was and that I didn't have to change anything."

Whitburn was succeeded as editor by Sean O'Connor in September 2013. In September 2016, Huw Kennair-Jones took over as editor though O'Connor continued to oversee the Helen and Rob storyline until its conclusion. Kennair-Jones announced in October 2017 that he was to leave the BBC to work as commissioning editor for ITV. The short presence of two successive Archers editors in the job led to concerns that there might be a trend of radio drama editing being seen as "training ground" for higher-paid positions in TV. Alison Hindell, the BBC's head of Audio Drama until October 2018, took over as acting editor before and after Kennair-Jones's time in charge. She effectively swapped roles with Jeremy Howe when she succeeded him as the BBC's commissioning editor for drama and fiction and he started as editor of the Archers in late August 2018.

Since 2007, The Archers has been available as a podcast.

Death of Grace Archer

One of the most controversial Archers episodes was broadcast on 22 September 1955, which coincided with the launch of the UK's first commercial television station. Phil and Grace Archer had been married just a few months earlier, and their blossoming relationship was the talk of the nation. However, searching for a story which would demonstrate some real tragedy among the increasingly unconvincing episode cliff-hangers, Godfrey Baseley had decided that Grace would have to die. The scripts for the week commencing 19 September 1955 were written, recorded, and broadcast on each day, with an "exercise in topicality" given as the explanation to the cast. On Thursday, listeners heard the sound effects of Grace trying to rescue Midnight, her horse, from a fire in the stable at Brookfield and the crash of a falling timber beam.

Whether the timing of the episode was a deliberate attempt to overshadow the opening night of the BBC's first commercial rival has been debated ever since. It was certainly planned some months in advance, but it may well be that the actual date of the death was changed during the scriptwriting stage to coincide with the launch of Associated-Rediffusion. Deliberate or not, the episode attracted widespread media attention, being reported by newspapers around the world.

This controversy has been parodied twice: in "The Bowmans", an episode of the television comedy programme Hancock, and in the play The Killing of Sister George and its 1968 film adaptation. On the 50th anniversary of ITV's launch, Ysanne Churchman, who played Grace, sent them a congratulatory card signed "Grace Archer".

In 1996, William Smethurst recounted a conversation with Baseley in which he reveals his real motivation for killing off Grace Archer: Churchman had been encouraging the other actors to join a trade union.

Longevity

The actor Norman Painting played Phil Archer continuously from the first trial series in 1950 until his death on 29 October 2009. His last Archers performance was recorded just two days before his death, and was broadcast on 22 November. He is cited in Guinness World Records as the longest-serving actor in a single soap opera. Under the pseudonym "Bruno Milna", Painting also wrote around 1,200 complete episodes, which culminated in the 10,000th episode.

June Spencer CBE has played Peggy Woolley from the pilot episode and celebrated her 100th birthday in 2019. She is still in her role and is one of the oldest working actors.

According to Who's Who in The Archers 2008, episode 15,360 was broadcast on 1 January 2008. Episode 15,000 was broadcast on 7 November 2006.

Sixtieth anniversary

The Archers reached its 60th anniversary on 1 January 2011 and to mark this achievement, a special half-hour episode was broadcast on Sunday, 2 January, on BBC Radio 4 from 7pm. The episode had been advertised as containing events that would "shake Ambridge to the core". This phrase even gave rise to the initialism #SATTC trending on the website Twitter during that weekend as listeners speculated about what might happen, and then reported their views as the story unfolded.

The main events in the episode were Helen Archer giving birth to her son Henry and Nigel Pargetter falling to his death from the roof of Lower Loxley Hall. This unlikely event provoked interest in the frequency and causes of death in the series. In fact, although the incidence of accidental death and suicide is seven times the national average, the overall mortality rate in Ambridge is almost exactly what would be expected.

The demise of Nigel caused controversy among some listeners, with a number of complaints variously expressing dismay at the death of a popular character, concerns over the manner of the dismissal of the actor, belief that the promise to "shake Ambridge to the core" had been over-hyped, criticism of the credibility of the script (for example, the duration of his plummeting cry caused calculation of the building's height at considerably more than had been imagined); also a perceived unwillingness of the editorial team to engage with these listener complaints.[citation needed]

COVID-19 pandemic

Topical subjects have been added to the script, but this was not possible during the COVID-19 pandemic. Actors were initially recorded in their homes and included references to the pandemic from some of the characters sharing their private thoughts with the listener. From 4 May 2020 to 14 August 2021, the broadcast was reduced to four episodes (Monday - Thursday). Sunday episodes resumed on 15 August 2021.

The Archers has been broadcast in countries outside the UK, in particular in New Zealand from inception until September 1982, when Radio New Zealand decided not to continue purchasing episodes. Arrangements were made for a special episode without the usual closing cliffhanger.

The programme has tackled many serious, contemporary social issues: rural drug addiction; rape, including rape in marriage; inter-racial relationships; direct action against genetically modified crops and badger culling; family break-ups; and civil partnerships, and a family being threatened by a gang of farm thieves. There has been criticism from conservative commentators, such as Peter Hitchens in 1999 that the series has become a vehicle for liberal and left-wing values and agendas, with characters behaving out of character to achieve those goals. However, one of the show's charms is to make much out of everyday, small concerns, such as the possible closure of the village shop, the loss and rediscovery of a pair of spectacles, competitive marmalade-making, or nonsense such as a 'spile troshing' competition, rather than the large-scale and improbable events that form the plots of many soap operas. Godfrey Baseley was quoted in The Independent as objecting to the homosexuality in the programme, saying "It is disgusting ... It is distasteful because being gay is such a minority interest. Country folk don't do that kind of thing. They have sex the proper way."

According to some of the actors, and confirmed in the writings of Godfrey Baseley, in its early days the show was used as a conduit for educational announcements from the Ministry of Agriculture, one actor reading an announcement almost verbatim to another. Direct involvement of the government ended in 1972. The show has reacted within a day to agricultural emergencies such as outbreaks of foot and mouth disease which affect farmers nationwide when livestock movements are restricted.

Many famous people have made cameo appearances on the programme:

The theme tune of The Archers is called "Barwick Green" and is a maypole dance from the suite My Native Heath, written in 1924 by the Yorkshire composer Arthur Wood. The Sunday omnibus broadcast of The Archers starts with a more rustic, accordion-arranged rendition by The Yetties. The theme for BBC Radio 4 Extra's The Archers spinoff, Ambridge Extra, is a version arranged by Bellowhead.

A library music recording of Barwick Green was used for the pilot and during the early years of the national version, because a bid by Godfrey Baseley to have a special theme composed had been turned down on the grounds of cost, put at £250–£300. However, once the serial had become undeniably established, a new recording of Barwick Green was authorised and performed by the BBC Midland Light Orchestra on 24 March 1954. This mono recording was also accompanied by four movements entitled "A Village Suite", composed by Kenneth Pakeman to complement Barwick Green. Excerpts from these movements were then used for a time as bridging music between scenes. The 1954 recordings were never made available to the public and their use was restricted even inside the BBC, partly because of an agreement with the Musicians' Union.

