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Brenda vs Matt

Friday 21 January 2011, 17:13

Keri Davies Keri Davies Web Producer, The Archers

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Amy Shindler (Brenda Tucker)

Brenda Tucker is celebrating her 30th birthday today, in a room strewn with memories collected by step-mum Vicky.

They probably don't include the time Brenda clashed with Matt Crawford over a housing development, and very nearly lost her job as a local radio reporter:

In March 2001, Matt Crawford revealed a plan to the board of Borchester Land. He intended the company to take advantages of proposed changes to the Ambridge 'village envelope'. They would build a housing estate on land they owned opposite Ambridge Farm: 30 four- and five-bedroomed houses and eight low-cost homes.

Perturbed about the impact this would have on the village, Borchester Land board member Brian Aldridge mentioned his worries to his wife Jennifer, who unwisely shared her concerns with her mother Peggy Woolley. Through Peggy's husband Jack it was discussed on the parish council and soon became common knowledge, to Matt's fury.

Parish councillor Siobhan Hathaway rang the Wayne Foley show on Radio Borsetshire to publicise the issue. Wayne visited the village to find that most were against it, the exceptions being local businesses who could use the extra trade, and young people who despaired of finding a home in the village of their birth.

At this time, Brenda was working as a junior reporter for Radio Borsetshire. Intrigued by a big story on her home turf, she investigated further. She was soon quizzing Brian on her findings. Andrew Eagleton, a board director of Borchester Land, owned a Jaguar dealership in London. Stephen Chalkman, a member of the district council planning committee, had been seen lunching with him and recently obtained a new Jag from Eagleton's dealership. Brian smoothly warned Brenda about chasing stories of non-existent corruption.

But Brenda couldn't resist the chance of a live interview with Chalkman to insinuate that he was taking backhanders. The results were explosive. Matt warned Brian to contain the problem. Brenda's bosses threatened her with the sack and downgraded her role to reporting on flower shows and other non-controversial topics. The station carried an on-air apology and Brenda apologised herself to Brian.

But Brian was sufficiently concerned about the whiff of corruption to ask her for more details. Brenda had been tipped off that Councillor Chalkman and Andrew Eagleton used to be directors of the same company. There were three directors: Eagleton, Chalkman and Chalkman's wife under her maiden name of Meredid Calder.

Brian discovered that Meredid Calder was on the board of one of Borchester Land's parent companies, an interest which Chalkman had not declared. This gave Brian the ammunition he needed to force Matt to reduce his grand plans. After a not-too-subtle attempt to bribe Brian, Matt took action. In June 2001, Meredid resigned from the parent company and Stephen Chalkman gave up his post as a councillor. Chalkman later joined the board of Borchester Land, and became Matt's partner in the fraudulent Crawford Chalkman Capital Partners Ltd - but that's another story.

Borchester Land submitted a reduced plan, which was reduced still further in negotiation with the council. By March 2004 offers had been accepted for the 12 executive homes and six low-cost dwellings of Grange Spinney.

Keri Davies is an Archers scriptwriter and web producer.

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  • rate this

    Comment number 1.

    Sorry still not listening.

  • rate this

    Comment number 2.

    Me neither

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    Comment number 3.

    Kerry, it seems like your team does not understand your listeners (many, like me, now ex listeners) - most have listened for over 20 years, some for a lot longer.

    Although the majority of those who have been listening faithfully for many years are over 50 we are not (like poor Jack) suffering from Altzheimers and do not need a lesson on recent Archers' history from you!

    What we do want from the Archers team is a humble apology for the appallingly poor plot (if we wanted this sort of ill-thought out rubbish we'd watch TV Soaps) and the disgraceful treatment of Graham Seed.

  • rate this

    Comment number 4.

    Another ex-listener, just stopping by to see if there has been any acknowledgement of or apology for ruining a comforting institution for so many people.
    I will not return to the programme, as The Archers will never be worth investing my emotions on again - not now I know the team is capable of treating us so poorly. The Archers was once my light-hearted "escape" and "comfort" and "continuity" in a life often scattered with sadness and bereavement. I have no desire to visit a fictitious world dealing with death after death after death!
    What an incredible shame to take away a once wonderful story/place from us all.

  • rate this

    Comment number 5.

    Ditto to what Waltersdaughter said.

    (Also I have always pictured Brenda as blonde and refuse to change my mental image of her ;-) )

  • rate this

    Comment number 6.

    Puzzled about why you're repeating an old storyline like this. It's TEN YEARS old, fgs, and could hardly be described as thrilling. Best concentrate on devising something new to lure all the lost listeners back again.

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    Comment number 7.

    Still not listening, too. Still wondering why my emailed complaint has been dismissed as 'feedback'.

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    Comment number 8.

    Well I would like to thank Keri for writing this detailed blog. This is not the place for continued moaning IMO.

  • rate this

    Comment number 9.

    In common with Waltersdaughter (4), I've just popped by too to check out the lie of the land. Disappointed to see that very little has changed and that the powers that be are still in denial.

    Keri, lets face it, the vast majority of us who take the time to read and respond to these blogs have only one subject on our minds at the moment. Items on cattle and bellringing, fascinating as they are, are quite simply 'off message' (your phrase, I believe) as far as most of us are concerned.

    A comprehensive response from VW acknowledging the level of dissatisfaction expressed by dedicated and, usually, long term listeners to The Archers is long overdue.

    Off now to listen to VWs reportedly inadequent response on Feedback via iPlayer.


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