The Archers celebrates 60th anniversary

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The soap has been recorded in Birmingham since 1950

The world's longest running radio soap opera, The Archers, is celebrating its 60th year.

Set in the fictional Midlands village of Ambridge, it has been recorded in Birmingham since 1950.

The milestone was reached as actors and colleagues gathered on Thursday to pay tribute to Norman Painting, best known for playing Phil Archer since 1950.

The Radio 4 drama was first described as an everyday tale of country folk but has since tackled controversial issues.

One storyline which led to a stream of listeners' letters was Ruth's battle with breast cancer.

"There was a woman who wrote in saying 'thank you, thank you, if it hadn't been for me listening to The Archers, I would never have found out I had a lump in my breast'," said actress Felicity Finch, who plays Ruth.

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Another memorable episode in the BBC soap was when Phil Archer's wife, Grace, was burnt to death with 20 million listeners tuning in to find out what happened.

But actor Tim Bentinick, who plays David Archer said people do not always want high drama and the gentle ambling of the series gives it a sense of reality.

This week's stories included Tom and Jazzer having trouble with the pigs while Lilian confided in Jennifer about Paul, and Harry moved in at The Bull.

"I think people like it when it's not hugely exciting and you can go along kind of, not being dull but every day," Mr Bentinick said.

"I think that gives it a reality that high drama doesn't often have."

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