In 1992, the theme was re-recorded in stereo, retaining the previous arrangements. The venue was Symphony Hall in Birmingham, the conductor Ron Goodwin, producer David Welsby and the sound mixer Norman McLeod. The slightly different sound mixing and more leisurely tempo reportedly led some listeners to consider the new version inferior, specifically that it lacked "brio", although the BBC publicised the fact that the orchestra contained some of the musicians who had played in the previous recording, including Harold Rich (piano) and Norman Parker (percussion).[citation needed]

Robert Robinson once compared the tune to "the genteel abandon of a lifelong teetotaller who has suddenly taken to drink".[citation needed] On April Fool's Day 2004 both The Independent and The Today Programme claimed that BBC executives had commissioned composer Brian Eno to record an electronic version of "Barwick Green" as a replacement for the current theme, while comedian Billy Connolly included in his act the joke that the theme was so typically British that it should be the national anthem of the United Kingdom.

In 2009, comedian Rainer Hersch conducted the Philharmonia Orchestra in a performance of the theme, live from the Royal Festival Hall to a listening BBC Radio 3 audience in an attempt to confuse them. He then went on to show how similar it is to "Montagues and Capulets" – "Dance of the Knights" – from Romeo and Juliet by Sergei Prokofiev, claiming that this was a result of Russian spies going through the BBC's rubbish bins looking for the scripts.

Serious events

At times, a cliffhanger involving the death of a major character or a disaster was marked by the traditional closing theme being replaced by the final dramatic section of Barwick Green involving trombones, cymbals and the closing bars of the signature tune – known as the "doom music" to some fan groups. This tradition has been dropped more recently, with events such as the death of Nigel Pargetter being followed by the normal closing music despite the gravity of the incident. This has irritated some followers, who consider the jollity of the normal segment inappropriate in such circumstances.

A brief extract from The Dream of Gerontius was played following the death of Phil Archer. When John Archer died no music was played.

There was a nod to The Archers in the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games in London on 27 July 2012, where the theme tune was played at the beginning of a segment celebrating British culture: the sound of a radio could be heard being tuned in as Barwick Green was played.

Actor Character Duration
June Spencer Peggy Woolley 1950–1953, 1961–
Lesley Saweard Christine Barford 1953–1962, 1968–2019
Patricia Greene Jill Archer 1957–
Angela Piper Jennifer Aldridge 1963–
Judy Bennett Shula Hebden-Lloyd 1971–
Brian Hewlett Neil Carter 1973–
Patricia Gallimore Pat Archer 1974–
Terry Molloy Mike Tucker 1974–1977, 1986–
Charles Collingwood Brian Aldridge 1975–
Hedli Niklaus Kathy Perks 1977, 1978–1981, 1983–
Trevor Harrison Eddie Grundy 1979–
Heather Bell Clarrie Grundy 1979–1988, 2013–
Timothy Bentinck David Archer 1982–
Charlotte Martin Susan Carter 1983–
Alison Dowling Elizabeth Pargetter 1984–
Edward Kelsey Joe Grundy 1985–2019
Carole Boyd Lynda Snell 1986–
Graham Blockey Robert Snell 1986–
Felicity Finch Ruth Archer 1987–
Philip Molloy Will Grundy 1989–
Tamsin Greig Debbie Aldridge 1991–
William Gaminara Richard Locke 1992–
Souad Faress Usha Franks 1994–
Ian Pepperell Roy Tucker 1995–
Buffy Davis Jolene Archer 1996–
Jamilla Massey Aunty Satya Khanna 1996–
Robin Pirongs Sam Batton
Eric Allan Bert Fry 1997–2021
Kim Durham Matt Crawford 1997–
Michael Lumsden Alistair Lloyd 1998–
Annabelle Dowler Kirsty Miller 1999–
Louiza Patikas Helen Titchener 2000–
Richard Attlee Kenton Archer 2000–
Barry Farrimond Ed Grundy 2000–
Robert Lister Lewis Charmichael 2000–
Joanna Van Kampen Fallon Rogers 2000–
Michael Cochrane Oliver Sterling 2000–
Sunny Ormonde Lillian Bellamy 2001–
Ryan Kelly Jack McCreary 2001–
Hollie Chapman Alice Carter 2001–
Andrew Wincott Adam Macy 2003–
John Telfer Rev Alan Franks 2003–
Stephen Kennedy Ian Craig 2003–
Mona Hammond Mabel Thompson 2003–
Lorraine Coady Hayley Tucker 2006–
John Rowe Prof Jim Lloyd 2007–
Julia Hills Annabelle Schrivener 2007–
Arthur Hughes Ruairi Donovan 2007–
Helen Longworth Hannah Riley 2008–
Emerald O'Hanrahan Emma Carter 2009–
Lucy Morris Phoebe Aldridge 2010–
David Hargreaves Alf Grundy 2012–
James Cartwright Harrison Burns 2013–
Daisy Badger Pip Archer 2014–
Angus Imrie Josh Archer 2014–
David Troughton Tony Archer 2014–
Simon Williams Justin Elliott 2014–
Tom Gibbons Johnny Phillips 2014–
William Troughton Tom Archer 2014–
Eleanor Bron Carol Tregorran 2014–
Perdita Avery Kate Madikane 2014–
Toby Laurence Freddie Pargetter 2016–
Isobel Middleton Anna Tregorran 2016–
Katie Redford Lily Pargetter 2017–
Will Howard Dan Hebden-Lloyd 2017–
Andy Hockley Philip Moss 2017–
Wilf Scolding Christopher Carter 2017–
Ben Norris Ben Archer 2018–
Mogali Masuku Noluthando Madikane 2018–
Tom Graham Tom Archer 1997–2014
Ania Sowinski Lexi Viktorova 2018–
Mali Harries Natasha Archer 2018–
Gareth Pierce Gavin Moss 2020-

BBC Radio 4 Extra ran an occasional short supplement, Ambridge Extra, between 2011 and 2013, featuring characters away from the Ambridge environs. Series 1 and 2 had 26 episodes and series 3, 4 and 5 had 20. The reason offered for non-renewal was limited resources.

Two organisations dedicated to the programme were established in the 1990s. Archers Addicts was the official body, run by members of the cast. The club had five thousand members and an online shop where Archers memorabilia was sold under licence. It closed as a club on 31 December 2013 but still has a Facebook page and Twitter feed. Archers Anarchists was formed sometime later,[when?] objecting to the "castist" assumptions propagated by the BBC, and claiming that the characters are real.

The usenet newsgroup uk.media.radio.archers (referred to as UMRA by its users, who call themselves umrats) has been running since 1995. Its users include experts on subjects covered by the programme, such as the many aspects of farming, the running of small businesses, bell ringing; lengthy discussions ensue – as well as light-hearted matters, and plot speculation. Various gatherings occur where umrats come together. The first was a series of about ten annual barbecues. The first was attended by Carole Boyd (Lynda Snell). They have included participants from Europe and the Americas. It has nicknames for many of the main Archers characters, such as S'aint for Shula. (There are nicknames for most of the regular characters.) Due perhaps to it being initially more accessible in academia, the discussions can be quite detailed, though UMRA considers itself to be a friendly and welcoming group, where in particular flamewars and the like are not welcome. Despite the general decline of usenet with the advent of trendier media such as Facebook and Twitter, UMRA remains a very active newsgroup compared to many. Its one-time T-shirts and mugs bore the legend (in yellow on "Barwick Green", of course) "An everyday story of internet folk."

