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23/03/2017
BBC Radio 4


Ryan Kelly (Jazzer) has won an award for his contribution to broadcasting excellence and diversity.

The Ability Media International (AMI) awards were created by Leonard Cheshire Disability. They identify outstanding creative projects that encourage a more inclusive world for disabled people.

Ryan, who is blind, won the inaugural Tyzack Award, which recognises writers, producers and performers who 'transcend the stereotypical'. Judges said that Ryan was 'outstanding in his dramatic range, with immaculate comic timing and talent for harsh realism'.

They praised The Archers' producers for their 'groundbreaking' decision to award Ryan the fully-sighted role.

Ryan writes about the award and working on The Archers

A couple of months ago, when I was informed that I'd won an AMI award for my work in The Archers, I was totally gobsmacked. While I appreciated it more than I can say, I couldn't help thinking that the work is an award in itself.

I know that sounds sycophantic, but its genuinely how I feel.


Joining The Archers

In about March 2000, I was walking to the local nursery to pick up my nephew. My wife Sonia was slightly behind me pushing a push chair containing our daughter Bethany, helped by a very capable lab retriever cross called Flix. I had a golden retriever called Benson.

We'd just got to the edge of a very busy road when my mobile phone started ringing. It was Julie Beckett, one of The Archers producers, asking me if I would like to audition. After agreeing to do it and saying goodbye, I was so flabbergasted that I straightway told my dog to go forward, right into a load of traffic. It was a good job he had his head screwed on.

When it came to the audition, I tried three different accents, but fairly broad Glaswegian won hands down. I found out later, that the Archers people hadn't envisaged that one either but they liked it when they heard it.

When Julie rang to tell me I'd got the job, needless to say I was blown away. However, there was just one snag. How was I going to cope with the scripts? You can't read braille in front of a mic. The sound your fingers make running over it is picked up. To say nothing about having to read it with two hands and having to turn twice as many pages as everyone else.

As I'd learned the lines for the audition, it was decided that I could do the same for the episodes.

When I first went into The Archers green room, I was dumb struck with hero worship. I've listened since I was 11 years old and so for me it was, and still is, a job that I dreamed of.

Since I started ten years ago, the way I learn my lines has changed so much. When I began, a friend used to read them on to a dictaphone. Now, thanks to email, my lines can be learned via synthetic speech. The great advantage of this is that you can't copy the delivery in any way. If you did, you'd sound like something out of Doctor Who.


Quality banter

When it comes to recording, I mostly have a great time. The banter between scenes is of the highest quality. For example, I can't see the green light that starts a scene, so if I have the first line, the studio manager substitutes "green light coming" with "a smack on the head coming". Or some other violent action. Thankfully, it's really just a tap on the shoulder.

And when scripts rustle during scenes, I always apologise as a matter of course, even though I don't have one.

I'd like to touch for a moment on the atmosphere in the green room. It reminds me of a family living room. We've even got a ticking clock. The people I work with are never anything less than exemplary to me. I always get at least one laugh per episode. Once, after the read through someone said to me "Ryan, you did those lines so well one might almost think you'd learned them."

Since Jazzer has been in The Archers, he has got up to all sorts. Car thief, drug addict and ladykiller; to mention but a few. He has his good side though. He's even been a peacemaker. He seems to have settled down a bit in his older age, with one exception. He canny keep his mind or his hands off the lasses. All in all, he's a great character to play and although I think he's a bit of an idiot, I can't help liking him a lot.

In conclusion, I'd like to thank The Archers for giving me something to do and my marvellous family for giving me someone to do it for.

Keri Davies is an Archers (and Ambridge Extra) scriptwriter and web producer.

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