BOLDtexters Tim Stimpson and Liz John both write for The Archers, which is currently celebrating its platinum anniversary as the world’s longest running soap opera. In the blog below (taken from his website) Tim writes about reaching such a remarkable milestone.
January 1st may have brought to an end a truly ghastly year, but it was also the platinum anniversary of the world’s longest running continuing drama – or soap. Radio 4 marked it in a variety of ways, including a New Year pub quiz, Woman’s Hour and Farming Today specials, as well as a fascinating documentary about how seven decades of seismic social change has been reflected in The Archers. You can hear it here.
I make a few pithy contributions, alongside much more interesting guests, including current Editor Jeremy Howe, ex-Editor Vanessa Whitburn, as well as actors Angela Piper (Jennifer Aldridge), Louiza Patikas (Helen Archer), and the Earl of Portland aka Tim Bentinck (David Archer). The are also interviews with longest-serving cast member, Patricia Greene, who has played Jill non-stop since 1957, and 102-year-old June Spencer (Peggy), who appeared in the very first episode.
Writing the show day-to-day, it’s all too easy to forget what an extraordinary institution one is part of. Unlike the TV soaps, which are always looking for the next big sensation with which to hook in viewers, The Archers takes its time, eavesdropping on the residents of Ambridge for twelve meticulously researched minutes every day (except Saturdays when we turn the listening devices off!). As such it’s become an integral part of five million people’s lives, many of them ageing, raising families and overcoming challenges alongside the characters.
It was also startling to hear some of my colleagues’ deepest thoughts about the show. I was particularly struck by Paddy’s (sorry, Patricia’s) idea of Lakey Hill being God’s piece of Ambridge because it was there before the village ever existed. It’s why our characters so often walk up it when they are in need of perspective or time for reflection. I’ve never thought of it like that, but I will do from now on. It’s quite amazing that a programme created to improve post-war farm production has found such a profound place in the nation’s heart. As another ex-Editor Sean O’Connor put it in a recent Guardian article, it’s a “peculiarly English epic”.
And finally, if that sounds too high-minded, I also feature in a Telegraph article about sex in The Archers. I wouldn’t describe it as adult content, but you will have to get past the paywall to view it…