The Academic Archers, founded in 2016, is a community of fans who share an academic approach to the programme. It organises an annual conference at which papers are presented which draw on academic expertise along with enjoyment. Papers from these have been published as The Archers in Fact and Fiction: Academic Analyses of Life in Rural Borsetshire (2016, Peter Lang:ISBN 9781787071193), Custard, Culverts and Cake (2017, Emerald: ISBN 9781787432864 and Gender, Sex and Gossip: Women in The Archers (2019, Emerald: ISBN 9781787699489 ) The group aims to be "curious, generous and joyful".

Dum Tee Dum is a weekly podcast about the Archers that features Lucy Freeman and Roifield Brown. Released every Sunday it features a comprehensive rundown on the last week's Ambridge action. By February 2021 they had podcasted 368 episodes. As well as a webpage, Dumteedum has a Facebook Group with 1300 members, a Twitter feed, 8874 followers and a map of members. There are two other Archers podcasts, both released on a Sunday weekly - The Cider Shed, and Ambridge on the Couch with Lucy Freeman and Harriet Carmichael. They both have facebook, twitter and other social media sites. Every Sunday there is a ‘tweet along’ with the omnibus episode during which listeners comment live on the show.

In 1994, the BBC World Service began broadcasting in Afghanistan Naway Kor, Naway Jwand ("New Home, New Life") an everyday story of country folk incorporating pieces of useful information. Although the useful information was more likely to concern unexploded land mines and opium addiction than the latest modern farming techniques, the inspiration and model of Naway Kor, Naway Jwand was The Archers, and the initial workshopping with Afghan writers included an Archers scriptwriter. A 1997 study found that listeners to the soap opera were significantly less likely to be injured by a mine than non-listeners.

In Rwanda, the BBC World Service's Rwanda-Rundi service has been broadcasting the Archers-inspired soap opera Urunana ("Hand in Hand") since 1999.

The Archers was the model for the Russian radio soap opera Dom 7, Podyezd 4 ("House 7, Entrance 4"), on which the former UK Prime Minister, Tony Blair, once made a cameo appearance.

Tony Hancock starred in the Galton and Simpson spoof "The Bowmans" in an episode of BBC Television's Hancock's Half Hour.

Ned Sherrin produced a short 1973 film called The Cobblers of Umbridge. The cast included Joan Sims, Lance Percival, Roy Kinnear, Derek Griffiths and John Fortune.

John Finnemore's Souvenir Programme has parodied The Archers with its recurring "The Archers Accidentally" sketches; the sketches claim to portray The Archers the way it sounds to people who only listen to the show inadvertently.

The radio series of Dead Ringers has frequently parodied characters from The Archers, including a special edition.

The subtitle was parodied by Bill Tidy in his long-running cartoon of The Cloggies, "an Everyday Saga in the Life of Clog Dancing Folk", which ran in the satirical magazine Private Eye, and later in The Listener.

Reference works

Novelisations

Published audio episodes

Maps

In addition to books and audiobooks, purported maps of Ambridge and Borsetshire have been published.

An episode of Arena, broadcast on BBC Four on 1 January 2007, focused on The Archers. It was narrated by Stephen Fry and included interviews with current actors and scriptwriters.

