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The Archers editor on the 60th anniversary

Vanessa Whitburn Vanessa Whitburn | 11:39 AM, Sunday, 9 January 2011

A week on from marking our 60th anniversary, and it's clear it's not just the residents of Ambridge who are talking about recent events in Borsetshire.

I have a two inch high pile of press cuttings before me. Many celebrate the amazing achievement of a drama having reached its diamond jubilee, making it currently the longest running soap in the world. Others look back at the storylines that have gripped Archers fans over the last 60 years. Beside that, a report showing hundreds of listener comments about the anniversary episode. And then one of the team pops in to tell me that during the anniversary episode on 2 January, The Archers and 'SATTC' was the most discussed subject on Twitter in the world.

Who would have thought that SATTC - Shaking Ambridge to the Core - a line coined as part of an obscure BBC policy document in May - would capture the imagination of so many.

I was editor for the 50th anniversary too, but it was nothing like the 60th. Yes, as with the 50th, I took part in a handful of interviews but unlike ten years ago, this time many more Archers fans got to join in the conversation through Twitter, forums and message boards. And so it was after the SATTC line was picked up by an Archers fan, on-line conversations began, building over months to what some called a frenzy reported widely in the press in the lead-up to the anniversary. Speculation was rife and grew exponentially, perhaps fuelled by the fact that despite being constantly asked, I wasn't about to reveal what happened before 2 Jan.

I read comments from some listeners who said they didn't feel 'shaken' by the anniversary episode and others who definitely did. But in the drama we can already see, I believe, how it is shaking Ambridge and the Archer family particularly to the core. It will continue to do so as time goes on. I also believe the anniversary episode was well balanced; relief that Helen and the baby survived their ordeal, a hugely emotional reunion between Tony and Helen set against the high drama of Nigel's fall. For each episode we strive to get the balance right in keeping with the 'everyday story of country folk' where our roots began all those years ago. Importantly though we have a modern outlook in recognition of how the rural community and the wider Archers audience has changed since 1951.

Reading the listener comments, I sense almost a mourning, an outpouring of grief for Nigel. For some it was highly emotional - 'I was moved to tears' said one listener. And dramatic - 'I felt exhausted afterwards' said another. What followed in the episodes this week has provided the chance for Archers listeners to empathise and share with Lizzie's loss, as they did with Peggy as Jack succumbed to Alzheimer's. But each comment, be it complimentary or critical, strikes me with the heartfelt passion with which it is written. A passion for Ambridge and its characters. A passion I share.

I've been Archers editor for twenty years and worked as a producer and director on the show before that. Throughout, for me and the Archers scriptwriting team, characters come first. They drive the story; what they do has to be truthful and believable. 'David would never have gone on the roof, he's too sensible', I read in one listener comment. I argue he would! A busy farmer wouldn't want to take time out the next day to come back to Lower Loxley to do that. And David's a bear of a man, used to physical exertion. I suggest he wouldn't feel fearful of a climb on to what was essentially a steady roof. But the wind gets up suddenly and of course poor Nigel gets caught up in the banner and is blown over the edge.

Was it sensationalist to kill off Nigel? I don't believe it was. People in real life - and so our characters - are killed in surprising and shocking circumstances. Granted, in Ambridge that is not very often and anybody who knows the Archers well would not expect anything melodramatic or sensationalist. Instead sometimes startling singular events, like a sharp pebble thrown into a pond, send ripples reverberating through storylines well into the future.

Remember when Mark was killed? Caroline was fearful that her friendship with Shula would be shattered because it had been her horse that bolted and helped to make Mark crash. Then a week after his death, Shula discovered she was pregnant with Mark's child, the child he would never see. We saw Shula grieve, taking comfort slowly from the birth of her son Daniel and gradually recovering to meet and then marry Alistair, opening up further stories as Alistair struggled to forge his relationship with Daniel.

Or young John's death under the tractor? Hugely upsetting at the time of course. But recall the impact this had on his parents. The father who found him there at the scene. The mother who succumbed to but overcame depression. A sister who has struggled with anorexia and control freakery since, perhaps at least in part to the trauma of losing her brother in such a traumatic way.

And so many months before the anniversary, I sat down with the Archers script team to discuss what we might do for our 60th year. It is such a significant milestone to have reached, we felt compelled to mark it with a storyline that would have impact. When I say impact what do I mean? We wanted an event. Not a cataclysmic one - no tram crashes - but one where the ramifications would be felt far and wide throughout Ambridge for the decade that followed. We felt that the event had to be deeply traumatic. And so we arrived at a death. But who? Again after much debate and thinking how each one would impact on Ambridge life. We arrived at Nigel.

Nigel - liked by all in Ambridge, loved by Lizzie and the twins - of course his death would be painful for them. But not just that. How will Lizzie cope running Lower Loxley. She's got a good business head on her shoulders but she's physically weak with a congenital heart defect. David, as we saw in the episode after the anniversary, is completely distraught and guilty that he didn't prevent it somehow. The scenes so movingly acted by Tim Bentinck lit up the message board again, with listeners saying how emotional they had found it. We heard how David rushed to Lizzie's aid at Lower Loxley, leaving Ruth to run the farm. Their marriage has hit rough patches in the past, could this pressure unpick a scab? Well the list goes on and on as to what may happen, and the Archers discussion forums will pulsate as ever as fans enjoy trying to second guess which way it will turn.

And I couldn't write this without paying tribute to Graham Seed, the actor whom I cast as Nigel in 1983; who left for a short period in 1986 but whom I thankfully managed to persuade to come back into the show and after working together for many years, directed in his last scene. A talented actor, Graham made Nigel his own with a subtle and spirited performance that will go down in soap opera history. And befittingly we have given Nigel a grand exit that listeners will talk about for years to come.

Some have suggested that I told Graham that his part was being written out in a quick and careless phone call just before the studio. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact I spoke to Graham on the phone several weeks before the studio and we had a long and as Graham put it on breakfast television this week, 'courteous' conversation. I do not mean to suggest by this that Graham was happy about the news, nor that I enjoyed having to tell him. Such conversations are never easy but they come, occasionally, with the territory of being the Editor. I spoke on the phone because Graham does not live in Birmingham and, like all our freelance actors, was only ever in the studio for a day or so each month and sometimes not even that . Graham is a working actor living in London. I saw him in studio after that call and it was a privilege to direct him in his last studio.

We have started the chain of events that will shake Ambridge to the core as only The Archers can and should shake Ambridge, which is profoundly and deeply. There will be very hard times as a result of what happened on that roof and very touching and supportive times too. And the repercussions will burn slowly, sometimes painfully, sometimes brightly, like the torch young Freddie, our aristocrat in the making, carries for his father.

Vanessa Whitburn is editor of The Archers.

Comments

Page 1 of 12

  • Comment number 1.

    Finally you have replied Vanessa!!
    Have you actually read the posts here and the articles in other media???
    We want a re-write and Nigel brought back, The Archers is now depressing and just like Eastenders so people have switched off, is that what you want?

    Your answer isn't good enough really, can you please resign now.

    Thanks

  • Comment number 2.

    No reference to your blurting out the spoiler and then trying to pretend you hadn't on the Today programme then, Vanessa!

    Well, we all make mistakes. Like killing Nigel and letting Helen go for AI.

  • Comment number 3.

  • Comment number 4.

    Thank you for helping me to discover Cerys Matthews on Radoio 6 - 10:00am to Midday Sunday. It was infinitely more enjoyable than your poorly thought out and scripted take on the archers for the 60th anniversary 'bloodbath'.

    My motivation for listening to TA is escapism, pure and simple, and really the death of old friends does not feature in that - goodness knows the increasing number of my friends who have died in real life is more than enough grief for me to handle.

    It is sad when an Archers actor dies or wants to go and has to be written out of the drama but I can accept that. What I cannot accept is the deliberate killing of a long term character just to satisfy *somebodies* agenda.

    It is with deep regret, I will no longer listen until the feelings of the listener are once again the prime concern of the editorial team.

    I also think that your treatment of Graham Seed is totally reprehensible. Why didn’t you just txt him the news?

  • Comment number 5.

    I think that the last week has been excellent and was a most fitting way to mark the 60th anniversary.

    I know that The Archers is not perfect and have complained on the boards in the past about plots that have irritated me, but I hope that I have never been as unbalanced and hysterical in my complaints as those I have read on the message board over the last week. I hope that VW is able to have a good laugh at the nonsense she has read.

  • Comment number 6.

    And what makes you think, dear Editor, that the loyal listeners cannot also see that the real issue of SATTC is about the rewriting of many characters: we are already supposed to accept that Sid was a loveable comedian, that Helen has been visited by a sainthood fairy and has instantly recovered from all her isshooos, that Tony accepts that he was wrong all along and that professor Lloyd now loves, admires and respects his daughter-in-law.
    How many more ridiculous voltes face, and what next?

    You stand accused of lowering The Archers to the basement level of Eastenders. You must be sick as a parrot that you didn't come up with the stolen baby storyline: now that would have really SATTC.
    How do you plead?

  • Comment number 7.

    Sorry Vanessa it felt clumsy and jarring (IMHO). However well the fallout is written and I do trust TA to do grief well the swan dive off the roof was as unbelievable as Tony in a hair shirt. Yes shocking events do happen in real life but not normally requiring a creaking combination of circumstances to make them happen.

    I just don't understand why such a clumsy plot had to be done to give juicy storylines? There are so many dropped plots peppering the Archers that surely the rekindling of a slow burner would have been far more believable and not caused a chunk of your audience to feel that it was melodramatic and issue driven?

    The Helen story line was entirely unbelievable and non balancing to my ear in that episode. Effectively I had worked out who was going to die early on and there was no sense of relief in either direction. There had better be a few more twists in that storyline given how she has been built up with 'issues'

    All in all incrediably disappointing and to me not in the best tradition of the programme

  • Comment number 8.

    Vanessa don't you think that celebrating TA's 60th anniverasry with the death of a core character is rather less 'celebratory' and more akin to cheap sensationalism, closer then to a 'Corrers' or 'Enders' soap than what was once a quality long running rural drama? The greatest damage however, was the opportunity for endless speculation prior to the 'event' after the SATTC announcement far too well in advance... thus removing any real emotional impact or shock.

