Listener responses to The Archers' 60th anniversary episode

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There have been thousands of posts on The Archers message board, on this blog, Twitter and Facebook following last Sunday's anniversary episode. This post is my attempt to sum up the range of posts, views and opinions about it.


So did the episode shake Ambridge to the core? The majority of posts thought not and opinions ranged from "damp squib" and "OK", to "brilliant". Some think that 60 years of The Archers should have been celebrated with a happier storyline than the death of a much-loved character.

There have been questions over whether "sensible" David Archer would have goaded Nigel out on to the roof; why Helen didn't recognise her pre-eclampsia and why no-one asked what the baby's weight was; why there was so much "hype" around the episode; and dismay at the loss of Nigel Pargetter.

Many worry that the storyline brings us another grieving widow so soon after Sid Perks' and Phil Archer's deaths last year and argue that it's becoming too depressing to listen to. This coupled with the fact that Nigel was one of the more light-hearted, happy characters is making for a sombre outlook for The Archers. Here's a taste of some of the reaction on the message board:

Nigel was a genuinely sweet character, if not perhaps the sharpest knife in the drawer, and getting rid of him just seems wilful. I know it's ridiculous to feel sad about a fictional character dying, and I've never felt that way before when a TA character has popped their clogs, but in this case I do feel regretful because it seemed so unnecessary. (Soozi_quattro)

To lose a happy, positive and amusing character at Christmas is deliberately disturbing.
And the storylines to follow? A 3rd grieving widow in the last year? What misery do we have to look forward to. I'm afraid that after 20years I do not enjoy your programme anymore. The characters like Nigel and Linda were the ones that made me smile.
(Katisha321)

I would like to add my voice to those who can't bear the thought of listening to all that sorrow, but the thing is I will. I assume I'm in the majority. There are 6 million of us after all. I'm really not looking forward to my glass of wine tonight, which is what TA is to me 6 days a week. (Basia)

Like many others here, TA has been part of my life for as long as I can remember. I was listening before I could talk. I grew up partly in Yorkshire and partly in Ambridge, knowing the characters as well as I knew my family, neither Mum nor I ever missed and episode if we could possibly avoid it... My daily quiet 15 minutes alone with TA has been an important part of my life - my escape, my me-time, my relaxation. And yes, I'm not ashamed to say my obsession. Mum just phoned and asked if I'd be listening tonight. I told her the truth, that I probably will but that I don't know why. That I have a sick feeling in my stomach instead of my usual quiet anticipation. (Shy)

The only brightish spot was the return of Shula and quality of the acting in yesterday's eppie, which did bring a big lump to my throat. I have enough real grief and aggro in my life not to need or want more angst when it is time to wind down after a day at the salt mines... I shall be listening until the funeral but after that - really not sure. (E Yore)

I've been a listener to TA from way back and, yes, there have been tragedies before but I hated the way Nigel's death was just something to push up the viewing figures, unlike the 'death' of Betty Tucker, which was due to the actress wanting to leave the series. (Imnoangel)

On the run-up to the anniversary episode you invited various celebrities to pour out their love of The Archers for its organic storytelling and character development, as well as its avoidance of cynical sensationalism. I wonder how many of those famous fans feel the same way now? Why on earth did you think that the best way to 'celebrate' this sixty-year legacy was to defile it? To give two months' notice to an actor who has delighted us for thirty years, and to cast away a beloved character in this pointless way, all for the sake of a publicity stunt? What an act of mindless vandalism... You wanted to put cosy Lower Loxley in turmoil? Fine. You could have left Nigel terribly injured. You could have allowed the show to explore the long-term implications of disability. You could have really put Nigel's character to the test, as well as his marriage and the compassion of the community at large. But instead of letting the show expand and explore new ground, you chose to leave it diminished, and demeaned your listeners in the process. (M J Thomas)