  1. "Jeremy Howe's first day as the new editor of The Archers". BBC. 23 August 2018. Archived from the original on 28 October 2018. Retrieved9 September 2018.
  2. "About The Archers". BBC. 31 December 2010. Archived from the original on 24 November 2010. Retrieved6 January 2008.
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The Archers Article Talk Language Watch Edit This article is about the radio series For other uses see The Archers disambiguation The Archers is a BBC radio drama on BBC Radio 4 their main spoken word channel Broadcast since 1951 it was initially billed as an everyday story of country folk and is now promoted as a contemporary drama in a rural setting 3 4 Having aired over 19 500 episodes 2 it is the world s longest running drama by number of episodes 5 6 The ArchersGenreRadio dramaRunning time12 minutesCountry of originUnited KingdomHome stationBBC Light Programme 1951 1967 BBC Radio 4 1967 present Created byGodfrey BaseleyProduced byJulie BeckettEdited byJeremy Howe 1 Recording studioBBC BirminghamOriginal release1 January 1951 presentNo of episodes19 712 as of 10 June 2022 2 Audio formatStereophonic soundOpening themeBarwick GreenWebsiteArchers homepagePodcastThe Archers podcast Five pilot episodes were aired in 1950 and the first episode was broadcast nationally on New Year s Day 1951 A significant show in British popular culture and with over five million listeners it is Radio 4 s most listened to non news programme 7 8 9 and with over one million listeners via the internet the programme holds the record for BBC Radio online listening figures 10 In February 2019 a panel of 46 broadcasting industry experts of which 42 had a professional connection to the BBC listed The Archers as the second greatest radio programme of all time 11 Partly established with the aim towards educating farmers following World War II The Archers soon became a popular source of entertainment for the population at large attracting nine million listeners by 1953 Contents 1 Synopsis 2 Characters 3 Ambridge 4 Topicality 5 Actors 6 History 6 1 Death of Grace Archer 6 2 Longevity 6 3 Sixtieth anniversary 6 4 COVID 19 pandemic 7 Broadcasting in other countries 8 Themes 9 Cameo appearances 10 Theme tune 10 1 Serious events 11 Casting 12 Ambridge Extra 13 Fan clubs 14 Parallels 15 Parodies 16 Books and audiobooks 16 1 Reference works 16 2 Novelisations 16 3 Published audio episodes 16 4 Maps 17 Documentaries 18 See also 19 References 20 Further reading 21 External linksSynopsis EditThe Archers is set in the fictional village of Ambridge in the fictional county of Borsetshire in England Borsetshire is situated between what are in reality the contiguous counties of Worcestershire and Warwickshire south of Birmingham in The Midlands of England Ambridge is possibly based on the village of Cutnall Green 12 though various other villages claim to be the inspiration for Ambridge The Bull Ambridge s pub is modelled on The Old Bull in Inkberrow 13 whereas Hanbury s St Mary the Virgin is often used as a stand in for Ambridge s parish church St Stephen s 14 15 Other fictional villages include Penny Hassett Loxley Barrett 16 Darrington Hollerton Edgeley Waterley Cross and Lakey Green The county town of Borsetshire is Borchester and the nearest big city is the cathedral city of Felpersham Felpersham also has a university Anywhere further from Ambridge may be referred to humorously with comments such as that s on the other side of Felpersham but characters do occasionally venture further several attended the Countryside Alliance march in London 17 there have been references to the gay scene in Manchester s Canal Street There have been scenes set in other places in the United Kingdom and abroad with some characters residing overseas such as in South Africa and Hungary Since Easter Sunday 1998 there have been six episodes a week from Sunday to Friday broadcast at around 19 03 following the news summary All except the Friday evening episode are repeated the following day at 14 02 The six episodes are re run unabridged in the Sunday morning omnibus at 10 00 On Remembrance Sunday the omnibus edition begins at the earlier time of 09 15 18 Due to the COVID 19 pandemic restrictions weekly programming reduced to four episodes omitting episodes on Sunday and Friday The Sunday omnibus was correspondingly reduced in length After continuing with pre recorded episodes and repeating some classic episodes new episodes started that had been recorded remotely to a mixed reception 19 On 15 August 2021 the Sunday evening episode resumed regular broadcast as did the Friday evening episode on 3 June 2022 Characters EditMain article List of The Archers characters The Archers family farm Brookfield combines arable dairy beef and sheep It is a typical example of mixed farming which has been passed down the generations from Dan the original farmer to his son Phil and is now co owned by Phil and Jill s four children David who manages it with his wife Ruth Shula Hebden Lloyd owner of the riding stables was married to Alistair a vet her twin Kenton runs the village s only pub with his wife Jolene and the widowed Elizabeth Pargeter Jill lives in Brookfield with her son David his wife Ruth and their children Pip Josh and Ben and Pip s daughter Rosie The Aldridges at Home Farm Brian who is portrayed as a money driven agribusinessman and his wife Jennifer They have five children the two Jennifer brought into their marriage Adam a farmer married to chef Ian Craig and Debbie a farmer based in Hungary two born into the marriage Kate with a family abandoned in South Africa and Alice married to farrier Chris Carter and schoolboy Ruairi Brian s son by one of his affairs The family also includes Kate s daughter Phoebe and Jennifer s sister Lilian The Bridge Farm Archers practise organic farming Their operations include a farm shop a farm cafe a vegetable box scheme and a dairy Tony and Pat s children are Helen and Tom and their three grandchildren Johnny who is the son of their dead son John and Helen s sons Henry and Jack The Pargetters a landed gentry family who have to make their stately home Lower Loxley Hall pay the bills as a public attraction The family includes Nigel Pargetter s widow Elizabeth nee Archer her son Freddie and his twin sister Lily The Grundys formerly struggling tenant farmers who were brought to prominence in the late 1970s and early 1980s as comic characters but are now seen as doggedly battling adversity The Carters Neil and Susan Their son Chris is married to Alice Aldridge their daughter Emma has successively married brothers Will and Edward Grundy The Snells Lynda married to the long suffering Robert is the butt of many jokes although her sheer energy makes her a stalwart of village life Ambridge EditSee also List of fictional towns and villages Arkwright Hall is a large Victorian mansion with a 17th century atmosphere The building served as a community centre for many years containing a soundproofed room and field studies centre Later it fell into disrepair but was renovated when Jack Woolley leased the mansion to the Landmark Trust architect Lewis Carmichael led the restoration of the building to its Victorian splendour Bridge Farm is a 168 acre 68 ha farm previously on Berrow Estate but now owned by Pat and Tony Archer The farm became wholly dedicated to organic farming in 1984 in a storyline inspired by a scriptwriter s visit to Brynllys farm in Ceredigion the home of Rachel s Organic 20 In 2003 Tom Archer began producing his Bridge Farm pork sausages In early 2013 the family decided to sell their dairy herd and buy organic milk instead and the following year Tony Archer bought a small Aberdeen Angus herd Brookfield Farm is a 469 acre 190 ha mixed farm which was managed by Dan Archer and then by his son Phil After Phil s retirement in 2001 his son David Archer took over Grange Farm was a working farm run by the Grundys until their eviction in 2000 The farmhouse along with 50 acres 20 ha of land was sold to Oliver Sterling Grey Gables once a country club is now a luxurious hotel The late Caroline Sterling bought it with her husband Oliver Sterling The hotel boasts a pool spa health club and a golf course Ian Craig is the executive chef Home Farm is a 1 922 acre 778 ha farm by far the largest in Ambridge owned by the Aldridge family In recent years Home Farm expanded into soft fruit and deer farming Lower Loxley Hall is a large 300 year old country house located just outside Ambridge It serves primarily as a conference centre The Bull the village s only pub is perhaps the most recognisable structure in Ambridge St Stephen s Church established in 1281 dates back to Norman times The church has undergone many changes over the years including a number of different vicars The eight bells are rung by a group led by Neil Carter Ambridge still has a village shop and post office originally thanks to Jack Woolley s philanthropy The business is now a community shop managed by Susan