  • Comment number 9.

    We may be TALKING about it Vanessa, but a lot of us aren't LISTENING to it any more. And as for Graham Seed, this whole sordid episode has shown him to be a consummate professional with an understanding of his listeners which sadly you lack. He didn't NEED to say anything other than 'courteous' because he didn't need to stoop low - he knew that as intelligent people, we would understand his grief and need to remain polite himself.

    The Archers is the only soap I follow. I have dipped in and out of Corrie down the years but since the tram crash will never watch it again.

    You have brought too real a dose of tragedy into the programme, you have ignored the potential for a really gripping storyline dealing with disability (but then you would - Brian's epilepsy never seems to bother him either) and sadly, Ambridge, which thrived on being Not Quite Real, has been forever tainted with the pathetic sensationalism which makes Eastenders so thoroughly miss-able.

    So sorry you have ruined it for us all. Yes Barley, I would like to know how she missed the baby story! But then young babies can so easily be dropped on their way to the incubator... :(

  • Comment number 10.

    Vanessa - with respect, may I ask whether you have any regrets about taking a decision which has distressed and angered so many of us? Sadness at the death of Nigel aside, many of us feel manipulated and let down by a sensationalist engineered storyline, overly hyped, and in no way a 'celebration' in any way at all.

    Are you at all sorry that so many listeners feel alienated? Or are we expendible in the pursuit of younger audiences who prefer Eastenders?

  • Comment number 11.

    Thanks for an eloquent and informative blog post - though I'm sure it won't do anything to quieten the cat-stranglers.

  • Comment number 12.

    Miss Whitburn, I have been a successfully published writer of fiction (including several best-sellers) for the past 35 years, and in the last few months, if not years, I have seen with sadness the writing of The Archers deteriorate, culminating in this 'anniversary episode' which was exceptionally poor. It was very clumsily plotted, with both main storylines awkwardly contrived to bring about the conclusions you wanted, with characters behaving 'out of character', and with trivial dialogue. The only suspense was in wondering whether it would be David, Nigel or both, who went over the edge, since it had been pitifully obvious for days that this was what was going to happen. I could almost find myself chanting the words along with the actors as they spoke.

    The aftermath is little better. Helen's transformation is unbelievable and the inevitable misery following Nigel's death is no incentive to listen. I have not listened since Monday (the episode after the fall) and the sound of David and Kenton's argument was enough to make me feel I did not want to hear any more. I struggled on to the end that evening but have not switched on again.

    It seems to me that you have seriously misjudged both your audience and the spirit of The Archers that kept it going for so long. It is unfortunate that you choose to ignore the opinions of so many. Stories do, of course, continue and it may be that the serial can be rescued when the immediate aftermath has eased, but 'character transformations' and endless misery will not do it.

    A lot of us are very sad; more than that, we feel betrayed. As one person said, The Archers is broken.

  • Comment number 13.

    I am so sad that a chain of events has been set in motion which may well shake some folk to the core but for me spells endless misery, soul-searching and breast beating. I don't want to have to listen to "distraught and guilty" - I have had quite enough of that in my own life not to mention Jolene, Kathy, Jamie and Helen's lives in the last year and I can think of no worse way to start a new year.

    After 60 years you have lost me as a listener and whilst that may not unduly worry you (and why should it, of course) it does worry me that a large part of my entertainment should have been soured for me and I have not listened since 2 January 2011 and do not intend to listen in the future.

  • Comment number 14.

    Incidentally, why did you lie on the Today programme:

    VW: "... a birth and a death..."
    JH: "Ahhh, you've given it away - he died..."
    VW "A birth and a potential death is what I said"

  • Comment number 15.

    Vanessa

    I don't know if you are around to read responses to your pieve (which will I suspect be plentiful) but -

    "It is such a significant milestone to have reached, we felt compelled to mark it with a storyline that would have impact. When I say impact what do I mean? We wanted an event. Not a cataclysmic one - no tram crashes - but one where the ramifications would be felt far and wide throughout Ambridge for the decade that followed. We felt that the event had to be deeply traumatic. And so we arrived at a death."

    That simply doesn't follow from the premise. As many have suggested here, and elsewhere, why not have Nigel badly injured, perhaps disabled, testing his relationship with Lizzie, his good humour, placing strain on the business and bringing in subjects like disability which the programme hasn't dealt with (I don't count Jack for this purpose - that's slightly different)? Why a death? It just looks sensationalist plotting and lazy thinking.

    "There will be very hard times as a result of what happened on that roof and very touching and supportive times too."

    Yes, just as there have been very recently with Sid's death, and Phil's before that, and going further back, Julia's death, and Betty's (I hope to goodness this isn't used to introduce a male version of Vicky) and John's and as there will be when Jack dies, and others as well in future, of course. Deaths happen and we know they will happen in the The Archers. I don't see the need to create an extra one just for effect. Well rounded, interesting characters like Nigel take years - decades - to mature. There aren't that may of them and once they're gone, they're gone. It's like burning your floorboards in the fireplace: lots of heat and light in the short term, nowhere to live afterwards.

    Disappointed VH

  • Comment number 16.

    Where's the rest of it? Where's the response to the many, many listeners whose complaint is about the quality of the episode? Where's the apology for announcing the death on the Today programme?

    In no way did the 60th compare to the death of John, or some of the other finer moments in Ambridge history. It wouldn't have mattered who had been killed off - the episode was awful on so many counts and did no justice to the programme, the cast or the listeners. And the storylines in the preceding months have been turgid in the extreme.

    You've either completely ducked out of answering the difficult questions with a 'nanny knows best' response or have actually no idea of what your customers want.

    How insulting to be considered of less value than a Tweet.

  • Comment number 17.

    Bring back Nigel!

  • Comment number 18.

    An insuffcient response by Ms Whitburn, as poorly written at the ridiculous over hyped 60th episode. Considering TA has lasted 60 years it deserved better than this.
    Helen would have known all about the symptons of pre-eclampsia given how well read she was on the subject of pregnancy, and David would not has pressured Nigel into going up onto a roof in the dark, much too sensible, busy farmer or not, he has always been hot on health and safety issues. It all felt very implausable.
    Your treatment of Graham Seed was appalling, to basically sack someone by phone who has worked so long on TA shows a complete lack of respect.
    A very disapointing tribute to this highly respected radio soap

  • Comment number 19.

    Please just have the good grace to admit there was a serious error of judgement made and that killing off Nigel in such a bad written way was a mistake. And bring him back!!

  • Comment number 20.

    Vanessa

    I think my complaint about the 60th anniversary episode is that it was far from balanced. Some people like Helen , a very great many on these boards and others I've spoken to who listen but don't visit here find her and the baby plotline irritating and unbelievable, and so her happy news could not balance out the death of Nigel. We now have 3 newly bereaved widows in the village and have lost a character who not only provided light relief but was different from any other. In the tapestry of Ambridge life in my opinion you have pulled out the yellow threads and left us largely with a vista of burnt sienas and muddy ochres.


    I think you have done many excellent story lines over the last decade but increasingly I feel that I am completely out of step with the view of the characters held by the editorial team , those I am meant to find sympathetic I just don't and increasingly there are too many who are depressing or just plain dull.

    I am sure Fabio Capello was much discussed on Twitter and other media after the world cup but it didn't mean to say we had done well.


    That said - give Brian a few more of his sardonic one liners , take Helen down a peg or two and lay off the whinging women for a while and I'm sure I'll buck up. Also if the pressure at Brookfield does unpick a scab and Ruth finally leaves I shall , of course , forgive you everything and agree that the ramifications were worth the candle.

    Best regards
    Joanna Townmouse







  • Comment number 21.

    "relief that Helen and the baby survived their ordeal, a hugely emotional reunion between Tony and Helen set against the high drama of Nigel's fall"

    I am not relived that Helen and the baby survived their ordeal. I really do not care in any way shape or form what happens to Helen. The hugely emotional reunion between Tony and Helen was simply not believable, people do not change character that quickly; unless of course it's in the context of a poorly plotted soap opera.
    Nigel was a character that brought some sunshine and humour into what has recently become a tale of doom and gloom. I feel the way in which his character was 'killed' was so out of character to be ridiculous. Who goes out on a roof at night when it's icy (where was the snow everyone else had?) and the wind's getting up? Believable? No; In character? No.
    I was under the impression that The Archers was a radio drama. The recent plotting is turning it into a soap, and, in my view, a soap that is fast sliding downhill. Where has the joy and fun gone gone?
    I really do dislike what you have done to The Archers. It's not believable anymore, it's certainly not entertaining, it's really not worth listening to anymore.

  • Comment number 22.

    Thanks Vanessa - your post was very interesting.
    I have been listening to The Archers for about 50 years and just love it as a background to my real life. I seem to be in a minority here but I loved all the hype & excitement leading up to the 60th anniversary episode and I am eager to find out what happens next.
    Unlike others I shan't stop listening (far from it!) but may indeed stop lurking on the message boards because they have become too negative & boring. Please lets have some fun again chaps!

  • Comment number 23.

    I disagree with the negative comments above. I've been listening to the Archers (my Sunday morning treat) for over 30 years. It's a soap and, like the best of soaps, has a mix of the ordinary and the extraordinary. I've been 'shaken to the core' by the storylines on many occasions over the years. This only happens because the storylines are well written and performed.

    I think the nature of Nigel's death was actually in keeping with his character. Nigel's done loads of daft things (what larks Pip!) over the years - it's in his nature. Although he's gradually matured and occasionally shown signs of using his common sense, putting a banner on the roof is exactly the sort of thing he'd do - to please Lizzie.

    The ridiculous Eastenders plot is based on the premise that all babies look the same and no-one in the family would notice a swap! In stark contrast, this Archers storyline could happen, and indeed has happened, in real life - remember Rod Hull?

  • Comment number 24.

    I feel that I've said pretty well all I need to say about the storylines on the messageboard, though clearly Vanessa has not read any of it.

