Entertainment & Arts

Archers editor Vanessa Whitburn to leave after 22 years

Vanessa Whitburn
Image caption Vanessa Whitburn says she has had a "wonderful time" running the show

Vanessa Whitburn, the editor of BBC Radio 4 drama series The Archers, is retiring from her role after 22 years.

She is the programme's longest-serving editor and under her leadership, it has reached audiences of 5m.

She said she was stepping down to "take a holiday, develop a project for TV drama and get involved in some more training overseas".

The show, which has been on air for 62 years, is the world's longest running radio soap opera.

Set in the fictional Midlands village of Ambridge, it charts the lives of its characters, many of whom are from the farming community.

"I have had a wonderful time running The Archers, always interesting and exciting," Whitburn said.

"I leave the programme in good shape with some strong storylines planned."

Gwyneth Williams, the controller of Radio 4, described her as "an excellent editor," adding, "we are very grateful to her".

"She leaves Ambridge in good health with almost five million listeners eagerly looking forward to the next episode."

Broadcaster, actor and writer Stephen Fry, who is a big fan of the series, described the drama on the Archers website as depicting "a 21st-Century village, with all the pressures of modern rural life".

Under Whitburn, the show has won awards including the Sony Gold Award, two Television and Radio Industries Club (Tric) Awards and The Royal Variety Club Personality of the Year Silver Heart.

Image caption Whitburn [R] celebrated 60 years of the show with cast, crew and the Duchess of Cornwall

She was also executive producer of radio drama in the Midlands from 1995 and was responsible for Silver Street, the long-running serial on the BBC Asian Network, as well as being behind single plays and serials for BBC Radio 3 and Radio 4.

Last year, Whitburn launched Ambridge Extra, a companion series to the show on BBC Radio 4 Extra.

The Archers is seen as a role model for radio dramas in developing countries, where the medium is used as a tool in educating through entertainment.

Whitburn has been behind radio drama workshops in Kenya, South Africa and in the US.

She has also lectured on radio drama and script writing and has produced and directed for television.

Last year, Whitburn received an honorary doctorate from The University of Hull, for services to broadcasting.

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