and run by a team of volunteers Willow Farm is owned by the Tucker family After Betty s death in 2005 the house was divided to accommodate Roy and his family The farmland is home to Neil Carter s pigs Topicality EditUnlike some soap operas episodes of The Archers portray events taking place on the date of broadcast allowing many topical subjects to be included Real life events which can be readily predicted are often written into the script such as the annual Oxford Farming Conference 21 and the FIFA World Cup 22 On some occasions scenes recorded at these events are planned and edited into episodes shortly before transmission More challengingly for the production team some significant but unforeseen events require scenes to be rewritten and rerecorded at short notice such as the death of Princess Margaret particularly poignant because she had appeared as herself on the programme 23 24 the World Trade Center attacks 25 and the 7 July 2005 London bombings 26 The events and implications of the 2001 foot and mouth crisis required many topical inserts 27 28 29 30 and the rewriting of several storylines 31 In January 2012 Oliver Sterling owner of Grange Farm together with his tenant Ed Grundy elected to vaccinate the badgers on their farm in an attempt to prevent the spread of bovine tuberculosis The plotline came within weeks of the government confirming a badger cull trial 32 It was announced on 29 March 2020 that the programme would include reference to the COVID 19 pandemic from 4 May onwards 33 Actors EditUnlike television soaps The Archers actors are not held on retainers and work on the series usually for a few days a month By the nature of the storylines concentrating on particular groups of characters in any one week out of a cast of about 60 the episodes include approximately 20 30 speaking characters Most of the cast do acting work on other projects and can disappear for long periods if they are working on commitments such as films or television series Tamsin Greig plays Debbie Aldridge and has appeared on many television series such as Green Wing Love Soup Black Books and Episodes so Debbie manages a farm in Hungary and her visits to Ambridge are infrequent Felicity Jones played Emma Carter from the age of 15 but after a period of studying at Wadham College Oxford she gave up the role to move into television and cinema 34 Some of the actors when not playing their characters earn their money through different jobs altogether Charlotte Connor when not playing Susan Carter credited as Charlotte Martin works full time as a senior research psychologist at the Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health Foundation her office is a short walk from BBC Birmingham and thus she is able to fit her work around recordings 35 Meanwhile Graham Blockey who plays Robert Snell worked until 2017 as a full time general practitioner in Surrey commuting to and from BBC Birmingham at weekends and on his days off He kept his role secret from his patients for fear of losing their respect until his retirement from medicine in March 2017 36 Other examples include Felicity Finch Ruth Archer who also works as a BBC journalist having travelled on a number of occasions to Afghanistan and Ian Pepperell Roy Tucker who manages a pub in the New Forest 37 History EditA five episode pilot series started on Whit Monday 29 May 1950 and continued throughout that week 38 It was created by Godfrey Baseley and was broadcast to the English Midlands in the Regional Home Service as a farming Dick Barton Recordings were sent to London and the BBC decided to commission the series for a longer national run In the five pilots the Archers owned Wimberton Farm rather than Brookfield Baseley subsequently edited The Archers for 22 years Since 1 January 1951 five 15 minute episodes since 1998 six 12 minute episodes have been transmitted each week at first on the BBC Light Programme 39 and subsequently on the BBC Home Service and Radio 4 from 1 October 1967 40 Early afternoon repeats of the previous evening s episode began on 14 December 1964 The original scriptwriters were Geoffrey Webb and Edward J Mason who were also working on the nightly thriller series about the special agent Dick Barton The popularity of his adventures partly inspired The Archers which eventually took over Barton s evening slot At first however the national launch placed the serial at the terrible 41 time of 11 45 am but it moved to Dick Barton s former slot of 6 45 pm from 2 April 1951 An omnibus edition of the week s episodes began on 5 January 1952 Originally produced with collaborative input from the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries The Archers was conceived as a means of disseminating information to farmers and smallholders to help increase productivity in the Postwar era of rationing and food shortages 39 The Archers originally centred on the lives of three farmers Dan Archer farming efficiently with little cash Walter Gabriel farming inefficiently with little cash and George Fairbrother a wealthy businessman farming at a loss for tax purposes which one could do in those days 42 The programme was hugely successful winning the National Radio Awards Most entertaining programme of the Year award jointly with Take It from Here in 1954 and winning the award outright in 1955 in which year the audience was reported to have peaked at 20 million 43 In the late 1950s despite the growth of television and radio s consequent decline the programme was still claiming eleven million listeners and was also being transmitted in Canada Australia and New Zealand 44 By the mid 1970s however the audience for the two daily broadcasts and the weekend omnibus combined was less than 3 million 45 and in 1976 the BBC Radio Four Review Board twice considered whether or not the programme should be axed 46 The serial s woes at this time were seen to mirror the poor standing of radio drama in general described as a failure to fully shake off the conventions of non realism which had prevailed in the 1940s and 1950s 47 Programme chief Jock Gallagher responsible for The Archers described these as the serial s dog days 48 Sweeping editorial reforms followed included the introduction of women writers there had been none before 1975 two of whom Helen Leadbeater and Margaret Phelan were credited with giving the programme a new definitive style of writing and content although some listeners complained about their radical feminism 49 In 1980 Julie Burchill commented that the women of Ambridge were no longer stuck with the gallons of greengage jam old guard male scriptwriters kept them occupied with for over twenty years but were into post natal depression and alcoholism on the way to self discovery 50 By the mid 1980s the Radio Four Review Board noted that scripts directing and acting was very good and sometimes better than ever 51 In August 1985 The Listener said that the programme s revival was sustained by some of the best acting direction and writing on radio 43 Tony Shryane MBE was the programme s producer from 1 January 1951 to 19 January 1979 Vanessa Whitburn was the programme s editor from 1992 till 2013 Whitburn took service leave from March to July 2012 when John Yorke a former executive producer of EastEnders was the acting editor 52 Yorke s arrival prompted charges that the programme was importing the values of EastEnders to Borsetshire with fans and commentators complaining that characters were behaving unrealistically simply to generate conflict 53 This was denied by Yorke who wrote that he agreed to take over on one condition that it stayed exactly as it was and that I didn t have to change anything 54 Whitburn was succeeded as editor by Sean O Connor in September 2013 55 In September 2016 Huw Kennair Jones took over as editor though O Connor continued to oversee the Helen and Rob storyline until its conclusion 56 Kennair Jones announced in October 2017 that he was to leave the BBC to work as commissioning editor for ITV 57 The short presence of two successive Archers editors in the job led to concerns that there might be a trend of radio drama editing being seen as training ground for higher paid positions in TV 58 Alison Hindell the BBC s head of Audio Drama until October 2018 took over as acting editor before 59 and after 60 Kennair Jones s time in charge She effectively swapped roles with Jeremy Howe when she succeeded him as the BBC s commissioning editor for drama and fiction 60 and he started as editor of the Archers in late August 2018 1 61 Since 2007 The Archers has been available as a podcast 62 Death of Grace Archer Edit One of the most controversial Archers episodes was broadcast on 22 September 1955 which coincided with the launch of the UK s first commercial television station Phil and Grace Archer had been married just a few months earlier and their blossoming relationship was the talk of the nation However searching for a story which would demonstrate some real tragedy among the