...and the ironing board
I've just come out of the studio where I've been recording three scenes in the first episode of the day which starts at 0915 with my daughter Pip and husband David. I always like scenes with Pip, played by Helen, as although I haven't got a daughter of my own I do have two nieces who live up in Newcastle who are a similar age to her, so the trials and tribulations of teenage daughters (without giving too much away...) are not completely alien to me! One of the interesting aspects of the Archers is the huge cross-section of age groups the cast spans so today I've been with sixteen year-old Helen and a ninety year-old June who plays Peggy. The scenes were pretty straightforward family settings so didn't call for my favourite sound effect: 'the folding ironing board' which magically makes a perfect cow pen clank!
It's been a little odd seeing Tim again this morning as last time we met was a couple of weeks ago when he was playing Frank (a middle-aged professor) in Educating Rita rather brilliantly with a very shaggy beard and hippy hair... Today he's been shorn and i've got my husband back!
I'm recording again at 2.45 so I've had a gap of a couple of hours in between. Sometimes it's nice to just relax and catch up with fellow actors as we seem to spend a lot of time coming and going over the six days we record and never having time to catch up with people properly - and as there are now about 60 in the cast, some of whom are in very intermittently, it can feel a lot like passing ships...
Other times I'm desperately trying to log on to a computer somewhere to catch up on emails connected to alternative work. I'm often researching a feature for Woman's Hour or a half hour documentery feature for Radio 4 as my other job over the last ten years or so has been in this field. Today I'm trying to do some research for the programme 'Something Understood' which I'm presenting in January, as well as write up a report on some work i was involved in recently in Kabul. Believe it or not Afghanistan has its very own radio soap which was originally based on the Archers, called New Home New Life. It's a wonderful vehicle to get across really important information to listeners - education through entertainment - providing quite literally a lifeline to many listeners.
Well I need to go and grab a quick lunch now at the great café opposite the Mailbox here in Birmingham where we record - which must make a killing from hungry Archers actors... It's funny to think sometimes of the huge number of actors who've been involved in recording the programme for nearly 60 years. I feel very aware of this fact today as the last scene I recorded with Norman was broadcast last night. He had played Phil from the beginning. I feel very lucky and privileged to have shared these moments with him as he died two days later.
Felicity Finch plays Ruth Archer in The Archers
- Archers Week ran on the Radio 4 blog from 23-30 November 2009. 19 blog posts were published in all, from 17 authors. They're listed here.
- Radio 4's Archers web site is full of good stuff, like a map of Ambridge, family trees for all the big clans and a detailed who's who. There's also a 'two-minute guide' for Archers newbies.
- The Archers messageboards are among the busiest at the BBC - nicknamed Mustardland because of the distinctive yellow page backgrounds. They're a bit sceptical about Archers Week, though.
- There are two Archers podcasts: one for the daily episodes and one for the Sunday omnibus.
- Hedli Niklaus, who plays Kathy Perks in the serial, also runs the Archers fan club, Archers Addicts.
- Norman Painting, who played Archers patriarch Phil for nearly sixty years, died on 29 October 2009. The last episode he recorded aired on 22 November. Archers Editor Vanessa Whitburn paid tribute to him here on the blog and the Archers Addicts have collected listener tributes.
- The picture shows toys from the sound effects store cupboard. During our visit to the Archers' home in Birmingham dozens of photographs were taken, many of which feature pictures of cast members (and an ironing board).
- Twitter was put to use during Archers Week. #archersweek was the hashtag and we learnt that Tim Bentinck, who plays David Archer (@timbentinck) and Keri Davies, who writes scripts (@keridavies) are both Twitterers. Follow the Radio 4 blog on Twitter.