It was the inaugural Archers Academic conference*.
In which learned Professors lined up to discuss their chosen fields of expertise through the prism of Borsetshire life. Here are just 5 of the many things we took away from a conference unlike any other...
1. Joe Grundy is hyper-rhotic
'Rural Voices: What can Borsetshire tell us about accent change?' Dr William Barras, Lecturer in Linguistics, University of Aberdeen.
Not a reference to Joe Grundy’s prowess in the marital bedroom before Farmer’s Lung took hold. Hyper-rhoticity is a linguistic term to denote when an ‘r’ appears in places it wouldn’t usually appear - e.g. at the end of a word - think “Emurrr”.
The ‘r’ sound in general, according to Dr William Barras, Linguistics Lecturer at the University of Aberdeen, is a significant part of dialect variation and is also important in Ambridge socio-linguistically. Think Susan, Fallon, Emma, Clarrie, Eddie and Joe.
2. Ambridge may be the site of a battle between modernity and medievalism
'Scenes from the Feudal System in Ambridge: The Archers as Anti-Utilitarian Medievalism' - Dr Philippa Byrne, British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow, Faculty of History, University of Oxford
According to Dr Philippa Byrne, Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Oxford, Ambridge represents the Middle Ages as it was envisioned by William Morris. Particularly, the conflict between meaningful labour and meaningless work. Or, to put it another way, there is a tension at the heart of Ambridge - between the value of work and the importance of community versus rootless modernity, that devalues value work or craft in the pursuit of profit.
In The Ambridge Tea Room, for example, we see craftswomen, Fallon and Emma upcycling i.e. lovingly restoring things of the past, and gaining fulfilment from their work. Next door in The Bridge Farm Shop, we find Rob, who denounces Fallon and Emma’s wares as ‘junk’ as he prioritises profit over ethics in the shop, kitted out in the ‘clean modern lines’ that he fought for (spoiled only by the old-fashioned, wooden tables that Tony insisted upon). Think also: Hazel Woolley’s modernising of Honeysuckle Cottage, casting the Grundys out Grundy Turkeys v Fairbrother Geese, Route B, Brookfield Archers v the Mega Dairy.
3. Time Team’s Carenza Lewis believes that Ambridge is ripe for an archeological dig
'The historical development of Ambridge, as revealed by archaeological test pit excavations' - Prof. Carenza Lewis, Professor for the Public Understanding of Research, College of Arts, University of Lincoln and Clemency Cooper, MA MSc PASt Explorers Outreach Officer, Portable Antiquities Scheme.
Professor Carenza Lewis outlined what she would expect to find if Ambridge organised a community dig, using Clavering in Essex as a model. She predicted the uncovering of a scattering of flint across many test pits, very little Roman or Anglo Saxon material, but the discovery of scattered medieval material/pottery at Bridge Farm and Home Farm. No one has done this kind of work in Worcestershire or Warwickshire so an Ambridge community dig would be very valuable. Lynda, take note.
4. Forget Hazel. Lynda may be responsible for the Grundys’ homelessness
'Lynda Snell as Archetypal Class Warrior' - Dr Peter Matthews, Lecturer in Social Policy, University of Stirling
Dr Peter Matthews, Social Policy Lecturer at the University of Stirling, believes that Lynda Snell is a perfect living example of the “elective belonging” that sociologist Mike Savage describes. She is an outsider who, on moving to Ambridge, is determined to use all of her power to mould it into the rural idyll that she wants it to be [think shepherd’s hut]. The positive consequences of this are that she is a powerful force against threats to Ambridge such as Route B. The negatives are that the actions of people like Lynda Snell have huge consequences on how resources in an area are shared out and can prevent necessary changes for other social classes - such as the building of new, affordable housing in Ambridge, meaning the Grundys cannot find permanent residence.
5. An Archers Academic Conference is a conference unlike any other
Make any reference to The Archers/Ambridge not being real and you will be roundly booed. Likewise, mere mention of the names Rob Titchener and Hazel Woolley is greeted by a chorus of hisses. And we bet this is the only conference that breaks at 2pm to listen to The Archers.
* The conference was organised by Cara Courage, Dr Nicola Headlam and Dr Peter Matthews from the Universities of Brighton, Liverpool and Stirling - an event of which Jim Lloyd himself would be proud... if he could attend... which he can... because he is real. Honest.
Here is the full list of speakers, all brilliant, and worthy of note, but too much for one blog post:
Keynote, Prof. Lyn Thomas, Professor of Cultural Studies, School of Media, Film and Music, Sussex University: Nostalgic Englishness, the rural everyday and high drama: The Archers in the 21st Century
Christopher Perkins, Reader in Geography and Programme Director Geography with International Study, School of Environment Education and Development, University of Manchester, Mapping Ambridge
Dr William Barras, Lecturer in Linguistics, University of Aberdeen , Rural Voices: What can Borsetshire tell us about accent change?
Dr Samantha Walton, Lecturer in English Literature: Writing and the Environment, Bath Spa University, Cider with Grundy: On Orchards and the Commonplace in Ambridge
Prof. Deborah Bowman, Professor of Bioethics, Clinical Ethics and Medical Law, Institute of Medical and Biomedical Education, University of London, From Dr. Locke’s Professional Boundaries to Carol’s Confession: On MedicalEthics in The Archers
Prof. Neil Mansfield, Professor of Design Engineering and Human Factors, Imperial College London and Visiting Professor of Human Factors Engineering, Loughborough Design School and Dr Lauren Morgan, University of Oxford, Tony’s troubles: back-pain amongst agricultural workers and design improvements
Dr Katherine Runswick-Cole, Senior Research Fellow in Disability Studies & Psychology, Manchester Metropolitan University, The dis/appearance of disability … or why Bethany had to leave Ambridge
Helen Burrows, MBASW, Independent Social Work Education Consultant, An everyday story of dysfunctional families: using The Archers in Social Work Education
Prof. Carenza Lewis, Professor for the Public Understanding of Research, College of Arts, University of Lincoln and Clemency Cooper, MA MSc PASt Explorers Outreach Officer, Portable Antiquities Scheme, The historical development of Ambridge, as revealed by archaeological test pit excavations
Dr Philippa Byrne, British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow, Faculty of History, University of Oxford, Scenes from the Feudal System in Ambridge: The Archers as Anti-Utilitarian Medievalism
Abi Pattenden, ‘Seeming, seeming’: Othello, reputation, and Rob Titchener
Dr Peter Matthews, Lecturer in Social Policy, University of Stirling, Lynda Snell as Archetypal Class Warrior