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Is The Archers going to get 'darker and bigger? No.

John Yorke | 09:51 AM, Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Vanessa Whitburn and John Yorke

Has recent press coverage made you worried that The Archers is going to take a lurch into EastEnders territority? Well, worry not, because it isn't. Acting Archers editor John Yorke explains the truth about this story.

A few months ago I was asked by a national newspaper if EastEnders would ever consider doing a live stage musical. I answered with a categorical 'No'. Two weeks later, I was slightly taken aback to read: 'EastEnders to stage musical'.

Perhaps I shouldn't have been shocked then to read a flurry of headlines yesterday, cataloging my plans to smash up Ambridge like some bloated property developer and turn it into Albert Square...

It's a great story - but it isn't true. The source was a fairly innocuous interview with Radio Times about what's coming up on the show.

A few months ago, Radio 4 had very kindly asked me if I'd consider looking after the programme for four months while its long standing editor Vanessa Whitburn was away. I agreed straight away - on one condition - that it stayed exactly as it was and that I didn't have to change anything.

The Archers has been in my family for three generations. It's as perfect as long running drama gets; why would I want to change a hair? Apart from anything else my Mum would probably kill me.

The comment that was picked up was very clearly a specific reference to one storyline - the intimidation of Ruth and David. Ironically, this story was planned long before I joined the show.

It is dark but in the very best traditions of a programme not scared to kill its leading lady in a barn fire, and it fits snugly I hope alongside everything Ambridge does best.

Joe's ferrets, Lynda's hay-fever and cliffhangers built on whether Clarrie will finish her jubilee cake in time; all will remain and I hope live for as long as The Archers draws breath.

John Yorke is the acting editor of The Archers

Picture shows Archers editor Vanessa Whitburn and acting editor John Yorke. Vanessa returns in July after a period of long service leave


  • Comment number 1.

    Pleased to hear this.

  • Comment number 2.

    I am so glad to hear that the press reports about changing the Archers were incorrect.

  • Comment number 3.

    Well that's a relief.
    Just Rooth & Daveed, Pip & Josh then ( please leave cool Josh alive to carry the dynasty forward) and the badger-creature from the black slurry tank.
    Major shocks still too close to Nigel's scream though, serial murder just not Ambridge. BTW as more than 30% of farmers in UK have installed renewable energy generation as an additional income stream isn't it time for the Archers to catch up - much better option than Brian installing a Fracking Mine on the doorstep.

  • Comment number 4.

    Major relief. The Archers is a drama/soap which has worked well for years because of the listeners being able to escape from life for the short time they listen to it daily - that can hardly be said of the TV soaps

  • Comment number 5.

    I'm pleased to hear it, especially as the "will be getting darker" story is still featured on the Entertainment section of the BBC website....

    We don't want "Eastenders on Am", thank you very much. You'll lose as many listeners (including me) as you may gain.

  • Comment number 6.

    I like your Mum John.

  • Comment number 7.

    I'll be relieved to keep TA at the pace it which it currently moves. I don't want to listen to despair and depression all the time (I have BBC News for that), and it is nice to have something interesting and entertaining on R4 that does not involve Sue Perkins.

  • Comment number 8.

    Well, I'm relieved to read this disclaimer, but, as it happens, I have been a little worried about The Archers in recent weeks. I associate Eastenders (which I gave up watching regularly about 20 years ago but of which I occasionally catch a glimpse when I'm channel-surfing) with inarticulate, angry, often not very bright people feuding and yelling at each other. And lately, all this angst seems to be on The Archers. In just one week, I heard deranged Amy rowing with Usha, Brenda being nasty about Vicky and even Nic snapping at Will. I wonder if the 'Eastenders' influence is more insidious than you realise?

  • Comment number 9.

    Thank goodness John Yorke has clarified the situation and revealed that The Archers is not going all "East End". TA does replicate something of daily life, and is relatively credible - except for the ridiculous situation regarding Amy who is far too sensible to still think he really loved/loves her (absurd!). But Eastenders...thankfully this doesn't replicate most daily life - but unfortunately many young people who are being brought up on a daily diet of Eastenders think that it portrays a way of life they should replicate.

  • Comment number 10.

    Thank goodness!!

