Immerse yourself in The Archers
Unless you have kept well clear of the media this week, you will have seen or heard that we have been marking the 60th anniversary of the world's longest running continuous drama. The Archers has been a central part of listener's lives since 1951 and, if nothing else, the past few days have proved that it is precious and in rude health.
As you may be aware, debate is raging, particularly over the instantly infamous death of Nigel Pargetter in the special double-episode that ran on Jan 2nd. Even before his extended scream as he fell from the roof of Lower Loxley Hall, the messageboards and Twitter were buzzing. The reaction has spanned many emotions: listeners are angry, supportive, underwhelmed, overwhelmed, shocked, sad and enthralled. Above all, what is clear is that they care, deeply, about what happens in Ambridge.
I understand that some listeners think the special episode received too much attention, but we do need to be able to showcase and highlight the wonders of radio drama. The Archers is quite different to other dramas and I agree that we should let audiences quietly find the plot (too much 'sell' can be counter-productive), but this was a special occasion and we view it as a very rare set of circumstances. We should resist the sense that there is a growing need to sensationalise to build impact.
Also, those that do not believe that recent revelations were big enough to have "shaken Ambridge to the core" (the words of the Archers' editor, Vanessa Whitburn) should listen for a year or two to see just how big these events are: not in comparison with TV spectaculars but for the residents of Ambridge (and the loyal listeners).
Meanwhile, if you have not heard the programme or want to read the comments from listeners, here are some links for you to explore. Now is a good time to immerse yourself.
Tim Davie is Director of Audio & Music at the BBC
- Listen to the dramatic anniversary double episode on the Radio 4 web site and to a full day of Archers episodes from the archive on the Radio 7 web site.
- Archers scriptwriter and web site editor Keri Davies has put together a round-up of media reactions to the anniversary episode for the Archers blog.
- The Archers web site was recently relaunched. The site hosted the weekend's celebration of the 60th anniversary, including a day-long live blog and a special 'tweetalong' during the big episode.
- The Archers messageboards are among the busiest at the BBC (over one million comments per year). There is a new Archers blog, a Facebook page and a Twitter account (the hashtag is #TheArchers). All have been hugely busy during the build-up to and the aftermath of the anniversary episode.
- Nigel Pargetter was played for 27 years by Graham Seed. He was interviewed on Today on Tuesday.
- The phrase "shake Ambridge to the core" first occurred in a formal BBC document called the 'statements of programme policy' where it was picked up and popularised by listeners. The hashtag #SATTC has been widely used.
- The picture shows the Pargetter family. Left-to-right: Nigel (played by Graham Seed), Lily, Elizabeth (played by Alison Dowling) and Freddie.