increasingly unconvincing episode cliff hangers Godfrey Baseley had decided that Grace would have to die The scripts for the week commencing 19 September 1955 were written recorded and broadcast on each day with an exercise in topicality given as the explanation to the cast On Thursday listeners heard the sound effects of Grace trying to rescue Midnight her horse from a fire in the stable at Brookfield and the crash of a falling timber beam 63 Whether the timing of the episode was a deliberate attempt to overshadow the opening night of the BBC s first commercial rival has been debated ever since It was certainly planned some months in advance but it may well be that the actual date of the death was changed during the scriptwriting stage to coincide with the launch of Associated Rediffusion 64 Deliberate or not the episode attracted widespread media attention being reported by newspapers around the world This controversy has been parodied twice in The Bowmans an episode of the television comedy programme Hancock and in the play The Killing of Sister George and its 1968 film adaptation On the 50th anniversary of ITV s launch Ysanne Churchman who played Grace sent them a congratulatory card signed Grace Archer In 1996 William Smethurst recounted a conversation with Baseley in which he reveals his real motivation for killing off Grace Archer Churchman had been encouraging the other actors to join a trade union 65 Longevity Edit The actor Norman Painting played Phil Archer continuously from the first trial series in 1950 until his death on 29 October 2009 His last Archers performance was recorded just two days before his death and was broadcast on 22 November 66 He is cited in Guinness World Records as the longest serving actor in a single soap opera 66 Under the pseudonym Bruno Milna Painting also wrote around 1 200 complete episodes which culminated in the 10 000th episode June Spencer CBE has played Peggy Woolley from the pilot episode and celebrated her 100th birthday in 2019 She is still in her role and is one of the oldest working actors 67 According to Who s Who in The Archers 2008 68 episode 15 360 was broadcast on 1 January 2008 69 Episode 15 000 was broadcast on 7 November 2006 70 Sixtieth anniversary Edit The Archers reached its 60th anniversary on 1 January 2011 and to mark this achievement a special half hour episode was broadcast on Sunday 2 January on BBC Radio 4 from 7pm The episode had been advertised as containing events that would shake Ambridge to the core 71 This phrase even gave rise to the initialism SATTC trending on the website Twitter during that weekend as listeners speculated about what might happen and then reported their views as the story unfolded The main events in the episode were Helen Archer giving birth to her son Henry and Nigel Pargetter falling to his death from the roof of Lower Loxley Hall This unlikely event provoked interest in the frequency and causes of death in the series In fact although the incidence of accidental death and suicide is seven times the national average the overall mortality rate in Ambridge is almost exactly what would be expected 72 The demise of Nigel caused controversy among some listeners 73 74 with a number of complaints variously expressing dismay at the death of a popular character concerns over the manner of the dismissal of the actor belief that the promise to shake Ambridge to the core had been over hyped criticism of the credibility of the script for example the duration of his plummeting cry caused calculation of the building s height at considerably more than had been imagined also a perceived unwillingness of the editorial team to engage with these listener complaints citation needed COVID 19 pandemic Edit Topical subjects have been added to the script but this was not possible during the COVID 19 pandemic Actors were initially recorded in their homes and included references to the pandemic from some of the characters sharing their private thoughts with the listener 33 75 From 4 May 2020 to 14 August 2021 the broadcast was reduced to four episodes Monday Thursday Sunday episodes resumed on 15 August 2021 Broadcasting in other countries EditThe Archers has been broadcast in countries outside the UK in particular in New Zealand from inception until September 1982 when Radio New Zealand decided not to continue purchasing episodes Arrangements were made for a special episode without the usual closing cliffhanger 76 Themes EditThe programme has tackled many serious contemporary social issues rural drug addiction rape including rape in marriage inter racial relationships direct action against genetically modified crops and badger culling family break ups and civil partnerships and a family being threatened by a gang of farm thieves There has been criticism from conservative commentators such as Peter Hitchens in 1999 77 that the series has become a vehicle for liberal and left wing values and agendas with characters behaving out of character to achieve those goals However one of the show s charms is to make much out of everyday small concerns such as the possible closure of the village shop the loss and rediscovery of a pair of spectacles 78 competitive marmalade making or nonsense such as a spile troshing competition 79 rather than the large scale and improbable events that form the plots of many soap operas 80 81 Godfrey Baseley was quoted in The Independent as objecting to the homosexuality in the programme saying It is disgusting It is distasteful because being gay is such a minority interest Country folk don t do that kind of thing They have sex the proper way 82 According to some of the actors and confirmed in the writings of Godfrey Baseley in its early days the show was used as a conduit for educational announcements from the Ministry of Agriculture one actor reading an announcement almost verbatim to another Direct involvement of the government ended in 1972 83 The show has reacted within a day to agricultural emergencies such as outbreaks of foot and mouth disease which affect farmers nationwide when livestock movements are restricted Cameo appearances EditMany famous people have made cameo appearances on the programme Princess Margaret and the Duke of Westminster appeared in 1984 in connection with a fashion show to commemorate the centenary of the NSPCC 23 Dame Judi Dench made an appearance as the hitherto usually silent Pru Forrest in 1989 for the 10 000th episode Terry Wogan was featured and Esther Rantzen was responsible for the sound effects 63 Radio presenter John Peel appeared as himself in 1991 84 Gardener Alan Titchmarsh judged Ambridge s entries in the National Gardens Scheme open gardens competition in May 2003 85 Radio presenter Chris Moyles appeared in June 2004 as a random customer and suspected National Pub of the Year judge in The Bull 86 87 Comedian Griff Rhys Jones appeared as himself in July 2004 when he was drafted into Lynda s campaign to restore the Cat and Fiddle pub 88 Zandra Rhodes played herself in an episode in September 2006 in connection with a charity fashion show 89 90 Robert Winston appeared as a fertility specialist consulted by Hayley and Roy Tucker in January 91 and February 2007 92 Mike Gatting appeared in September 2007 at the centre of a misunderstanding between Sid and Jolene Perks during the npower Village Cup final at Lord s Cricket Ground 93 94 Crime novelist Colin Dexter made a cameo in 2010 95 Camilla Duchess of Cornwall appeared on 16 February 2011 in connection with the National Osteoporosis Society s 25th anniversary as well as the show s 60th anniversary In 2011 a recording of the show Gardeners Question Time was followed by a special recording session in which Archers characters notably Brian Aldridge took part asking questions of the regular panellists while sitting with the audience Sir Bradley Wiggins appeared in an April 2014 episode presenting prizes at the Ambridge Sport Relief Rough and Tumble event Challenge Kirstie Allsopp appeared in July 2014 to open the village fete In August 2014 the Pet Shop Boys were last minute headliners at the music festival Loxfest Anneka Rice has appeared twice in Ambridge in March 1993 and in March 2016 In September 2016 in an hour long episode concluding a highly publicised storyline in which Helen Titchener had stabbed her abusive husband Rob some notable names guest starred as jury members including Dame Eileen Atkins Catherine Tate and Nigel Havers 96 In August 2021 Jackie Weaver a council officer in the news appeared as herself judging a scarecrow competition in the village and warning off some protestors Others who have made appearances include Britt Ekland Humphrey Lyttelton 1956 Dame Edna Everage and Antony Gormley 2009 Theme tune EditThe theme tune of The Archers is called Barwick Green and is a maypole dance from the suite My Native Heath written in 1924 by the Yorkshire composer Arthur Wood The Sunday omnibus broadcast of The Archers starts with a more rustic accordion arranged