    I will repeat one piece here:

    How crashingly stupid to "celebrate" what should be a joyful occasion with a tragedy, and what's more, a tragedy which will just cause more of the bickering and bitterness and guilt and angst of which there is plenty in life (or in the TV soaps, I believe, if one wants it in fiction) and which is NOT part of what TA is, except in small quantities and with a light brush. Yes, "a light brush" was one of the lovable things about TA and why so many of us listened. And because of the CHARACTERS. "Character-led", not "issue-led" - that was TA. And if any storyline has been issue-led it has been the one about Helen and her baby, when the Helen we have known for years, the very difficult, self-centred person with major mental health problems, has suddenly been transformed by giving birth.

    The point was that it WAS unlike the other soaps. THAT IS WHY WE LISTENED. It is so no longer.

    I will never listen again. This was such a totally wrong decision. It is not a one-off wrong decision, but indicates someone who simply "does not get" what TA is; with that person in charge it will just continue to be more and more rubbish-soapified. I have never been a watcher of TV soaps but I have loved TA all my life.

    Although after That Episode I knew I would never listen again, all the same I was surprised to note that I couldn't even be bothered to read the synopsis or look at the Spoilers thread, because I no longer care. I know that it will be all bereavement and family squabbles from here on in (with the occasional cut to the miraculously transformed Helen plus miraculously perfect baby), and thanks but no thanks. I can get that in real life. I don't want more of the same instead of the gentle escapism that was TA.

    I am nearly as disgusted with the piece above as I was with the two storylines mentioned.

    No response, of course, to those of us who will never listen again. No response to those of us who listened to TA for the gentle escapism, the basic optimism, the light brush, the good writing, the largely believable, character-led storylines, ach, just the high quality of it all. No response at all.

    I'm not calling for your resignation, Vanessa, simply because I think you have broken The Archers beyond repair.

  • Comment number 25.

    Grieving Jill, then grieving Jolene followed by grieving Lizzie. Oh what tedium. The trouble is that when one person does something for too long then what they are doing simply becomes a reflection of their own self. This is sadly what has happened to The Archers. I understand that Vanessa has her own agenda and believes the 'soap' to be a legitimate tool of social engineering. However, many of us do not agree with her outlook and it not just that one person should be given licence fee payers' money increasingly to proselytise their own views. Eighteen years is too long for one person to be able to express their own outlook. It is now the time to give another person the chance to be the editor of the Archers.

  • Comment number 26.

    Thank you for taking the time to answer some of the issues raised by the 60th anniversary celebrations. It is a well thought out rational reply that rises above the rants and personal attack that have appeared on the message board. I have enjoyed the storyline and feel Ambridge is in safe hands while looking forward to the future.

  • Comment number 27.

    Vanessa,

    I thought the 60th anniversary was OK, but the wrong person fell off the roof. The character of Nigel brought not just humour to the programme, but was the most decent, kind (and in some ways thoughtful) resident of Ambridge and its environs. These qualities are not present to the same degree in any other regular character on the programme and have now been lost.

    On the other hand I was pleased with how the Helen storyline developed and look forward to hearing her struggles and successes as a mother.

    As I'm sure you are aware the majority of people posting on blogs, message boarders etc are not happy, indeed a lot less happy than I am. I believe a significant part of this is due the over-hyping of the anniversary episode by trailers, press statements, interviews given by cast members and so on. Even those "teasers" in the Radio Times combined with pre-published cast lists mean that plot developments can often be forecast. This pre-publicity has the effect of building up a level of expectation which means that many (arguably the majority) of listeners will end up being disappointed.

    You have a great product with TA and you don't need to oversell it. For the next anniversary you should sit on your hands and say very little. These days the audience will sell the programme for you via the internet.

    PS Perhaps Nigel has some distant cousin who might turn up in Ambridge? (Didn't he work for an uncle in Africa years ago - so there is clearly a branch of the family that we have heard very little about?)

  • Comment number 28.

    Your response is inadequate.The emotional response you sense is not 'an outpouring of grief' over Nigels death but incandescent fury over your complete mismanagement of the whole affair, your hamfisted blurting out of the storyline on the Today programme and your patronising disregard for the listener as you try to fob us off with the programme itself and your self-aggrandising reply.

    Yrs

    The wrong sort of listener

  • Comment number 29.

    I don't understand why you think that people would feel relief that 'Helen and her baby survived their ordeal'. Many of us would have been much more relieved if this improbable story line had quietly disappeared.
    You have said elsewhere that Helen is misunderstood and that she is as she is because of all the things that have happened to her. But surely you must know people who have endured much worse than Helen but not descended to such unremitting unpleasantness? I certainly do.
    You could go some way towards redeeming the Helen situation by allowing the other characters to criticise her occasionally (most villages are rife with gossip - why should Ambridge be any different?). After all, the appalling Vicky has become much more palatable since Ed told her a few home truths and some of the other characters have become less approving of her.
    And as for Nigel... well the other posters have said it all really.

  • Comment number 30.

    Back in 1994, after your near fatal road accident, you were quoted as having said:

    "The fact that you can disturb people so much raises ethical dilemmas for everyone involved."

    "With strong drama your aim is to encourage empathy and not to blight people's lives."

    It was also written of you that "A greater awareness of the power of fiction to evoke real pain is one lasting effect of her accident."

    Well, you must have a very short memory. This appallingly clumsy 60th Anniversary edition was truly your Ratner moment and I am aghast at the lack of any apology in your blog for the enormity of your decision to use this story line. You do not even acknowledge the anger and outrage you have caused and clearly have no empathy with the programme's audience.

    You have destoyed a much cherished national treasure; clearly it is now time for you to go and for the programme to be taken off-air until a new team can manage to salvage what they can from the destruction you have wrought.

  • Comment number 31.

    As would be expected, patronising piffle. You have caused serious damage to a programme held dear by many people. The reasons are set out very clearly in the message boards. You have also treated a courteous, very popular actor very shabbily, no matter how you dress it up, for cheap sensationalism I am one of the many long standing listeners who stopped listening on the 2 January 2011 (Mozart on Radio 3 to replace the Omnibus today). It would not be so bad if you had the good grace to apologise for your mistake but no, you just sail on regardless in your usual headmistress/nanny style and your post even seems to have the temerity to be impliedly rebuking us for complaining about your vandalism.

    If you are so right, why not organise a poll? Preferably, please apologise for this very bad mistake and then resign.

  • Comment number 32.

    And so we arrived at a death. But who? Again after much debate and thinking how each one would impact on Ambridge life. We arrived at Nigel.

    That meeting must have been fascinating as you went through the possiblities of who it would be and the impact it would have.
    Thanks, Vanessa for the blog post.
    I for one have not switched off. Glued to the radio all week I was, and listened to the Omnibus again this morning.
    As radio drama, it was excellent.

  • Comment number 33.

    I felt no sense of relief at Helen and the baby being safe - quite the opposite. The Radio Times spoiler for the week said you would have needed a heart of stone not to have felt sympathy for Helen so I expected the baby to be near death or even die. And yet everything went off swimmingly. I feel deeply let down that a woman who has behaved outrageously (if very entertainingly as I consider her to be quite mad) over the last few months and bullied everyone including her own father nearly to tears, has had her arrogance rewarded by everything being perfick. Ghastly stuff.

    I think the real shame is that the prodteam failed to have the courage to follow through the Ruth and Sam story, which would have been terrific - the break up of Brookfield to fund a divorce - very zeitgeisty - capital being handed to Shula, Lizzie and Kenton, and Dave trying to set up a farm on a much reduced scale plus struggling with the loss of his children and opportunities for new romance. Instead we have yet another grieving widow story. I know they say everything comes in 3s but having near drowned in Jolene's tears I'm only just about dried out and don't feel inclined to plunge back into the pool of tears quite so soon.

  • Comment number 34.

    Joanna Townmouse, cw, thank you. I agree.

    There is simply no way they would have been on the roof. I doubt in real life the insurance would cover them. (Perhaps it doesn't, and now they have to sell the farm to cover Lizzie's costs?)

    I am so sad that the whole character of this programme has been altered in such an unnecessary way. It will be a long time before us 'chaps' can have funm I fear. I probably won't be hearing it, anyway.

    I wonder what effect this storyline has had on the other actors? Apart from wondering if they will be next (watch out Brian and Jim, you're a bit posh intya?) it must have been simply awful for the children.

    I have worked in places where there has been bullying and I have to say, this whole situation rings a lot of bells for me. I wonder how people are really feeling in the studio. Their silence is pretty eloquent. I haven't seen any of them supporting the wonderful ideas for 60th.

    By the way why was Harry and Fallon's romance flagged up so much only to not even get a mention? Are they going to be killed off in a milkfloat-packed-with-explosives sudden braking incident?

  • Comment number 35.

    Post 21 sums up why I have stopped listening. It confirmed that the personality changes, poor research and continuity errors noted of late were't aberations but the shape of things to come.

    I liked Nigel but I don't object to character's being killed off per se.

    The Helen storyline didn't cause relief but nausea and at a storyline so unbelievable and saccharine. I took a look at this to see if there was any hope..but I find only complacency and failure to address the central issues rather than the peripheral ones such as the nature of the ending of Graham Seed's tenure.

    I have no idea what a cat strangler but I guess that its opposite is brown noser. Anyway this really is it from me so no doubt the Panglossians will be delighted.

    So long,

    ginslinger - wrong sort of listener for twenty years.....

  • Comment number 36.

    I am very glad that the (effectively) sacking of Graham Seed wasn't as callous as it seemed to be from his piece on this website.

    It really surprises me that you can't see the difference between the death of John Archer (which was similarly trailed and hyped, though at least you managed not to let slip on the Today programme that he would be killed) and that of Nigel Pargetter.

    You made a serious error of judgement in coming up with this development, which is not at all helped by the clunky plotting and (I'm sorry to say) writing.

    After 40 years listening, I've stopped now. When I hear there's a new editor, I may start listening again.

  • Comment number 37.

