Sitting here surrounded by snippets of information vital to the continuity of my favourite radio programme I feel like a kid in a sweet shop. Camilla the archivist is having a well deserved holiday and I'm in her seat. To my left is a bank of filing cabinets containing the intricately woven life stories of characters past and present. These days most of this history's available at the click of a mouse of course, which is great.
But I love the tangible record cards; there's something about delving deep into a drawer that makes the information even more intriguing. I've spent this week reading through a month's worth of scripts prior to them being recorded. Part of the job is to check every word for Ambridge accuracy, and note any new 'facts' in the archive - this is taking ages. Whilst I've been a listener for years I still have to look up every tiny thing and trace it back to its origin to make sure nothing untoward slips through.
Added to this are random requests from writers and producers who want to know all sorts of seemingly obscure facts and details to complete their picture. It's incredibly distracting, not because they shouldn't be asking, but because every time I go into the archive for them I go off at a tangent and find other little nuggets to explore. But I like the feeling of doing detective work to track down the answers, and it's rewarding when you can fill in a blank for somebody or put their mind at rest about some fact which has eluded them.
The web site's being redesigned too at the moment and a new map drawn with lovely images of each location. So as well as the usual writer requests I've had several emails from the artist wanting to capture detail of various homes and buildings around the village. No two days are the same and I'm loving the challenge, but don't tell Camilla - she might not come back!
Mel Ward is archivist for The Archers
- All the blog posts for Archers Week are here.
- Archers Week ran on the Radio 4 blog from 23-30 November 2009. 19 blog posts were published in all, from 17 authors. They're listed here.
- Radio 4's Archers web site is full of good stuff, like a map of Ambridge, family trees for all the big clans and a detailed who's who. There's also a 'two-minute guide' for Archers newbies.
- The Archers messageboards are among the busiest at the BBC - nicknamed Mustardland because of the distinctive yellow page backgrounds. They're a bit sceptical about Archers Week, though.
- There are two Archers podcasts: one for the daily episodes and one for the Sunday omnibus.
- Hedli Niklaus, who plays Kathy Perks in the serial, also runs the Archers fan club, Archers Addicts.
- Norman Painting, who played Archers patriarch Phil for nearly sixty years, died on 29 October 2009. The last episode he recorded aired on 22 November. Archers Editor Vanessa Whitburn paid tribute to him here on the blog and the Archers Addicts have collected listener tributes.
- The picture shows a wall in the production office where, presumably, plans are hatched and plots despatched. During our visit to the Archers' home in Birmingham dozens of photographs were taken, many of which feature pictures of cast members (and an ironing board).
- Twitter was put to use during Archers Week. #archersweek was the hashtag and we learnt that Tim Bentinck, who plays David Archer (@timbentinck) and Keri Davies, who writes scripts (@keridavies) are both Twitterers. Follow the Radio 4 blog on Twitter.