I don't think this sensational way is really appropriate to The Archers. I also think that after the very moving events surrounding the death of Phil Archer, the listeners are longing for at least some positive stories to uplift them, especially at a time of hardship for so many people. I do not look forward to the days and weeks to come, with characters feeling guilt and grief. What a start to 2011. (LilianFred)

TA has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. I realise I am in the minority but I thought tonight's episode was brilliant. Tony was magnificent and so believable. Even Nigel's demise was good...what a twit! I would like to congratulate everyone involved in tonight's episode. Can't wait for the next 60 years. (orlapends)

They could have killed Nigel by having him trip down the stairs or have a sudden stroke. But no, they set up an utterly ridiculous but typically Nigel way to go and they kept us on the edge of our seats till the final 'Aaaagh'. No one will ever forget the night Nigel fell off the roof. It's as iconic as Grace in the fire. It's a bit camp, it's a bit silly, but it's unforgettable. That's the important bit. The 60th episode will go down in history as Nigel's plunge. Job done, now let ordinary service recommence. (Morganish)

There was a call for a rewrite of Sunday's episode in a thread started by fanofthearchers with ideas ranging from Nigel's ghostly form haunting the halls of Lower Loxley or perhaps reappearing after David Archer awoke from a bad dream about being out on the roof in the dark...

Read more on the Rewrite Sunday's epiode thread


Looking at Twitter, comments tagged with #thearchers hashtag revealed a fairly muted reaction to the anniversary episode "is that it?" but plenty admitting to shedding tears in the subsequent episodes.

#thearchers episode was really clunky, undramatic, unthrilling and overhyped - tho' scream was spinechilling (@PippaSandford)

#thearchers #sattc oh my, eyes welling up listening to the archers - can see how this may reverberate for 10 years (@Fearlessguider)


There have been plenty of messages of thanks to Graham Seed, which he has been reading and has thanked his fans on the message board. And as is tradition in "Mustardland" (the name given to the message board by posters), some have lent a helping hand with preparations for Nigel's funeral in order to give him a fitting send off. In a thread started by Country Squire, there are plans for Pip to play a recital and an invite for Nigel's old friend Tim Beecham...

Cranford Crystal will draw the bier to St Stephens and then on to the place of burial....next to Uncle Rupert's gazebo would be good. (Polly Tunnel)

The Paper Plate People would like to tender for the disposables. (villageschoolmaam)

Where are the radio Borsetshire outside broadcast trucks going? Assume Wayne Foley is going to do a solemn live broadcast on the funeral cortege plus a travel update. (Feral_Ralph)

Read more on the Now is the hour... thread


Tayler Cresswell is the host of The Archers message board.

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  • Comment number 100. Posted by ChinaFan

    on 3 Feb 2011 14:33

    Please can Horrid Helen take Simpering Shula onto the roof (perhaps with Vicky?)

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  • Comment number 99. Posted by Willowherb

    on 1 Feb 2011 18:42

    Tayler. It is now a month since the anniversary episode, with many long-time regular listeners no longer listening (in fact, many signed up to the MB or the Blog specifically to say so).

    The 2nd Jan eppie was upsetting and far-fetched enough but the current SLs, with so many character transplants, are simply ridiculous.

    1. Neurotic Helen now sweetness and light, with her perfect baby(a month premature - weight not mentioned) who never cries and is toted around the village in freezing weather?

    2. Amiable David believing he can organise a smart wedding while being rude to everyone?

    3. Bossy businesswoman Lizzie letting him?

    4. Clarrie being beastly to Vicky.

    We know Ambridge is fictional but the programme no longer rings true. It has become silly and I felt silly listening to it..

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  • Comment number 98. Posted by GrumpyOldGit

    on 24 Jan 2011 22:21

    This is really just to echo the opinions of many above.

    It's a shame when people in positions of power think that the best way to "spice things up a bit" is to stamp on talented and well respected (but apparently dispensable) underlings. Still, I guess that's the way of the world these days.