    "And so many months before the anniversary, I sat down with the Archers script team to discuss what we might do for our 60th year. It is such a significant milestone to have reached, we felt compelled to mark it with a storyline that would have impact. When I say impact what do I mean? We wanted an event."

    Oh, how tedious and formulaic! Could you really do no better than this? Are we now to expect "an event" each time the 70th, 75th, etc anniversary comes round? Can't you see how shallow and facile this line of thought is?

    What you've done isn't to shake Ambridge to the core - it's to shake The Archers to the core. Ambridge was a place where the listeners were happy to live for a while each day. It isn't now.

    Grace

  • Comment number 38.

    Well, when the response came it was nothing more than we expected. It might as well have been written before the episode was broadcast, before any of the criticism came flooding in. Maybe it was. Anyway, all it does for most of us is confirm the disregard - if not contempt - VW has for her listeners in side-stepping the real issues and ignoring what they have to say.

    So go on - plough on with your dismal storyline and keep telling us how clever and creative you are and how the 60th anniversary "celebrations" have been such a success and how well-written and well-plotted the episodes concerned have been and how unknown wonders will unfold in their wake. I'm sure the ratings will tell a different story.

  • Comment number 39.

    Dear Ms Whitburn

    I read your belated response with deep disappointment. The words 'smug' and 'self-satisfied' kept coming to mind.

    Your message to the many listeners who've posted comments on this website is, essentially, that they've got it wrong. Not an iota of recognition that they represent your customer base and are deeply upset for the most part. Your self-congratulatory tone has simply reinforced my belief that I was right to stop listening and remain an ex-listener.

    You've confirmed my belief that the script writing team are fixated with tragedy, seeing it as the only way to make The Archers interesting. You ignore the plethora of comments already posted on this website highlighting why such tragedies and their aftermath are turning listeners away. Your focus on the number of communications / column inches, etc., rather than their content, is a classic mistake made by so many organisations: any publicity is NOT necessarily good publicity.

    Finally, your defense of the manner in which you informed Graham Seed of his removal from the cast was, I felt, odious in the extreme. You admit that you informed him by telephone: this is a crass and cowardly way of informing a long-serving employee that their contract is to be terminated, and is indicative of weak management. It would be a simple matter to arrange a face-to-face appointment to break the news to him - no excuses.

    The only person to come out of this whole sorry episode with any credibility is Mr Seed himself, who has remained a true gentleman throughout. I wish him every success in the future.

    Sincerely yours

  • Comment number 40.

    Unless this is leading up to a storyline about BSE/nvCJD or ergotism, the sudden character discontinuities suffered by so many of major characters (Helen, Tony, Brian, David, Nigel,...) at such a convenient moment do amount to arbitrary sensationalism and a wilful neglect of the long-term and incremental dynamics existing between the Archers and their long-term audience. These shifts came without continuity or lead-in unless you count the massive hype that you are content to ascribe to the audience in paragraph 4 of your damage control exercise (it seems misleading to call it a response).

    I understand your desire to move the Archers on and to take it into the more competitive world inhabited by overtly sensationalist soaps like those on TV, where I gather you nurtured your editorial judgement and where the really big ratings are to be found. But please be aware that the connection between the show and its long-term supporters is two-way; the writers and the audience combine to make the show what it is. If you wish to venture into this dangerous terrain, you will need that hinterland in order to sustain a viable share, let alone build a durable comunity of interest. The Archers and the medium on which it is propagated are not really fit to survive the savage competition that awaits. The audiences you attract to the show (rather than commenting on the emotions of the listeners) may not find enough to retain their interest - one of the characteristics of these more competitive markets is that it is far easier to attract than to retain audiences.

    You may also wish to reflect on the implications for the Archers as a BBC programme; the direction you have signposted bears few, if any, hallmarks of the type of content that justifies the licence fee - effectively a public resource.

  • Comment number 41.

    It's still a mystery to me why AMBRIDGE was supposed to be shaken to the core. And Ms Whitburn reinforced the policy document by adding that 'Ambridge would never be the same again'.

    The Archers family is certainly shaken (with the exception of the Bridge Farm family on its own separate cloud), but Ambridge? I think not.

    So why say so? If the policy document was poorly worded, why reinforce it with your own comment?

  • Comment number 42.

    What a total crock of ...

    well I won't go on or else I will be moderated.

    I think this reaction confirms what 90 percent of us already knew. That you Miss W, have no idea what your listeners want, what they are saying or even who they are - and more to the point you simply don't care. As someone pointed out on another board the listeners appear to have become something of a nuisance and are getting in the way of the arrogant decisions you make about the story.

    Read the now thousands of negative comments. This is not a reason for you to say oh look aren't I clever I really caused a stir. Gerald Ratner caused a stir when he described his product as cr*p.

    This is your Ratner moment. You may have shaken things up but for the most part you have shaken your show to death.

    Now moderate me. But you cannot change how nearly everyone here feels.



  • Comment number 43.

    Absolutely. Arrogant and bullying, what a shame to be perceived this way. I'm sorry that surviving her own horrific ordeal hasn't helped her to understand how much more powerful the fight back to health would have been.

  • Comment number 44.

    Bah humbug. You clearly haven't read/listened to any of the comments posted by regular listeners, or rather, you probably have, but in the time-honoured, arrogant, 'we know best' BBC tradition, you have chosen to ignore them. How typically (but unsurprisingly) smug of you.

    I've stopped listening to The Archers since Nigel's death. It was remarkably easy to do since the stories have been growing ever more dreary, depressing and tedious.

    Please Ms Whitburn, take yourself off to Albert Square, I'm sure it's what you want and we'll all be so much happier as a result.

  • Comment number 45.

    It's mostly been said by others now. It was a very disappointing episode that was never likely to live up to the hype. The SATTC phrase was not in an obscure BBC policy document - it was in the BBC's own press release about its annual Statements of Programme Policy. If something is released to the press and published on the internet, it is not going to remain in obscurity. That phrase was obviously chosen to stir up public interest and the production team had already set to work to telescope the Helen pregnancy storyline so she could give birth in the 60th anniversary episode. The fact that this made the storyline completely unrealistic seems to have been considered irrelevant. Your own blog entry seems to assume that if everyone is talking about The Archers, that's all that matters - regardless of what they are saying. As one of my fellow messageboarders said some days ago, on that basis Stalin and Hitler were the most popular people on the planet in the 20th century!

    10.5 months elapsed from Helen first thinking about having a baby alone (she announced it to the family on 17th February) to the birth. The so-called screening from the clinic was superficial and did not seem to include getting information from Helen's GP. At no point did the counsellor consider Helen's spell as an in-patient in an eating disorders clinic. Then not only was she cleared to have AI but she was catapulted to the top of the queue and became pregnant at the first attempt. This is not a storyline I would ever have warmed to but I can see how it could have been an interesting one, if it had been done over a realistic period, and if more weight had been given to the objections from family and friends. As it is, suspension of disbelief has been impossible because the storyline has borne so little relation to reality.

    The final straw was having Helen rushed to hospital for a caesarean without getting the medical details of pre-eclampsia right. Characters kept saying that Helen and the baby could die. If she had had full-blown eclampsia, yes, but she didn't, judging by what we were being told about her symptoms. And if she had had eclampsia, the danger would have continued after delivery - but that wouldn't have suited the plot, so that inconvenient detail was also ignored.

    As for Nigel and David on the roof - it's all been said. Preposterous. Out of character for both men, and telegraphed for days and days in advance. We have lost a sunny, decent character like Nigel who would have been tremendous asset to the programme as he grew older for the sake of the third bereavement story in under a year.

    Why couldn't we have had a genuinely happy, believable story to celebrate the 60th anniversary? I made one suggestion here but there have been plenty of others:

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/dna/mbarchers/NF2693940?thread=7981362&post=104903696#p104903696

  • Comment number 46.

    I've already posted this in the thread Tayler has started in DTA over on the messageboard, but I'm repeating it here to be be more sure that it will actually be read.

    Ms Whitburn, any thoughts on the (quite literaly) hundreds of posts on here, the messageboards, Archers Addicts, Twitter and Facebook, as well as the comments sections on articles in various newspapers, by listeners saying they are so dismayed (to put it mildly) over what has happened/is going to happen in Ambridge, that they feel no inclination whatsoever to carry on listening?

    I'm not one of them btw but I sincerely hope that the 70th anniversary, if there is one, doesn't see a repeat performance of this one.

    Btw, I'm a huge fan of David, he is my very most favourite character (though I'm not blind to his faults, but then no one is perfect), and as I've posted in Mary Cutler's Blog thread on here (http://www.bbc.co.uk/dna/mbarchers/NF2693940?thread=7979867&skip=250#p104939050), I simply don't believe he would have behaved in this way. And even if he had because of a drink-fuelled temporary loss of his senses, Nigel wouldn't have given in to him.

    The Helen story is imo stupefying in its sheer implausibility.

    Katy

  • Comment number 47.

    Well, of course you are of the opinion that you know better than the mere listeners - as if we expected you to say anything else.
    You can't possibly have read the comments on this blog, or if you have will have discounted most of them as being from long-time listeners, and therefore presumably from old people whose opinions don't matter as they probably won't be around for the next twenty years. I suppose you think you'll drag the next generation away from TV soaps by sensationalising Ambridge!

    Such a pity we couldn't have celebrated the 60years, or maybe sudden death is a celebration in your book? Or maybe celebrations are measured in column inches? No such thing as bad publicity, eh? Well there is such a thing as a bad idea, and this plotline is a very bad idea.

    The Archers used to be character led, but in recent years so many people have been obliged to act out of character that we are no longer able to 'lose ourselves' in Ambridge life. Instead of picturing old friends all we 'see' is a group of actors (who look nothing like the Ambridge villagers in our heads - please stop publishing pictures of them!) just standing around a microphone reading from scripts.
    You have stolen The Archers from us and will never be forgiven.

    I won't be around for the next ten years - not if you have planned a decade of family feuds and disputes. I haven't managed more than a couple of minutes of any of this week's programmes, and switching on at 7pm is a habit easily lost
    For the few minutes I have tuned in to TA this week there has either been misery from one side of the family, or adoration of the madonna and child from the other. I've never known childbirth bring about such a transformation!
    And has that self-obsessed madam apologised yet for the way she treated her father?

