I'm the Spot SM (Studio Manager) on this half of the November Archers block. I'm one of three technical staff working in studio. The others are the Panel SM and Grams SM. The Panel SM is responsible for mixing the programme as we record (more from him in a separate post, I believe) and Grams provides the recorded sound effects that can't be created in the studio (cows, cars, alien spacecraft. Hope I'm not giving away a plot-point there). My job is to provide on-the-spot effects on the studio floor. The cliché is rattling tea-cups, but there have been no tea-cups so far this week. Ok, some mugs - but no tea-cups. Standards are obviously slipping.
My Archers day begins at about 0745 when I check my script notes to see if there's anything I need to buy on my way to work. Our spot cupboard is an Aladdin's cave of, erm, junk (albeit useful junk) and covers most of our needs, but there are a few things we need to buy. Quite often it's food, as for some reason our actors prefer that to be fresh. Madness. Pretty much whatever food the script calls for (yesterday it was Pizza), it will actually be some kind of cake.
Ahh... Pizza again today and some canapés - I still have some lemon slices from yesterday, so that will suffice. Today's shopping list is pretty short: sprouts and Christmas wrapping paper. It will have to be Christmas paper as birthday paper sounds totally different and we'll get complaints. Kidding.
I arrived in studio at about 0845, with a bag of 'I-can't-believe-it's-not-sprouts' (the local supermarket didn't have any, so I have bought sound-alikes. See if you can spot the difference on air), wrapping paper, coffee and a cheese toastie. The last two are my breakfast. Michael, on the Panel, is already here, so I run round the studio mics to make sure that they are working. I realise that it's practically the law to say 'testing... testing... one, two... one, two...', but these are stereo mics, so we tend to go for 'middle... middle... left, left....right, right...' (while standing in the relevant position) to check that all is well. One of them seems slightly off-centre this morning, so Michael will compensate during the recording.
We started recording the first episode around 0930 - with some 'skittish horse' action from me. Neigh. There were then a number of pick-ups from earlier in the week, which put us a little behind schedule for the second episode of the day. But, with stellar performances from the cast and a bit of magic from director Kate Oates, we broke for lunch 15 minutes early with everything we needed in the can. Actually, it's not a can, it's a computer hard drive.
It's been a busy morning. We've been to Ambridge Hall, The Stables, Felpersham, The Bull and Lower Loxley. The Archers is a very green production, though. We walk everywhere.
I'm signing off now. I need to get some lunch and then prep for my big scene this afternoon. It involves some rubber gloves and the rear end of a cow. Where's James Herriot when you need him?
Liza Wallis is a Studio Manager on The Archers You'll hear her work on many episodes of The Archers
- Archers Week ran on the Radio 4 blog from 23-30 November 2009. 19 blog posts were published in all, from 17 authors. They're listed here.
- Radio 4's Archers web site is full of good stuff, like a map of Ambridge, family trees for all the big clans and a detailed who's who. There's also a 'two-minute guide' for Archers newbies.
- The Archers messageboards are among the busiest at the BBC - nicknamed Mustardland because of the distinctive yellow page backgrounds. They're a bit sceptical about Archers Week, though.
- There are two Archers podcasts: one for the daily episodes and one for the Sunday omnibus.
- Hedli Niklaus, who plays Kathy Perks in the serial, also runs the Archers fan club, Archers Addicts.
- Norman Painting, who played Archers patriarch Phil for nearly sixty years, died on 29 October 2009. The last episode he recorded aired on 22 November. Archers Editor Vanessa Whitburn paid tribute to him here on the blog and the Archers Addicts have collected listener tributes.
- The picture shows a gadget of unknown origin that provides all sorts of mechanical sounds in the studio. During our visit to the Archers' home in Birmingham dozens of photographs were taken, many of which feature pictures of cast members (and an ironing board).
- Twitter was put to use during Archers Week. #archersweek was the hashtag and we learnt that Tim Bentinck, who plays David Archer (@timbentinck) and Keri Davies, who writes scripts (@keridavies) are both Twitterers. Follow the Radio 4 blog on Twitter.