    My mother had been listening to the Archers for many years, and me just the last 10 or so. Neither of us would care too much about the loss of an odd Editor or two, but a pivotal character is a completely different thing. Neither of us will be listening again, unless there's a Patrick Duffy moment ...

    So, well done Vanessa, I hope you're pleased with the outcome.

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  • Comment number 97. Posted by Margaret

    on 17 Jan 2011 22:46

    To misquote Mr Knightley when Emma gets it SO wrong: 'Twas badly done, Vanessa, badly done indeed!
    Celebration implies something joyful, something to bring pleasure and happy memories. We can (heretofore) leave all the death stuff to the inferior TV soaps, but as others have said before me, TA has been dragged into the sensationalist twaddle we know we can get from the TV. I haven't been as dedicated to TA over the last year or two and had thought this anniversary would bring me back to avid listening. It hasn't. Doubtless I will pop in and out from time to time, but I think you have missed a great opportunity to gather me and probably many others back into Ambridge.

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  • Comment number 96. Posted by A Peverall

    on 17 Jan 2011 18:10

    I sent a blog to the blog page a few days ago. cant find it, so here it is again, briefly.
    Killing off a really well appreciated character was a terrible mistake as so many others have said. I think its because you couldnt stand the fact that he was middle class, and we cant have them can we?
    We need a balance to the hunting shooting brigade, we need a fun person who had a good heart, ie, he was an environmentalist. We need that balance on TA. We have no longer got it. And what a stupid shock tactic to celebrate 60 years. We know its not a true story but at least it was more realistic that the awful Eastenders and Corrie. Radio listeners had the edge, a realistic soap. Now we have nothing. Might as well watch telly.
    Archers was only just hanging on in there, with a load of whiney people or busybodies, now it has only those, and nothing else.

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  • Comment number 95. Posted by Sister Gnome of Wibbling Plume DefiantUntoThingy

    on 17 Jan 2011 16:15

    Only a decade of listening for me, but the Nigel/Helen debacle has finished my tuning in, for all the myriad reasons listed elsewhere in these blogs and on the boards, and written remarkably articulately by so many others. I've read the odd synopsis, heard a minute of an odd few episodes since, but the OFF button has been pressed each time, very quickly: this whole 'celebration' has been a huge misjudgement and compromised so many characters.

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  • Comment number 94. Posted by dak

    on 16 Jan 2011 17:53

    If you're counting lost listeners then add another one. Neither Nigel or David would ever have been so stupid as to attempt anything like that stunt, and the stream of clumsy hints throughout the programme was scriptwriting at its worst.

    The biggest problem for the programme now is that it will be forever associated with this nasty sensationalism instead of what it has been: for example, the beautifully crafted story and acting following Jack's descent into the hell of Alzheimer's has been radio drama at its very best.

    Once Ms Whitburn goes (hopefully taking her PC agenda and the tiresome Helen with her) and the programme is once again "an everyday story of country folk" I'll be back. You'll let me know, won't you, because I'm already missing what The Archers used to be.

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  • Comment number 93. Posted by Brian-of-Britain

    on 16 Jan 2011 15:50

    Cathysusie,

    This where the plot line came from :-

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M3ks4qtAx-A

    There are 3 parts and you will get the prompt when one finishes. It is worth watching all of it and to think 1961 - a 50 yearold plot recycled!

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  • Comment number 92. Posted by HillBill

    on 16 Jan 2011 11:34

    Well I've had two weeks sans Archers and also sans cigarettes. Victory is mine - I'm missing neither and my mood has improved tremendously!

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  • Comment number 91. Posted by read2me

    on 14 Jan 2011 16:56

    You have seriously underestimated the number who have stopped listening. They have also not listened to the programmes following The Archers in many cases. All of Radio 4 has been badly damaged by this shocking error of judgement.

    An apology is the least we are entitled to.

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