    Sunday mornings at 10am? - I've a nice audiobook to listen to.

  • Comment number 48.

    I'm told that you once referred to 'the wrong sort of listeners'. Can you remember saying this, and when, and if so, can you tell us what a 'wrong sort of listener' does? I think I may be in danger of becoming one, because, by the time Monday's episode was aired, I'd rather have had the 'relief' of knowing that Nigel was OK and the sadness that Helen was about to spend weeks in intensive care, following a relapse.

  • Comment number 49.

    'Who would have thought that SATTC - Shaking Ambridge to the Core - a line coined as part of an obscure BBC policy document in May - would capture the imagination of so many.'

    I'm afraid you have chosen to interpret the constant discussions, post accident, in a bizarre, flattering light, you are patently in denial. The story line did not 'capture our imagination', it horrified us because it highlighted the LACK of imagination of the script writing team. They - you - fell into the age-old trap that teenagers all fall into when they are given their first piece of improvisation. They feel that they have to make the audience laugh, cry or be shocked and, consequently, their efforts look sensationalised, contrived, clumsy and usually boring. Do you recognise any of these terms? These terms have all been applied to the current storyline - in fact, it is no better than a Year 9 school effort. Shame on you! We, the listeners, deserve better than this.

    There was no emotional reunion between Helen and Tony - simply words. Tony said "I still can't take it in! only seconds after he was first told! Briefly, just in case I haven't made my point, there was NO REALISM in the script, just sensationalised tosh.

    I would expect to receive it from a Year 9 pupil - I would NOT expect it from a GCSE student and it's shameful to be on the receiving end from professional scriptwriters. No more listening for me I'm afraid - the standard of writing is not good enough.

  • Comment number 50.

    Dear Miss or Mrs Whitburn,

    Your account of how things were simply does not address the points raised over the past few days by hundreds and hundreds of listeners, and particularly not the central ones: disbelief in the story line, poor writing, over-hype and predictability, shabby treatment of an actor and removal of THE original character of the whole cast.

    It is a shame you did not "listen to the question" before attempting an answer. Not much of a surprise, though.

    Reflecting on what has happened, it seems to me that this whole episode has seriously weakened the suspension of disbelief which I previously allowed in my Archers listening. I have now become too aware of the agendae behind and the process of writing and editing the programme to believe any more in the story or in the characters. I don't hear Helen, or Shula, or Jil any more, I just hear somebody reading some lines in a kind of vacuum. Too many issues so obviously introduced just for the sake of it, too many shallow and uninteresting, not to mention unenjoyable, characters (eg Kate), too formulaic, calculating, manipulative...

    A book has to hold ones attention, though good plot and good writing. So does the Archers. Poor plot, poor writing... one is inclined to put the book down. I'm not interested in the production team's agenda; I wanted something entertaining to enjoy. Credible plot includes pain and tragedy, but in this case the whole thing was incredible; it just did not work. And we are robbed of an excellent character.

    I feel a sense of loss, but even more I am ANGRY at being so badly treated by you and your team. I wish you would address all those who have posted similarly, who clearly outnumber those who support the storyline by a huge majority.

  • Comment number 51.

    Dear Ms Witburn,

    That fact that you appear to take comfort in the level of media interest generated suggests that you have either not read or not understood the criticisms levelled at the programme in general, and you in particular.

    Listeners were hoping for a celebratory 60th Anniversary, but when they opened the gift-wrapped present they found it merely contained a well fermented cow-pat.

    Listeners want to be entertained - not subjected to relentless misery. Why can't the Archers lighten up a bit?

    We realise you have been in post for a very long time now, but have you become so fixed in your ways that you are no longer open to alternative suggestions?

    More death, more misery, more family feuds. It's very stale.

  • Comment number 52.

    Dear Vanessa,

    Thank you for taking the time to reply to us, however we, the listeners, or rather ex-listeners of the Archers, want something completely different to what you keep throwing at us.
    We want Nigel back - it's that simple. The fact that you felt a death of a loved character, which destroyed families, friendships and relationships, was an appropriate way to celebrate an anniversary of a wonderful (or rather, was wonderful) series is unfathomable, fictional though it may be.
    You do not seem to have understood our requests. We don't listen (or didn't listen) to the Archers for plots similar to those in the TV soap operas, we listen because it's different.
    Please reconsider what you have said, and your actions which you will take in reference to what your listeners want.
    I will not be listening again, simply because of a brutal plot which was un-characteristic, even though you say it was not, and the disgusting way in which you have destroyed a series for me and for many listeners. Personally, I do not want to listen to grief, anguish, suffering - it feels too personal. I have to say I am heartbroken, having lost a character, Pip, whom I have grown up alongside.

  • Comment number 53.

    Vanessa - I am another who feels that the 2nd Jan episode was poorly conceived, had people behaving out of character, and was deeply disappointing. I accept there are a range of views on this.

    What I found most dishonest in your response was this:

    "Some have suggested that I told Graham that his part was being written out in a quick and careless phone call just before the studio. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact I spoke to Graham on the phone several weeks before the studio and we had a long and as Graham put it on breakfast television this week, 'courteous' conversation."

    I don't think anyone described the converstaion as "quick and careless". The issue I saw people commenting about was that it was done by phone at all. I believe it is quite easy to travel between Birmingham and London these days.

    As to the timing - well, most of us don't know when "studio" was, we took the information from Graham who said he was phoned in November, which you don't contradict. So he had 2 months notice of a storyline which you had decided on at least several months before that.

    So I don't see in what way your version of how he was told, compared to what people were complaining about, justifies your statement "nothing could be further from the truth".

  • Comment number 54.

    Here's someone else who still feels that there was no SATTC. It's not that a much-loved character has 'died', it's how it was done in terms of lack of logical reason. It seems that the character of Nigel was written out for no other reason than sensationalism, in a manner more suited to Coronation Street or East Enders which is utterly out of character for The Archers. Add to that the completely obvious nature of the episode - not so much hints that Nigel was going to die, more glowing neon arrows, six feet long, pointing to his head, captioned 'HE'S GOING TO DIE!' Add to that the complete reversal of characterisations so that the denizens of Ambridge somehow start acting completely against usual characterisations in order to complete that sensationalist plot line. That, Ms Whitburn, is what is tee'ing off listeners of long-standing. We're not stupid, as much as it is made out we are, nor are we the wrong sort of listener and we can realise when we've been sold a dud storyline.

  • Comment number 55.

    Very dismissive response from someone who seem to be a real madame!
    How out of touch with your own listeners can you possibly be?! TA is developing in the wrong direction : too many "issues", too many controlling women, weak men, weeping widows, unlikely turns of event, teenage angst ad nauseam, etc ... as for the whole Nigel SL, words fail me! You should nurture and develop TA, not destroy it for the sake of ratings and a mythical "younger" audience. Your whole attitude is disheartening, including today's response.

  • Comment number 56.

    So you think the fact that nearly everyone hates what you have done is a good thing?

    You are proud of having alienated your listeners?

    You regard it as a success to be told you have destroyed the Archers for so many of us?

    Just how big is your ego?

  • Comment number 57.

    You write: "We felt that the event had to be deeply traumatic".

    I think this says it all.

    You clearly don't understand 'entertainment'. It's time for a change....

  • Comment number 58.

    One of things which consistently infuriates TA listeners is the complete inability of the Editor to acknowledge when a mistake has been made or that someone else might have a valid point of view. The above self justifying response from Ms Whitburn simply confirms this.

    Would it never dawn upon you, Madam, that in the midst of all the criticism levelled at the 60th anniversary episode there might be something you should take on board? After all, we should all be constantly reflecting and learning on what we do, should we not? Yet you persist in appearing both immune to criticism and incapable of reflection. There has been a great deal of intelligent objection to the 60th anniversary episode, but nowhere is that acknowledged nor the valid content of it taken on board. Instead - in the manner of Marie Antoinette exhorting the peasants to eat cake - we are told to keep listening. But why on earth would we?

    I don't especially mind that 'poor Nigel' was killed off. I don't object to Helen having a child on her own. But I do object to shoddy writing, inane plotting and cardboard characterisation. TA isn't Shakespeare, but there's nothing wrong with aspiring towards doing better. Until the programme is run by someone who patently wants to improve, I won't be listening to it. After nearly 20 years of being an avid fan, this was the first week I didn't listen to an episode.I suspect I'm not the only one.

    When all the twittering and the comment subsides, your core audience will have shrunken quite a bit. That'll make for an interesting conversation with your bosses, who do seem to have noticed that something is rotten in the state of Borsetshire...

  • Comment number 59.

    I enjoyed last Sunday's episode. The slightly absurd events leading to the death of Nigel left me feeling both shocked and sad, and the tension and sense of relief around Helen's delivery, all worked well I thought. I do regret the hype and marketing of much of modern day media and it's a pity that The Archers and the BBC, in general, are no exception to this. Despite my reservations, I think the episodes this week have been well written and acted. As long as The Archers manages to keep the right balance between the ordinary and the extraordinary, I will continue to be a listener. Just don't overdo the shaking; I don't think I could cope with much more of that and the response to it.

  • Comment number 60.

    "We have started the chain of events that will shake Ambridge to the core as only The Archers can and should shake Ambridge, which is profoundly and deeply. There will be very hard times as a result of what happened on that roof and very touching and supportive times too. And the repercussions will burn slowly, sometimes painfully, sometimes brightly, like the torch young Freddie, our aristocrat in the making, carries for his father."

    This is wexactly what we do not want. How can we make it any clearer? Have you actually read any of the very many comments stating how utterly disappointed the majority is with you and what you have done? Now to compound that with this arrogance. Unbelievable.

    And my apologies for being rather blunt, but we have tried polite and respectful and it has had no effect whatsoever.

  • Comment number 61.

