Five more perspectives for Archers Week
Head of Interactive, Radio 3
I'm quite new at the BBC but I've been listening to The Archers since I was a small child. Its characters have been companions for decades. Events from Archers episodes are mixed up with those from my early life in a quite confusing way. I don't listen every day but the fine grain of life in and around Ambridge is a kind of essential background to my life. I'm not overstating this and I know I'm not alone. I know there's a reasonable chance that you too remember the arrival of strident Pat at Bridge Farm or the mysterious disappearance of Nelson Gabriel or Eddie's dalliance with Jolene...
So it's obviously been a career highlight to spend some time with The Archers team at the BBC's office in central Birmingham. And what I've learnt hasn't eroded the magic at all. I know now that keeping a drama with a cast of 60-ish on-air 6-days-a-week requires something like a military operation with strong leadership and the kind of team spirit I've rarely met. My dealings with the Archers team have been a bit like an encounter with a rather benign cult. Everybody on the team, from cast to producers to engineers and assistants greeted me with the kind of clear-eyed passion for the programme that any network would kill for (but you wouldn't want to cross them). It's been a huge pleasure to experience the pride of the Archers team in what they do. I hope you've been able to share a little of it here on the blog.
Today is the last day of Archers Week and - I'll be honest - I've been finding it quite hard to keep up with the flow of behind-the-scenes insights as they've come in so here's a final-day round-up of fascinating posts from Archers people:
- Studio Manager Liza Wallis on creating sound in the studio. It's fascinating to watch Liza at work, creating a convincing sound-scene amongst the actors by rattling pots, pouring water and moving furniture...
- Producer Kate Oates with a vignette about directing a Christmas episode and presenting long-term plotlines to the boss.
- Archivist Mel Ward on the pleasures of the card index. A story that's been running for nearly sixty years needs a good memory.
- Keri Davies has written about his many roles on The Archers team. He's well-known online. He's hosted the Archers message boards for several years and manages the Archers web site. He's also a scriptwriter.
- Michael Harrison operates one of the terrifying desks in the Archers cubicle. He's responsible for levels and recording. His preternatural calm and dry wit keep the studio moving. He's glad that Christmas is over.
Steve Bowbrick is editor of the Radio 4 blog
- 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.
- 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.