rendition by The Yetties 97 98 The theme for BBC Radio 4 Extra s The Archers spinoff Ambridge Extra is a version arranged by Bellowhead 99 A library music recording of Barwick Green was used for the pilot and during the early years of the national version because a bid by Godfrey Baseley to have a special theme composed had been turned down on the grounds of cost put at 250 300 100 However once the serial had become undeniably established a new recording of Barwick Green was authorised and performed by the BBC Midland Light Orchestra on 24 March 1954 101 This mono recording was also accompanied by four movements entitled A Village Suite composed by Kenneth Pakeman to complement Barwick Green Excerpts from these movements were then used for a time as bridging music between scenes The 1954 recordings were never made available to the public and their use was restricted even inside the BBC partly because of an agreement with the Musicians Union In 1992 the theme was re recorded in stereo retaining the previous arrangements The venue was Symphony Hall in Birmingham the conductor Ron Goodwin producer David Welsby and the sound mixer Norman McLeod The slightly different sound mixing and more leisurely tempo reportedly led some listeners to consider the new version inferior specifically that it lacked brio although the BBC publicised the fact that the orchestra contained some of the musicians who had played in the previous recording including Harold Rich piano and Norman Parker percussion citation needed Robert Robinson once compared the tune to the genteel abandon of a lifelong teetotaller who has suddenly taken to drink citation needed On April Fool s Day 2004 both The Independent and The Today Programme claimed that BBC executives had commissioned composer Brian Eno to record an electronic version of Barwick Green as a replacement for the current theme 102 103 while comedian Billy Connolly included in his act the joke that the theme was so typically British that it should be the national anthem of the United Kingdom 104 In 2009 comedian Rainer Hersch conducted the Philharmonia Orchestra in a performance of the theme live from the Royal Festival Hall to a listening BBC Radio 3 audience in an attempt to confuse them He then went on to show how similar it is to Montagues and Capulets Dance of the Knights from Romeo and Juliet by Sergei Prokofiev claiming that this was a result of Russian spies going through the BBC s rubbish bins looking for the scripts 105 Serious events Edit At times a cliffhanger involving the death of a major character or a disaster was marked by the traditional closing theme being replaced by the final dramatic section of Barwick Green involving trombones cymbals and the closing bars of the signature tune known as the doom music to some fan groups 106 This tradition has been dropped more recently with events such as the death of Nigel Pargetter being followed by the normal closing music despite the gravity of the incident This has irritated some followers who consider the jollity of the normal segment inappropriate in such circumstances 107 A brief extract from The Dream of Gerontius was played following the death of Phil Archer When John Archer died no music was played There was a nod to The Archers in the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games in London on 27 July 2012 where the theme tune was played at the beginning of a segment celebrating British culture the sound of a radio could be heard being tuned in as Barwick Green was played 108 Casting EditActor Character DurationJune Spencer Peggy Woolley 1950 1953 1961 Lesley Saweard Christine Barford 1953 1962 1968 2019Patricia Greene Jill Archer 1957 Angela Piper Jennifer Aldridge 1963 Judy Bennett Shula Hebden Lloyd 1971 Brian Hewlett Neil Carter 1973 Patricia Gallimore Pat Archer 1974 Terry Molloy Mike Tucker 1974 1977 1986 Charles Collingwood Brian Aldridge 1975 Hedli Niklaus Kathy Perks 1977 1978 1981 1983 Trevor Harrison Eddie Grundy 1979 Heather Bell Clarrie Grundy 1979 1988 2013 Timothy Bentinck David Archer 1982 Charlotte Martin Susan Carter 1983 Alison Dowling Elizabeth Pargetter 1984 Edward Kelsey Joe Grundy 1985 2019Carole Boyd Lynda Snell 1986 Graham Blockey Robert Snell 1986 Felicity Finch Ruth Archer 1987 Philip Molloy Will Grundy 1989 Tamsin Greig Debbie Aldridge 1991 William Gaminara Richard Locke 1992 Souad Faress Usha Franks 1994 Ian Pepperell Roy Tucker 1995 Buffy Davis Jolene Archer 1996 Jamilla Massey Aunty Satya Khanna 1996 Robin Pirongs Sam BattonEric Allan Bert Fry 1997 2021Kim Durham Matt Crawford 1997 Michael Lumsden Alistair Lloyd 1998 Annabelle Dowler Kirsty Miller 1999 Louiza Patikas Helen Titchener 2000 Richard Attlee Kenton Archer 2000 Barry Farrimond Ed Grundy 2000 Robert Lister Lewis Charmichael 2000 Joanna Van Kampen Fallon Rogers 2000 Michael Cochrane Oliver Sterling 2000 Sunny Ormonde Lillian Bellamy 2001 Ryan Kelly Jack McCreary 2001 Hollie Chapman Alice Carter 2001 Andrew Wincott Adam Macy 2003 John Telfer Rev Alan Franks 2003 Stephen Kennedy Ian Craig 2003 Mona Hammond Mabel Thompson 2003 Lorraine Coady Hayley Tucker 2006 John Rowe Prof Jim Lloyd 2007 Julia Hills Annabelle Schrivener 2007 Arthur Hughes Ruairi Donovan 2007 Helen Longworth Hannah Riley 2008 Emerald O Hanrahan Emma Carter 2009 Lucy Morris Phoebe Aldridge 2010 David Hargreaves Alf Grundy 2012 James Cartwright Harrison Burns 2013 Daisy Badger Pip Archer 2014 Angus Imrie Josh Archer 2014 David Troughton Tony Archer 2014 Simon Williams Justin Elliott 2014 Tom Gibbons Johnny Phillips 2014 William Troughton Tom Archer 2014 Eleanor Bron Carol Tregorran 2014 Perdita Avery Kate Madikane 2014 Toby Laurence Freddie Pargetter 2016 Isobel Middleton Anna Tregorran 2016 Katie Redford Lily Pargetter 2017 Will Howard Dan Hebden Lloyd 2017 Andy Hockley Philip Moss 2017 Wilf Scolding Christopher Carter 2017 Ben Norris Ben Archer 2018 Mogali Masuku Noluthando Madikane 2018 Tom Graham Tom Archer 1997 2014Ania Sowinski Lexi Viktorova 2018 Mali Harries Natasha Archer 2018 Gareth Pierce Gavin Moss 2020 Ambridge Extra EditBBC Radio 4 Extra ran an occasional short supplement Ambridge Extra between 2011 and 2013 featuring characters away from the Ambridge environs Series 1 and 2 had 26 episodes and series 3 4 and 5 had 20 The reason offered for non renewal was limited resources 109 Fan clubs EditTwo organisations dedicated to the programme were established in the 1990s Archers Addicts was the official body run by members of the cast The club had five thousand members 110 and an online shop where Archers memorabilia was sold under licence It closed as a club on 31 December 2013 but still has a Facebook page and Twitter feed Archers Anarchists was formed sometime later when objecting to the castist assumptions propagated by the BBC and claiming that the characters are real The usenet newsgroup uk media radio archers 111 referred to as UMRA by its users who call themselves umrats has been running since 1995 Its users include experts on subjects covered by the programme such as the many aspects of farming the running of small businesses bell ringing lengthy discussions ensue as well as light hearted matters and plot speculation Various gatherings occur where umrats come together The first was a series of about ten annual barbecues 112 The first was attended by Carole Boyd Lynda Snell They have included participants from Europe and the Americas It has nicknames for many of the main Archers characters 113 such as S aint for Shula There are nicknames for most of the regular characters Due perhaps to it being initially more accessible in academia the discussions can be quite detailed though UMRA considers itself to be a friendly and welcoming group where in particular flamewars and the like are not welcome Despite the general decline of usenet 114 with the advent of trendier media such as Facebook and Twitter UMRA remains a very active newsgroup compared to many Its one time T shirts 115 and mugs bore the legend in yellow on Barwick Green of course An everyday story of internet folk 116 The Academic Archers founded in 2016 is a community of fans who share an academic approach to the programme It organises an annual conference at which papers are presented which draw on academic expertise along with enjoyment Papers from these have been published as The Archers in Fact and Fiction Academic Analyses of Life in Rural Borsetshire 2016 Peter Lang ISBN 9781787071193 Custard Culverts and Cake 2017 Emerald ISBN 9781787432864 and Gender Sex and Gossip Women in The Archers 2019 Emerald ISBN 9781787699489 The group aims to be curious generous and joyful 117 118 119 Dum Tee Dum is a weekly podcast about the Archers that features Lucy Freeman and Roifield Brown Released every Sunday it features a comprehensive rundown on the last week s Ambridge action By February 2021 they had podcasted 368 episodes As well as a webpage 120 Dumteedum has a Facebook Group with 1300 members 121 a Twitter feed 122 8874 followers