    A reply at last, albeit one week later! It was as to be expected - self congratulatory, as have been all the official responses. I am very disappointed that seemingly thousands of negative comments have been cast aside in such a cavalier fashion. If THAT episode took months of planning why were we so spectacularly let down? For me this came a few minutes in as soon as I heard Amy Franks voice. What was she doing there (and Alan and Usha)? It was so contrived, unbelievable, clunky and clumsy that it ceased to have any impact (apart from anger that is). I'm afraid I expected quality drama and this just did not deliver. And David, to quote VW, 'a bear of a man'! No!, No!, No!
    I give up. The almighty has spoken and sadly 'the lady is not for turning'.

  • Comment number 62.

    It's mostly been said, and very eloquently, but really, Ms Whitburn, your post simply adds insult to injury. You very clearly have not read much, if any of what has been posted on the Message Board over the past week, and seem to have willfully misunderstood or plain ignored what your listeners have been saying.

    Your attitude is smug, arrogant and supremely self-justifying, and a further offence to those who have dared to complain about the whole 60th anniversary fiasco.

    An ex (wrong kind of) listener

  • Comment number 63.

    Ms Whitburn
    I am not going to call for your resignation, I am not going to suggest that you resurrect Nigel, that would be completely unrealistic and clunky wouldn't it? I am, however, disturbed by your description of discussions with script writers about significant episodes and wanting impact. Well you got impact but I suggest it might be the wrong kind of impact. For me, and I suspect for other people as well, The Archers was an escape from our own every day lives, just for a few minutes each day. When I visited Ambridge I could be entertained, amused or sympathise or get annoyed with almost believable people, I used to ponder what the people of Ambridge were listening to at 7.05pm if they happened to tune into Radio 4. Not any more, you played God and killed off a popular character simply because he was a popular character. You seem to think that the Helen story makes up for it all...it doesn't. She is not likeable in the way Nigel was. There is too much gloom and doom in Ambridge now and the thought of 10 years of repercussions is too much to bear. Since you can play God why not try the role again and please please don't put Lizzie and David at loggerheads and please please please no more deaths (at least for a good while). If I hear that things are looking up then I might start listening again....if not well, I shall just carry on turning off the radio after the 6.30 Funny Programme. This morning I went for a walk when the Omnibus edition was broadcast, it was very pleasant. Be careful Ms Whitburn if you turn all your listeners away you might find that someone rings you up with bad news....(said with a sad shake of the head)

  • Comment number 64.

    This is post number 64 and most of these are not pleased with Vanessa's response at all; in fact they feel completely patronised and still let down.

    I had some vain hope that she would care about her listeners and turn things around like former Archers editors have done (and the Eastenders 'script' writers have done !!??)but she has chosen to stick her heels in.

    Why is Nigel Pargetter's name still up there in the 'list of characters in this episode' when you go to the listen again section???

  • Comment number 65.

    "We felt that the event had to be deeply traumatic".

    Why? Why couldn't the anniversary have been a happy, celebratory event? Why not just the birth? Or an engagement? Or a lottery win (even a small one)?

    And if it had to be a traumatic event, why a death? An injury would have been more interesting. Or something like a fire at one of the farms?

    The Archers should not be seen as in competition with the likes of Eastenders and Corrie. It doesn't have to be sensational. I listen to it exactly because it isn't like the TV soaps.

    My problems with the storyline have been as follows:

    1. The removal of a character who was cheerful, generous, kind and a champion of ecology, who could brighten up any scene, in a village full of miserable so-and-sos. His character would have carried on being delightful for years to come.

    2. Yet more death and mourning after two already this year. Frankly, it's boring, and lazy scriptwriting if that's all you could come up with.

    3. Completely out-of-character behaviour in getting Nigel and David onto the roof. David may be a "bear of a man" but working on a farm and having experienced accidents himself, and deaths in the family from them, he's not unaware of dangerous situations, and would not willingly enter one even if it saved a bit of time later. And Nigel may have been overenthusiastic sometimes but he wasn't stupid. Doubts were expressed about the safety and I cannot believe that David would have brushed them off. Of course falling off a roof is not unbelieveable once you're up there. I just disagree that two rational adults would get up onto a roof in the dark in icy, windy conditions when there was no pressing reason to do so. It just doesn't work for me.

    4. The shoddy treatment of Graham Seed. I don't think what you've written is an excuse. You knew the storyline in advance, presumably you knew his studio dates, and it wouldn't have been too hard to arrange a meeting on one of those dates. Or presumably from time to time you do go to London. Firing somebody by telephone is appalling behaviour.

    I will say that this week's episodes have been very well acted. I'm pretty sure that's the only sentence of this comment that will be noted by you. It'll probably be quoted somewhere as evidence of how much we're all enjoying this. Denial, plain and simple.

    I won't stop listening, because I've listened to The Archers all my life (I'm 29), but it's despite these storylines, not because of them. I live in hope that previous service will be resumed, but you know what they say about living in hope.

  • Comment number 66.

    Dear Ms Whitburn, could you please ask whoever is responding to the BBC online complaints to make sure they note the programme about which the complaint is being made before dashing out a reply?

    Several messageboard members have been surprised that their official complaint, about the poor quality and misjudged direction of the 60th Anniversary Archers programme, has received a reply telling them that the storyline concerning Ronnie and Kat has been altered and hoping they will continue to watch the developments in Eastenders!

    This is not merely inefficient, it smacks of contempt for the listeners.

  • Comment number 67.

    Miss Whitburn's self-preservation instinct seems to be malfunctioning. One would have thought that in her own interest she might apologise and re-track, if only to have a show to edit in 2021.

  • Comment number 68.

    People are being so ridiculously negative. The Archers continues to be top class entertainment. Nigel's death was exciting and dramatic. Why shouldn't the BBC publicise the anniversary? They are the owners of arguably the greatest soap franchise in history and are quite entitled to take advantage of that. Onward, ever onward, Miss Whitburn. I love your show and cant wait to see how the Archer family deals with it all (while remembering, of course, that it is not real, I think).

  • Comment number 69.

    I am a few weeks younger than TA, & have listened to it for all of my life, with a very few short breaks. My Mum was a regular listener, from the original broadcasts as a farmers aid, & from the point that it was developed as a pure drama, & I got the habit from her.

    I have decided to register & post because I feel insulted by the attitude of the Production Team to my intelligence, & further because I feel that the appallingly clunky & melodramatically signposted 60th anniversary script has been a badly researched, stupidly faddy, miserable attempt to "sex-up" TA, & that the audience has been completely underestimated.

    To say that we don't like change, or that we're the wrong audience, is so wide of the mark that I can only conclude that VW has had an intelligence bypass. Change is life, & that was one of the great joys of TA, because it generally, & intelligently, showed lives's doing just that, against the background of a rural community, with all the extremes one has in a soap, but without descending too much into melodrama.

    We, the listeners, have long memories concerning the characters, & we know that the David/Nigel SL was ridiculously Out Of Character for both.
    For instance, "...a man or a mouse"? That's a Kenton line, not a David line, as listeners will recall. Also, neither of them would have acted so stupidly, given the foul weather, drink taken, & the time of day. They are, after all, supposedly adults with all the sensibilities that implies. This has really strained my "suspension of disbelief", more than the Will/Ed conflict, Helen's monomania, Kate's apparent inability to grow-up, etc.

    I feel that the change of the strapline from "An everyday story of country-folk" to "Contemporary dramas in a rural setting" has led the PT to think that TV soap-style, simplistic writing has to be pushed at us, when what we really want is the continual evolution of the characters, in the style to which we have become accustomed over the decades, not one-dimensional characters suddenly becoming well-rounded because of a baby, or excellent & stable characters written out for what appears to be the sake of a cheap thrill.

    (And, as a continuity question, why do accents change? e.g. Pat is supposedly Welsh, Peggy is an Eastender evacuee, &, as mentioned elsewhere, Raurigh should have a German accent.)

    I am not sure if I want to listen anymore, but, as I said, it has been a part of my life since before I was born, & through my childhood. It's why I have continued to listen as an adult for all these decades. Although some of the changes in that time have been annoying, they have not detracted too badly from the overall believability or quality of the show.

    Thankfully, I didn't get much of the hype, as I do not have a TV, nor do I bother with newspapers. I have 3 radios, mostly tuned to Radio 4, which tuning I imagine is the case with many other posters radios. It is this fact that has really annoyed me about what should have been a celebration of 6 decades of TA, that we have been dismissed as unintelligent, stick-in-the-mud, or wrong. I think that VW is bang out of order on this point, as the Radio 4 audience is generally more intelligent & flexible than the average TV audience.
    Please plot & write as if we are, not as if we all watch HelloTV, or "I'm a plonker, get me out of here".

  • Comment number 70.

    Well, I for one found the episode of Nigel's death dramatically powerful. Yes, people do have accidents and the results are shattering for all concerned. I have listened to The Archers on and off for at least 40 years and I don't intend to stop now. The strength of the series is that it deals with issues some people don't like, but it moves at a real pace - not the speeded up freneticism of, say, Neighbours. Whenever a loved character dies the writers have handled it with realism and sensitivity. The responsibility of the writers is not to pander to some listeners who would rather avoid the real issues of life, but to write a powerful drama. Full marks to them.

    Vanessa Whitburn - stick to your guns!!

  • Comment number 71.

    Hang on, you may have measured your two inch pile of press cuttings, but did you actually *read* what erstwhile listeners to "The Archers" actually *said* about the ridiculous SATTC episode? (You must know yourself what was wrong with the plotting and character "development" in the 30 minute epi and what had led up to it, otherwise you're even more delusional than I thought :) Just in case you don't know what I mean, the Hellbent plot line was totally unrealistic and David and Nigel would never have been up on the Roof in those circumstances. If they really had to be, you should have had a Nigel disabled plot rather than the inevitable silliness about Lizzie and the entail/feud with David/Kenton because it was their fault which I anticipate will supposedly SATTC and which is why I've stopped listening.)
    So yes, I'm another one you've lost as a listener, but as I'm 55 and have been listening since my teens, I clearly don't count.

  • Comment number 72.

