Editor's note: Vanessa wrote this post yesterday - SB

    Started the day with a bit of a staffing crisis as we are mid-way through casting the double-up and sickness in the office meant we were a bit short to phone the actors to secure their bookings for the January and February studios. (Some people do not realize that unlike the TV soaps, our core cast are not on permanent contract to us and they do fit in a lot of other work. This means that they are contracted per-episode).

    My trusted PA Jenny Cooley stepped into the breach to help out as she often does and resumed chasing up actors and agents from Friday when we started casting. It is always a busy time in The Archers office as we come up to Christmas because we are casting and writing two months worth of episodes instead of the usual one (hence the 'double-up'). This is so that members of the production team can take a break over Christmas without falling behind too much. The Archers is on the air six-days-a-week with an Omnibus on Sunday mornings and that means we never stop. The double-up means twice as much paperwork and script editing, twice as much of everything really. It's fun but requires a lot of energy from all.

    Today, in their homes, eight writers are writing an episode of the Archers each, after a busy storyline meeting the week before last. Julie Beckett, my Senior Producer, and I edited eight weeks-worth of synopsis last week and so we broadly know where the writers are going and what they are writing. We have had phone conversations with each of them. One of our writers, Mary Cutler, phoned me this morning to clarify a couple of points.

    Julie normally takes the first two weeks of synopsis and I take the second two. This means that we have to speed-read each other's and dovetail of course. But it means we get through it in an admirable two days which allows the writers time to write. Last week we did four days of it, as it is a double-up. I usually synopsis-edit at home so I am not disturbed. Sometime I go up to the shops to stretch my legs and if anyone speaks to me it's like waking from a dream. I am usually deep in thought about some storyline or other and not where my body is at all! So please excuse me if you see me and I am a bit vague.

    This morning though I am in the office and had a pleasant interview with The Lady Magazine. The article is due to come out over Christmas and it was good to talk to a journalist who obviously listens to the programme and spoke with authority about it.

    I'm now checking illustrations for the new map which will launch when the new Radio 4 Archers web site goes live in the New Year. It is amazing how much hard creative work goes on behind the scenes. People working on everything from the Archers logo itself to the look of the pages before you even get to the new content. It has been interesting to work with the many creative people involved.

    Now I'm writing this... and it's 1315... Oops, supposed to be with someone to talk through a story idea for next year over lunch. So signing off for now. Hope to blog another day.

    Vanessa Whitburn is editor of The Archers


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    • Comment number 4. Posted by Steve Leary

      on 4 Dec 2009 14:30

      An idea for a topical story line for the Archers
      Would it be an idea to introduce a major planning issue into the Archers story line, either a planning application for mineral extraction (sand, gravel, opencast coal or a quarry) or an application for a waste disposal plant or for a wind farm?
      These are all issues that are currently affecting rural areas significantly and they already some institutions which exist in Ambridge that could act as vehicles for such a story, say Borchester Land as a developer, the Parish Council and characters who know how to mount campaigns.
      Planning issues can provide long story lines. In our rural area in Leicestershire we have been dealing with one such issue which officially went public in September 2008 and now, at the beginning of December still does not have a decision date.
      Such a story line would have an educational value as it reveals that we cannot take what we see every day around as a permanent feature in the landscape, however idyllic and traditional it is seems. Change seems to be an ever present threat – initiated by planning applications.
      This is a real issue affecting local rural communities which has not I believe been a recent Archers story.

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    • Comment number 3. Posted by Adrian

      on 30 Nov 2009 20:51

      Thanks Vanessa for the really interesting insight into how the episodes are put together. Its great to have some of the inside information. BUT I was hoping for some sneaky clues as to some exciting up and coming storylines!

      Do you ever need any extras? It is my ambition to visit Ambridge sometime!!! If you ever need some one to play a 37 year old secondary school history teacher keep me in mind.

      On a more sensible note, thank you for The Archers. It is a fantastic program and the stories are superbly written. Weaving together comedy, tragedy and everyday life is no mean feat and there is obviously a very talented writing team and not to mention the actors. Thanks again, it is very much appreciated!

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    • Comment number 2. Posted by Kyleandrew

      on 29 Nov 2009 10:19

      Here in America we only have the news oriented Public Broadcasting System for quality radio. There is nothing like the Archers on the radio. Thanks to the BBC I don't have to record the Omnibus for an hour. I've missed recording it and had to track down someone on the Internet who several times has sent it to me from Switzerland. I listen to the show on my commute to my teaching job. It's a blessing to have this show available outside Britain. I still marvel that we listen to overseas radio on the internet instead of bulky hard to tune shortwave radio. And now we are to get Desert Island Disks! There was hardly no way to arrange recording that at dawn East Coast time!

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    • Comment number 1. Posted by Shannon Trust

      on 24 Nov 2009 16:59

      Hello Vanessa
      I am sure you are never short of suggestions for Archer's storylines but here is another anyway. I am concerned for Matt's mental health whilst he is in prison. He could benefit by doing something positive for other prisoners. I suggest he gets involved in the Toe by Toe Reading Plan. There is bound to be one running in his CAT D. He will be able to train as a mentor to help teach other prisoners to read. There will be plenty non-readers in his prison who would benefit. Matt would also benefit as it would fill his time, and he would learn the joy of altruism!
      For more info have a look at www.shannontrust.org.uk. This small charity is doing great work in all our prisons and could benefit from a plug.


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