and a map of members 123 There are two other Archers podcasts both released on a Sunday weekly The Cider Shed and Ambridge on the Couch with Lucy Freeman and Harriet Carmichael They both have facebook twitter and other social media sites Every Sunday there is a tweet along with the omnibus episode during which listeners comment live on the show Parallels EditIn 1994 the BBC World Service began broadcasting in Afghanistan Naway Kor Naway Jwand New Home New Life an everyday story of country folk incorporating pieces of useful information Although the useful information was more likely to concern unexploded land mines and opium addiction than the latest modern farming techniques the inspiration and model of Naway Kor Naway Jwand was The Archers and the initial workshopping with Afghan writers included an Archers scriptwriter 124 A 1997 study found that listeners to the soap opera were significantly less likely to be injured by a mine than non listeners 125 In Rwanda the BBC World Service s Rwanda Rundi service has been broadcasting the Archers inspired soap opera Urunana Hand in Hand since 1999 126 127 The Archers was the model for the Russian radio soap opera Dom 7 Podyezd 4 House 7 Entrance 4 128 on which the former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair once made a cameo appearance 129 Parodies EditTony Hancock starred in the Galton and Simpson spoof The Bowmans in an episode of BBC Television s Hancock s Half Hour 130 Ned Sherrin produced a short 1973 film called The Cobblers of Umbridge The cast included Joan Sims Lance Percival Roy Kinnear Derek Griffiths and John Fortune 131 John Finnemore s Souvenir Programme has parodied The Archers with its recurring The Archers Accidentally sketches 132 the sketches claim to portray The Archers the way it sounds to people who only listen to the show inadvertently The radio series of Dead Ringers has frequently parodied characters from The Archers including a special edition The subtitle was parodied by Bill Tidy in his long running cartoon of The Cloggies an Everyday Saga in the Life of Clog Dancing Folk which ran in the satirical magazine Private Eye and later in The Listener Books and audiobooks EditReference works Edit Forever Ambridge 25 Years of The Archers 1975 by Norman Painting ASIN B0012UT8XM The Book of The Archers 1994 by Patricia Greene Charles Collingwood and Hedli Niklaus ISBN 0 7181 3849 X The Archers The True Story 1996 by William Smethurst ISBN 1 85833 620 1 The Archers Encyclopaedia 2001 by Joanna Toye and Adrian Flynn ISBN 0 563 53718 3 published to coincide with the 50th anniversary of The Archers Who s Who in The Archers 2008 by Keri Davies ISBN 1 84607 326 X Who s Who in The Archers 2011 by Graham Harvey ISBN 978 1 849 90015 7 The Archers Miscellany 2010 by Joanna Toye ISBN 978 1 84607 754 8 The Road to Ambridge 2010 by June Spencer ISBN 978 1 907532 25 2 The Archers Archives 2010 by Simon Frith amp Chris Arnot ISBN 978 1 84990 013 3 Borsetshire Life 2011 The county magazine ISBN 978 1 902685 14 4 see borsetshire lifeNovelisations Edit The Archers by Jock Gallagher Ambridge Summer by Keith Miles 1975 ISBN 0 85523 065 7 The Archers To The Victor The Spoils 1988 ISBN 0 563 20599 7 The Archers Return to Ambridge 1988 ISBN 0 563 20606 3 The Archers Borchester Echoes 1988 ISBN 0 563 20607 1 The Archers Omnibus Edition 1988 ISBN 0 563 36001 1 The Ambridge Chronicles by Joanna Toye The Archers 1951 1967 Family Ties 1998 ISBN 0 563 38397 6 The Archers 1968 1986 Looking For Love 1999 ISBN 0 563 55125 9 The Archers 1987 2000 Back to the Land 2000 ISBN 0 563 53701 9 The Archers 1951 1967 Family Ties 1998 audiobook narrated by Miriam Margolyes ISBN 0 563 55714 1 The Archers 1968 1986 Looking For Love 1999 audiobook narrated by Stella Gonet ISBN 0 563 55813 X The Archers 1987 2000 Back to the Land 2000 audiobook narrated by Stephanie Cole ISBN 0 563 55818 0 In 1975 Tandem published a prequel novel about Ambridge in the early 1900s Spring at Brookfield by Brian Hayles 1975 ISBN 978 0 426 16520 0Published audio episodes Edit Vintage Archers Vintage Archers Volume 1 1988 ISBN 0 563 22586 6 Vintage Archers Volume 2 1988 ISBN 0 563 22704 4 Vintage Archers Volume 3 1998 ISBN 0 563 55740 0 contains several lost episodes which have been digitally restored The Archers The Wedding Jack and Peggy tie the knot Vintage Archers Volumes 1 3 2001 ISBN 0 563 38281 3 Ambridge Affairs Ambridge Affairs Love Triangles 2007 ISBN 1 4056 7733 3 Ambridge Affairs Heartache at Home Farm 2007 ISBN 1 4056 8785 1Maps Edit In addition to books and audiobooks purported maps of Ambridge and Borsetshire have been published 133 134 Documentaries EditAn episode of Arena broadcast on BBC Four on 1 January 2007 focused on The Archers It was narrated by Stephen Fry and included interviews with current actors and scriptwriters 135 See also EditList of longest serving soap opera actors List of radio soapsReferences Edit a b Jeremy Howe s first day as the new editor of The Archers BBC 23 August 2018 Archived from the original on 28 October 2018 Retrieved 9 September 2018 a b About The Archers BBC 31 December 2010 Archived from the original on 24 November 2010 Retrieved 6 January 2008 Adrian Jack 9 October 2003 Tony Shryane Obituary The Independent on Sunday 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Retrieved 17 February 2008 Max Kellar 1 March 2008 Billy Connelly National Anthem Archived from the original on 26 July 2018 Retrieved 10 July 2018 via YouTube Funny The Archers and Dance of the Knights Archived from the original on 9 July 2015 Retrieved 28 December 2014 via YouTube See doom music in Archers phrases Archived from the original on 23 March 2018 Retrieved 22 March 2018 Seek doom music in this Archived from the original on 28 October 2017 Retrieved 22 March 2018 Hyde Marina 28 July 2012 Olympic Games opening ceremony irreverent and idiosyncratic The Guardian London Archived from the original on 27 April 2016 Retrieved 16 December 2016 BBC Blogs The Archers Ambridge Extra on Radio 4 Extra BBC 30 January 2014 Archived from the original on 14 July 2014 Retrieved 28 December 2014 Clive Aslet et al Why we love The Archers Archived 7 March 2012 at the Wayback Machine Country Life 7 May 2010 uk media radio archers on Google Groups Archived from the original on 22 January 2011 Retrieved 22 March 2018 UMRA 2000 barbecue Archived from the original on 23 March 2018 Retrieved 22 March 2018 UMRA nicknames and related matters Archived from the original on 23 March 2018 Retrieved 22 March 2018 discussion on the decline of usenetUsenet Decline UMRA T shirt 2002 Archived from the original on 27 June 2020 Retrieved 22 March 2018 UMRA logo Archived from the original on 23 March 2018 Retrieved 22 March 2018 Home page Academic Archers Archived from the original on 6 December 2019 Retrieved 7 April 2019 Rosefield Hannah 28 March 2016 What we learned from the first academic Archers conference New Statesman Archived from the original on 7 April 2019 Retrieved 7 April 2019 Tickle Louise 13 February 2018 The Archers academic conference hot ticket for Radio 4 fans and insurgency experts The Guardian Archived from the original on 16 October 2019 Retrieved 27 October 2021 The Dumteedum web page Archived from the original on 28 February 2021 Retrieved 28 February 2021 The 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Communication Initiative Network 14 August 2003 Archived from the original on 19 January 2011 Retrieved 16 February 2008 Connolly Joan 22 October 2005 Dom Syem Podjezd Chetirie Television Trust for the Environment Archived from the original on 22 October 2007 Retrieved 5 January 2008 Bailey Jemimah 17 October 1997 Broadcast Tune in to the power of the viewing public Brand Republic Retrieved 5 January 2008 The Bowmans Archived 2 July 2016 at the Wayback Machine Hancock s Half Hour The Cobblers of Umbridge TV Movie 1973 IMDb 28 December 1973 Archived from the original on 13 July 2015 Retrieved 28 December 2014 BBC Radio 4 John Finnemore s Souvenir Programme Series 1 Episode 30 May 2014 Archived from the original on 30 May 2014 Humphreys John 23 September 1994 Archers Addicts Official Map of Ambridge Old House Books ISBN 978 1 873590 08 9 Wallpaper The Archers BBC Radio 4 Archived from the original on 15 March 2008 Retrieved 6 January 2008 Kennedy Emily 2006 Arena The Archers BBC Four Archived from the original on 17 January 2007 Retrieved 5 January 2006 Further reading EditSanderson Ian 1998 The Archers Anarchists A Z London Boxtree ISBN 0 7522 2442 5 the author founded the Archers Anarchists in 1995 Higgins Charlotte A peculiarly English epic the weird genius of The Archers The Guardian Retrieved 27 December 2020 A reflection on the forthcoming 70th anniversaryExternal links EditWikimedia Commons has media related to The Archers Official website Retrieved from https en wikipedia org w index php title The Archers amp oldid 1094002229, wikipedia, wiki, book,

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