    Miss Whitburn - I'm writing to complain about a very longstanding idiocy in the Archers. Every time this happens I have to turn off, it's so daft. Over the years many children have reached the age of 11 and then up pops the question of which school to send them to. Of course, the wealthier people in Ambridge want to send their children to independent schools but - I don't think any child has actually ever gone to such a school and stayed there. Currently you have Jill interfering with the decision to send Freddie to a fee-paying school with Lily and begging that he be allowed to stay in the local school "where he will be so much happier". In Ambridge one or two have started at the "posh" schools and then had to leave as they can't stand the pressure, or something. Can't we just have fewer socialist decisions in Ambridge after I've been listening for some 40 years - please. You might be surprised, but shouldn't be, Vanessa, to find out just how many Socialists send their children to fee-paying schools and they're all really happy.

  • Comment number 73.

    Ms Whitburn - perhaps it would help a little if you could explain what you felt was so wrong with Ambridge that it needed 'shaking to its core' - that it must never be allowed to 'be the same again'. Whatever it was that you found so 'wrong', it has kept many of us listening for years - in some cases for most of our lives. We certainly did not need the ludicrously contrived death of a much-loved character to help us celebrate this. I listened to Monday's episode, a twist having been mentioned. I felt sure this must be Nigel's survival - but no. Along with many others, I will not be listening again, as depression, sensationalism and implausible storylines (such as Helen's overnight transformation) are not what I want from the Archers.

  • Comment number 74.

    I have been listening to The Archers for 30 years, and have never posted any comments on it, or any other programme, before, but my reaction to the 60th Anniversary episode and to Ms Whitburn’s response to the hundreds, if not thousands, of posted comments was so strong that I have decided now to do so.
    Both the storylines in the episode itself were so contrived as to be laughable. The way that Miss Whitburn apparently informed Graham Seed of his character’s demise, and the despicable reason for it, was deplorable. The so obviously self-satisfied comments she’s made since simply indicate that she’s been doing the job for too long. Surely she can’t continue as Editor in these circumstances?

  • Comment number 75.

    Miss Whitburn has written a very credible response to the Archers listeners but I feel has missed the point entirely. I fail to understand actually why the 60th anniversary had to be marked by 'shaking Ambridge to the core'. It has been able to survive for 60 years without much shaking. To build up a character on radio over a daily 15 minute span calls for good and talented actors. Graham Seed changed Nigel completely to the ham charicture 'toff' he was dealt with at the beginning to a much love and totally different figure from the rest. Subtley and slowly. All we needed to celebrate the anniversary was maybe a visit from George Clooney to Grey Gables, a flirt with Caroline for a couple of episodes and then back to mixed up yogurt lables and the potential relationship between Kenton and Joyleen. Alison Dowling as the grieving widow is too heartbreaking to listen to I'm afraid brilliant as she is.

  • Comment number 76.

    “characters come first. They drive the story; what they do has to be truthful and believable. 'David would never have gone on the roof, he's too sensible', I read in one listener comment. I argue he would!”

    Since the scriptwriters created David we cannot argue with you. Obviously I should change my complaint to the BBC regarding the quality of the Anniversary Edition. Instead I should complain about the quality of all the preceding episodes that utterly convinced me, and hundreds of other long term listeners, that David’s character was other than the scriptwriters intended.

    I did continue to listen last week and was moved by the quality of the writing dealing with the emotions surrounding Nigel’s death. But I just can’t stand anymore misery. The anticipation of the showdown between Elizabeth and David is too much.

    Trawling the blogs during the past week, I have been uncomfortable about the personal remarks some complainers have made about you and the calls made for your resignation. I now understand why they said what they did. Your determination to neither acknowledge nor apologise for this travesty is the last straw.

    Goodbye.

  • Comment number 77.

    What a scary photo! Miss Whitburn, why did Ambridge need shaking to the core, what was wrong with it? Your post has done nothing to reassure me and I remain an ex-listener.

  • Comment number 78.

    Relief about Helen? Not likely. She had a frightful come-uppance coming to her, and I for one am shocked that she didn't get it. It's about as satisfying as a version of MacBeth in which everyone lives happily ever after.

    Like so many other people, I have totally lost interest in the programme after listening to it for over forty years. No, it's worse than that: I can't bear to listen any more. You guys should try reading some Wodehouse to see how to engineer a jaw-dropping plot turn without the characters getting new personalities.

  • Comment number 79.

    I wish to express my disgust at the decision to dispense with the character of Nigel Pargetter. How can Ms Whitburn think that this plotline has been a Celebration of the 60th Anniversary.

    Nigel Pargetter was the only thoroughly decent character living in Ambridge and my Sunday mornings were brightened if he had been scripted in that week's episodes.

    None of the other characters are worth listening to and Helen's character appears to resemble that of Vanessa "it's all about me" Whitburn.

    Long live Nigel (if only in our memories).



  • Comment number 80.

    GillyBotham, you're wrong. All the (now adult) Aldridge children went to independent schools and Daniel Hebden-Lloyd is at one now. Pip was going to take the entrance exam for the Cathedral School but found the intensive, last-minute preparation too stressful (and she also had very little chance of passing) so she didn't, in the end.

    The only children who have left independent schools are:
    Elizabeth - expelled
    Kate - also expelled
    Alice - who got excellent GCSEs and left for Borchester FE College to do a subject not available at her previous school

    In the case of Freddie, he didn't want to board and is clearly not really up to the standard of the Cathedral School. Jill thought he ought to transfer to Borchester Green with his friends from primary school. There are a number of criticisms that can be made of this storyline but that it's a socialist one is not valid, I'm afraid. Jill has been consistently against private education for 40 years.

  • Comment number 81.

    Miss Whitburn,
    I have been listening since the age of 9 - some 37 years, and like many of the above I think a mistake has been made. You can't reverse it, but it was some of the worst scriptwriting I have heard, and recently that seems to increase, the arrival of Vicky, the Helen baby storyline, and now Nigel's fall. When you try you can do very well, Jack's illness, and celebration well, like the 10,000th episode with special guests (even down to the sound effects) but this was not a celebration, and not what we expect.

    I sincerely hope you learnt your lesson about letting things slip on Today (after what I do congratulate you on was a well kept secret), and that mention of this causing David and Ruth's marriage difficulties or Lizzie's heart to fail do not happen. If they do that will be the final straw for me. Nigel deserved to go at a ripe old age like Doris did in her chair.

    You have badly misjudged the audience, and high twitter figures (mainly full of criticism of the storyline and yourself) and weight of press coverage does not make it a success. I too feel your treatment of Mr Seed was poor. Perhaps he can be given a future part? With luck you will listen to your listeners, and give someone else the opportunity to invite him back.

  • Comment number 82.

    I see at the base of your article it says "Vanessa Whitburn is the editor of the Archers". I'll be happy when it says "was the editor".
    Your reply is unsatisfactory and I feel as if some school teacher is telling me that "I know better than you....." (apologies to teachers). You comment on Shula losing Mark but do not seem to think that for two sisters to lose husbands is an amazing coincidence. You comment on the listeners passion for the Archers, yes we are (were in my case) passionate and as a result feel that the 60th anniversary requires something better than an East Enders sensationlist approach. I could go on but whats the point. You have ruined the show and I have not heard a second of the Archers since Shula announced that Nigel was dead.
    We did not want to lose Nigel or anyone for the 60th anniversary.
    We do not like being told what is good for us.
    We do not want you as an editor.
    We do want a rewrite.

  • Comment number 83.

    @TerryB, Comment #4: "My motivation for listening to TA is escapism, pure and simple [...]"

    In that case, I politely suggest that The Archers isn't the programme you're looking for. TA has /never/ been about "escapism, pure and simple". There used to be stuff like Dallas for that, and no doubt there are plenty of equivalents today.

  • Comment number 84.

    Lots of people SAY they are stopping listening to The Archers because of the currently ill-advised plotline of Nigel's death. My wife actually has done so! She (and I), being 62, have had The Archers as part of our lives since childhood, and feel we know the characters as wellas our own families. I was recently diagnosed with inoperable pancreatic cancer, and the recent episode with Lizzie, devastated by her husband's death, brought home very strongly what she must likely experience herself in the no too distant future.

    Of course tragedy happens frequently in real life; but in an (almost-)daily serial the listeners need a bit of variety. We have had three major characters die in the last 12 months, and three separate widows grieving is unnecessarily repetitive. Looking at the age of the older cast members it doesn't seem unreasonable to expect that some of them may wish to retire from broadcasting, or sadly even pass on in real life. Even more Ambridge deaths is a likely forecast. Why then expunge a popular younger cast member? No need! It's a tactic worthy of the more sensational TV soaps, and not fitting for The Archers. (And as many people have indicated, if a character was worthy of extermination, surely the whinging insufferable control freak Helen's demise would have actually benefited the programme - only because we would not be subjected to said whinging controlfreakery any more.)

    No, Ms Whitburn, you got this very badly wrong. You definitely misjudged your audience. It's a mistake that is almost impossible to correct, more's the pity.

  • Comment number 85.

    Dear Vanessa

    Throw away the management by numbers manual and listen to what your audience is saying. The number of tweets, messages etc are irrelevant to your preening if they are mainly negative.

    As others have said more eloquently than I a celebration is what people wanted not misery. Your blog has proved that your are out of touch and not listening to what we are saying and it makes me wonder if you even listen to your production team.

    You say
    characters come first. They drive the story; what they do has to be truthful and believable.

    But this is not what has been happening over the last few years. More and more stories are plot rather than character driven and stories are not believable or truthful.

    I think the main problem is that you have been doing the job for 20 years and have become stale and that is why you turned to such a banal story for this celebration. There could have been a positive event to 'shake Ambridge to the core' or a more socially relevant one such as bankruptcy for one of the core characters but it was easier to roll out yet another death.

    I think it is time to go, Vanessa. I hope our formal complaints bring this home to you.

  • Comment number 86.

    Johnrh at number 82 I agree with your sensible list, it is all possible. Vanessa is 'the boss' after all so she has 'the power' to undo all this and get our lives back-on-track. I read about one poster who went to the gym this morning instead of listening to the omnibus edition; how dreadful!!! I know it may seem utterly ridiculous to some people reading these posts but the vast majority of us posters here and on the message boards have been really affected by all this and have now 'given up the Archers' *GUTA*

    Come on Vanessa, don't be such a difficult old stick-in-the-mud and do the honourable thing and while you're at it tell your bosses at the BBC that their complaints procedure stinks!

