I used to be The Archers senior producer, but six years ago I took a sideways move into an interesting double job.
Every year I write about five weeks' worth of scripts for the programme. In fact, I wrote all the episodes on air this week, from Sunday to Friday.
But I'm also The Archers part-time web producer. Every week, I write or edit stories about the programme, find and process illustrations and create other content. I work with colleagues at Radio 4 Interactive to get the material onto the BBC's Archers website, and we try to keep the site reflecting the ever-changing on-air programme.
The website has developed considerably over the years. Among other things, we've added a timeline of stories going back to 1951, an interactive map of Ambridge, family trees for all the main families, and a two-minute guide for absolute newcomers to the programme.
I've been involved in the development of all these features. But over the past year a whole team of us has been working towards a complete redevelopment of the site. We'll be building on the success of the existing features, but using all the technologies that are available nowadays to make the site deliver exactly what the listener needs, in a way that's straightforward for us to maintain.
It's been a fascinating, if arduous journey. The Archers is a complex programme, with about 60 speaking parts, dozens of silent characters, many different locations and a complex web of interrelationships. And every episode brings new details which have to be incorporated. But we've made great progress and are on schedule to unveil the new site in 2010.
What it has meant for me is that I've had to pass on an equally fascinating job to someone else. This week, Tayler Cresswell takes over as host of The Archers message board. This amazing place is home to fiercely engaged and often very erudite discussion about the programme and the issues it raises. And it allows listeners to ask questions about the programme and to create their own stories and parodies based on The Archers.
So my week has gone roughly like this:
Sunday (like farmers, we often work at the weekends): Wrote the first episode of my week, to be broadcast on Valentine's Day 2010.
Monday: Wrote another episode.
Tuesday: Lots of website-related admin. Detailed review of draft page designs for the new site. Prepared a story about Tayler (with photo) to be published this week.
Wednesday: Discussed the new map of Ambridge with Archers editor Vanessa Whitburn. Induction day for Tayler and her back-up (Frank).
Thursday: Wrote this blog post. More website admin. Edited daily synopses, wrote quiz questions and weekly vote.
Friday: Writing yet another episode (Shrove Tuesday, 2010).
I'm going to take the weekend off.
Keri Davies is a scriptwriter and web producer for 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 view of the Archers 'dead room', the part of the studio where outdoor scenes are recorded. You can see baby Oscar's pushchair in the background. 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.