  • Comment number 11.

    Rapid rebutal unit activated....

    Me thinks you protest too much....

    It's already halfway there

  • Comment number 12.

    The Archers's strength lies in the fact that it's informative and well researched. Preserving those qualities is so crucial in this world of mass media drivel!

  • Comment number 13.

    Being in an EastEnders frame of mind when I read this, when you mentioned Joe's ferrets, my mind immediately went to that time when he smashed their heads in with a lump hammer (or whatever implement it was). Given that your next examples were Lynda's hayfever and Clarrie's cake I take it that you weren't thinking in a similar vein. We've all been so worried about EE contaminating TA we haven't considered the cross fertilisation going the other way. Can we expect to see a Flower & Produce show in Albert Square in the near future?

  • Comment number 14.

    I stopped watching Eastenders long ago becauseI don't want to hear people argueing, see them fighting or have unlikely gruesome things happen to them. Perhaps John should take note and make the Eastenders more like the Archers - a welcome interlude in the stress of every-day life.

  • Comment number 15.

    I do hope this means that The Archers will mainly stay as a warm, friendly story of countryfolk. Its strength is its traditionalism. No sensationalism please - leave that for TV soaps (I don't watch any). Radio is the best medium. Thank you, I am an Archers listener since the 1950s.

  • Comment number 16.

    Was very disturbed to hear the Archers might be going the same way as EastEnders
    which I now find so depressing it is unwatchable, so was very relieved to find that thing are going to stay the same, long may it be the case

  • Comment number 17.

    'The Archers's strength lies in the fact that it's informative and well researched'

    You are joking I hope. Terrible lack of research and continuity. Rather than darker stories I would like more realistic ones. There is no way that Bridge Farm would have recovered from ecoli damage in the middle of a recession where organic producers are already feeling the pinch. This is an example of not only poor research but a lack of reflection of real life.

    Less Amy twaddle and magical babies curing madwomen and more reality please.

  • Comment number 18.

    Oh, let's not have too much "reality!" The Archers is a drama, after all, not a documentary, and as such, has to be structured according to the demands of drama as well as reflecting facts about agricultural life. It would be very dull if it didn't offer a balance between the two. I think that many of us who enjoy The Archers suspect that there may not be such a perfect village as Ambridge and like just a tinge of bucolic escapism, with the cricket on the Green, the pantos, all the interesting characters etc. Yes, there have been some plots that have strained credibility (a rural vicar married to a Hindu), but I assume it's all true about hay thefts, badgers etc.!

    Good luck to Mr Yorke, hope he listens to his mum's advice!

  • Comment number 19.

    When Ed reached in to the ancient baler, while Ruth and David sipped cold beer contentedly nearby... I was anticipating industrial accidents. Actually not sure if I was relieved or disappointed with the ending.

  • Comment number 20.

    Thrilled to hear this. Was poised to coordinate a letter of complaint from listeners in our village - not dissimilar to Ambridge. The Archers is at its best when it does drama, not melodrama. That's why the Amy story is inauthentic. She is behaving out of character because the writers have been told to milk it for the aggro rather than her acting like the good daughter of a vicar that she is, who would by now being feeling stupid and depressed at herself, not continuing to take it out on her stepmother.

  • Comment number 21.

    And about the David and Ruth menaces story, it is a mistake and the sooner it's over the better. I'm not enjoying worrying every time they appear that a disaster is going to happen in the next 5 seconds. Much as I hated the SATC episode, knowing that at any moment there would be a stupid, unnecessary death.

  • Comment number 22.

    Oh dear! Wasn't it in "Yes, Minister" that we learned not to believe anything until it was officially denied...

  • Comment number 23.

    I am really not enjoying the Archers at present. I have just listened to today's (12th June) programme and fear I shall no longer wish to be a constant listener. The programmes are following a tv soap format. I cannot listen to the new Radio 4 programme on a Saturday morning either as it feels like a tv morning show. However, I am discovering new Radio Stations instead of keeping the dial to Radio 4. Please stop dumbing down for this listener.

  • Comment number 24.

    Relieved to hear it - thought the recent Amy and David & Rith storyline has been a bit too 'dark' for me . . .

  • Comment number 25.