  • Comment number 87.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 88.

    Well, this response by Vanessa Whitburn has confirmed that I made the right decision to stop listening to The Archers after more than 40 years. It's obviously not going to get any better, is it?

    Farewell Ambridge!

  • Comment number 89.

    Ms Whitburn, like many others here, I feel let down and even insulted by your self-justifying, smug response.

    By disregarding the majority views of your formerly loyal long-term core audience, to chase a younger-demographic audience via sensationalism and self-hype, you have indeed 'broken The Archers', yet you appear incapable of recognising what you have done. You have actually shot yourself in the foot.

    Character-led drama?

    If you can demonstrate to me what consistency the lethal scramble on a slippery roof by a farmer and a landowner-employer shows with their previous characters and Health and Safety training/experience, you're a better man than I am, Gunga Din.

    If you can equally demonstrate to me how the life-long nasty, selfish, controlling Helen Archer can be transformed into a sweet Madonna by the birth of a purchased baby, I'll eat my old school hat with treacle on it.

    Bad things happen in life as in drama and of course should not be excluded on escapist grounds. What matters is the manner of their handling. The improbable and frankly incredible episode template you must have given Mary Cutler to fill out for the 60th Anniversary Episode, produced some very clumsy, over-heavily-signposted writing from a normally fine radio writer and adapter (cf. also her adaptations of our mutual friend Linz Davis's Falco novels). It was as though Mary Cutler's many talents were stifled by the job she was given.

    I was married to a BAFTA-nominated TV/radio writer (and writer in other media) until his recent death, who bore with my Archers obsession and listened regularly with me, commenting from a professional viewpoint. I learned a lot about the trade thereby; I dread to think what he would have said about the 60th Anniversary Episode.

    As for the manner of firing Graham Seed, you have in no way exonerated yourself. After 27 years, he was owed a face-to-face conversation, even if to you he was just a jobbing actor. In my professional career I have sat in a senior position on Staff and Finance Boards in two universities; we would not have treated a dog like that, in either institution.

    Your response fails to convince or placate in any way, though I suppose I should be glad that you have finally been shamed into giving one.

    Marie Nokes

    (I don't believe in addressing criticism and comment without also admitting my own name; it goes against the academic grain, and I have no worries about being identified IRL)

  • Comment number 90.

    To those complaining about the supposed unlikeliness of a character dying in a fall, here's a little armchair stats geekery.

    There were 3602 deaths from falls in England and Wales in 1996. (Source: http://www.dti.gov.uk/homesafetynetwork/pdf/accident.pdf ; I can't find more up-to-date data, but it seems unlikely that the incidence has changed significantly in fourteen years.)

    In the same year, there were 3596 deaths in car accidents. (Source: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/special_report/1998/car_crash/47357.stm )

    There were ~504,000 deaths in England and Wales in 2007. (Source: http://www.statistics.gov.uk/STATBASE/Product.asp?vlnk=539 .)

    Therefore, assuming the rates haven't changed significantly between 1996 and 2007, approximately 1 death in 140 results from a fall.

    I read or heard somewhere in the last few days that the Archers cast now numbers well over 60. There were four deaths in the last year (Phil, Sid, Marjorie Antrobus* and Nigel), so (neglecting things like the cast's age distribution) the odds of a death from a fall in the last year were 1 in 35. That sounds well within the bounds of "realistic enough for a soap opera" to me.

  • Comment number 91.

    Although I agree with the vast majority of the comments critical of Ms Whitburn I don't see much point in giving my opinion because she has shown from this 'answer' that she has not read or taken any notice of the disappointment and the feeling that The Archers has been ruined shown in all the comments. I would urge all the posters to write to the DG of the BBC and the Head of Radio 4 instead, then maybe Ms Whitburn will be receiving what she doled out over the phone to Graham Seed.
    I haven't listened since the 'celebratory' episode after being a fan since 1975, and I won't listen again until there is a new editor.

  • Comment number 92.

    A soap is either well written or badly written. That is all. This was badly written. Worse, it was upsetting. An odd way to celebrate your 60th birthday, killing someone. I'm another lifelong listener who now can't bear to hear the strains of the signature tune. Ms Whitburn, you have made a grievous mistake. That is all.

  • Comment number 93.

    The Archers editor has lost touch with what most listeners want. Others have put it far better than I can (post nos. 12, 28 and 45 above are just a few of them).

    The Archers editor seems unable to grasp that a huge error of judgement has been made.

    I'm still trying to make a formal complaint about the episode, but for the last hour that particular complaints form keeps crashing due to server overload. Says it all, really.

    Another listener lost, after only ten years, after such a wholly predictable and yet another badly researched (re the baby/pre-eclampsia info) story, trumped only by the unbelievable scenes of Helen and her father. That part of the storyline this week is an insult to the intelligence of listeners. The Archers has become a parody, and you took the easy and unimaginative option in storylines.

  • Comment number 94.

    Was trying to read it all through, but my safety valve just blew when I read..... 'Was it sensationalist to kill off Nigel? I don't believe it was.'

    You just don't get it do you, Ms W? and you'd think that after 20 years of editor-ing you just might.
    Bad things happen in any community (John's death, Mark's death etc etc), of course they do, but they do not happen TO ORDER. And they certainly do not happen to order to CELEBRATE something, and absolutely certainly not to celebrate something that, when you come down to it, is an event which is external to the life of the village that is Ambridge.Your anniversay has absolutely no relevance to the organic development of the village and its denizens. It is that crazy and, if I may say, slightly sick decision, around which the Helen plotline and the whole SATC fiasco, has been so obviously being twisted for months now, that I object to.
    OK, someone has too much parsnip wine, wanders out into the road and gets squashed if you like. It happens. But this whole thing was so appallingly artificial.
    And to suggest that it was in any way compensated for by the birth of the baby cheesus to probably the most unpopular character ever and her subsequent instant character transplant is just plain insulting. Sure there will be ripples, but who really is looking forward to the wall to wall grief and guilt fest that they will entail. Certainly not I; if I wanted that I'd watch East Enders..
    You claim a passion for the Archers, Ms Whitburn. No, you have a self serving passion for the programme that you wish to turn the Archers into.
    Also your treatment of Mr Seed was shabby and your attempts to divert all the affection we feel for him onto yourself by telling us you recruited him, you directed him etc are misguided. It should not be about you.

  • Comment number 95.

    Orla_Same [Post 16]: "Where's the rest of it? Where's the response to the many, many listeners whose complaint is about the quality of the episode? Where's the apology for announcing the death on the Today programme?"

    Cowardice, denial, cowardice, all the way.

    Rebecca_Gibraltar [Post 1}: "Your answer isn't good enough really, can you please resign now."

    Hear, hear.

    This whole issue smacks of one who has been in-post too long, and has either become so aloof as to be totally divorced from reality and the consequences of their actions; or is too gutless and spineless to take responsibility for the real feeling of the audience and many media reviewers.

    Certainly, I think the time for a change is long overdue; In the USA, no President is allowed to hold the office for more than two full terms; in the UK, neither Thatcher nor Blair were so greedy as to outstay their welcome or usefulness in post to this degree.


  • Comment number 96.

    Imipak, how many of these 'death from falls' were due to sensible people climbing onto a very high, pitched and slated roof, in winter, in icy conditions, on a windy night and in the dark?
    Even Rod Hull (bless him) didn't climb up onto his roof in those conditions and he was a mad-cap as they come!

  • Comment number 97.

    I have worked in a corporate environment for 30 years and have never, not once, heard of anyone having their contract terminated over the phone, be they permanent, temporary or contract staff. The term "crass" that I read elsewhere is the correct description.

  • Comment number 98.

    I am a youngish American who has only listened to The Archers for a few years; my English husband has listened for his lifetime.

    Both of us echo the disappointment of many of the comments above. The episode was poorly written, the ensuing misery and strife will be tedious, the death of one of the few consistently fun and enjoyable characters was a rubbish way to "celebrate" 60 years. It is laughable to claim that you are avoiding cheap sensationalism when you yourself decided to mark the anniversary by killing off the character that would have the most "impact."

    It's simply laziness and lack of imagination. You could have come up with fun and enjoyable ways to celebrate 60 years, or created long-term impact with a less over-the-top tragedy (disabling rather than death).

    I won't be bothering to tune in tonight. Loyal and passionate listeners can be lost as well as gained.

  • Comment number 99.

    To VW.

    I was a long time Archers listener as was my wife.

    This ridiculous and sensationalist accident was tabloid, redtop, crass and inconsiderate.

    You have fallen into a ratings elephant trap.

    I have stopped listening. And why?

    I haven't deliberately not turned it on; as I would switch off Eastenders if it came on before I had moved to another programme.

    No, it's as if the Archers now doesn't want me! I feel excluded and robbed of something that has been part of my life for 20 years.

    Sort this one out or admit you made a terrible mistake.

  • Comment number 100.

    I am sorry to say that this blog just shows how distanced and out of touch you are with your customers.

    I feel that this piece as with Mary's was probably prepared in advance.
    How you can claim to know and understand characters and your customers and approve this travesty just beggars belief, and I truly expect that one of the most shattering events that will befall this programme will be your drawn out resignation.
    You have made a massive error of judgement, success does not come with the quantity of the chatter on twitter, or here or the MB, the importance or measure of success is the content, and I believe that when anyone with some sense start to analyse the content of the web chat, I think the powers that be will want something a little more substantial, than "Oh they are just the wrong type of listener" or more of this arrogant, "I'm the editor I know best".


    Only a fool ignores their customers, and I am afraid you are erring on the side of foolishness to treat long term repeat customers to this level of arrogance.

    I hope that in the months to come your shame will force you to find the one word that you seem incapable of using... sorry.... it is only a small word but it does a lot of good when used with sincerity

    Good Bye

    CF

    Charlotte Noble Mrs

 

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