    So The Archers isn't going to get like EastEnders ? I'm afraid my opinion is that this is complete and utter rubbish. I stopped listening halfway through yesterday's episode (the "Let's Burn Down The Vic" episode). It was clear at the beginning what was going to happen (the unnecessary mention of gas cylinders) and once the obvious fire started to happen I switched off. I'm sorry, but this is NOT what I want. If others do, then fine. But I've been listening to The Archers for many years. What I want, whilst cooking is the normal, good, light-hearted, and yes, fairly light, story lines; the occasional intrigue. But basically The Archers. Not doom, gloom and despondancy that East Enders is built around. I (eventually) forgave you the unnecessary "killing off to cheer people up at Christmas" episode (well, almost) but I'v now stopped listening and have decided to quit my "habit" for the forseeable future. So long, thanks for the storylines - but until you return to the quality of what The Archers used to be I shall not be back.

  • Comment number 26.

    Amen 2020hindsight.

    Why destroy something changing it into something alien.

    just start a new sensation-o-soap.

    Oh..... They did Kiddy-Archenders on 4x

    Now fix the damage done to the main programme production team. And then I suggest you consider your positions

    You are after all publicly funded public servants and as such should be accountable

  • Comment number 27.

    I wonder if TA are about to become a victim of BBC cuts?

    It goes like this:

    1. Alienate the bulk of traditional listeners by 'going dark'.

    2. These listeners mourn and stop listening.

    3. Audience figures drop to an unacceptable level

    4. The programme is discontinued "as listeners are no longer interested in rural stories".

    TA is no longer an 'Everyday story of countryfolk'; more a variation of 'Crimewatch'.

  • Comment number 28.

    I am sorry to say that I do not currently enjoy the Archers story line. In fact I have stopped listening - there is enough horror on the news already. If this becomes par for the course then I shall be off!

  • Comment number 29.

    Having been an avid Archers listener for ages, this week I actually turned it off. It has become boring, disjointed, unbelievable and confusing. Please give us back the real Archers.

  • Comment number 30.

    Well "caught" the Archers the other day when called in at a friends. Oh dear, it's no better is it? Gave it up in disgust after 25years + when Nigel fell to his death and have never missed it in the slightest. Tickled by the comments about it becoming East Enders because thats exactly what people said when Nigel died. Believe me people it is East Enders and no longer a story about country folk. Give it up folks, you'll feel better for it, I do!

  • Comment number 31.

    All I need now is for Adam to catch a nasty little STD from the Pole, Pavel and we end up with another Mark Fowler storyline - living with HIV or whatever. That will see nearly 30 years of committed listening and avid anticipation come to a perfunctory END. I stopped watching Eastenders when that particular storyline was introduced and have never watched the programme since. I shall repeat the same actions of 1990 and cease to be an Archers afficianado forthwith.
    Barn fires, blackmail,eatings up, stereotyped 'bad' families, good people suffering, Tony and Pat etc. Tom Archer turning into Ian Beale! Etc etc. This is the story of rural folk, simple living, common problems, comrades in adversity. Not exaggerated 'sexed up' inappropriate storylines
    I read in a national newspaper today that the programme has lost 400,000 listeners in the last 6 months - well I wonder why? Time to do a little audience research and get back to the storylines we like to hear; Jaxx bar, Kenton's wit and repartee, Fallon's indecision, Jazzer's awful chat up lines, the cricket club's successes and failures, the strugle to keep the village shop open etc etc.
    Audiences lost, listeners disenchanted, remember what and where the characters live, breed and take breath, and what the audience expects, it is not the prurient.
    Give a little thought to the audience and its coposition, its likes and dislikes etc. If the current types of 'extreme' themes are pursued I fear 400,000 will turn into 1 million or more - and once you've lost your audience they are unlikely to return as you have lost their trust and belief in your ability to satisfy their needs. Ask any teacher!!
    You have been warned!

  • Comment number 32.

    But this sort of more dramatic storyline has always been part of the fabric of The Archers. Assaults, tragic death, plane crash, fatal shooting - and that was in the 1950s.

    In more recent decades: horse slashing, intimidation, arson, thanks to Clive.

    There will always be the lighter stories as well. There are plenty at the moment, like Ruairi and the stone dog, for example.


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