Though The Archers is recorded in a Birmingham studio, the brilliant writing, acting, and realistic sound effects will soon transport you to the heart of the English countryside!
1. The Archers is the world’s longest-running soap opera. It debuted on 1 January 1951.
2. Each episode of the Archers is 13-min long, takes 2hr to record and a month of episodes are recorded over six days, once a month.
3. It was first devised as a way for farmers to pick up messages that would help them feed a Britain that was still subject to food rationing after World War II.
4. It was originally billed as ‘an everyday story of country folk’, but is now described as a ‘contemporary drama in a rural setting’.
5. It’s set in the fictional village of Ambridge, in the county of Borsetshire. The Bull pub and parish church of St Stephen’s are at the heart of village life, and local villages include Penny Hassett, Loxley Barrett, Darrington, Hollerton, Edgeley, Waterley Cross and Lakey Green. The nearest big city is Felpersham. While none of them are real, think the area to the south of Birmingham, and you’ll be in the right part of the country.
6. There are around 50 speaking characters in The Archers but only five to seven of these appear in each episode.
7. Though they are mentioned regularly, there are lots of characters who have never spoken a word, including Freda Fry – the cook at The Bull and faithful wife of farm worker Bert Fry. She died in the last year’s floods.
8. Scottish scallywag and pig man Jazzer McCreary is played by Ryan Kelly, who is blind. Born without eyes, he’s the only cast member who learns his lines before recording. Everyone else just reads from the script!
9. Richard Attlee, who plays Kenton Archer and runs the pub with his wife Jolene, is the grandson of the former prime minister Clement Attlee.
10. David Archer is played by Tim Bentinck, aka the 12th Earl of Portland.
11. June Spencer, who plays Peggy, is the longest-serving cast member and even appeared in the first-ever pilot episode of The Archers, broadcast on 29 May 1950.
12. Because it’s radio, it’s pretty safe to say none of the characters probably look in real life as you envisage them in your imagination!
13. The now-famous, dum-de-dum-de-dum-de-dum theme tune to The Archers wasn’t written especially for the show. Called Barwick Green, it was penned in 1924 by the Yorkshire composer Arthur Wood.
14. The story lines often follow topical events, including the Gulf War, the death of Princess Diana, and most recently, floods and a storyline involving marital abuse…
15. Which brings us the dastardly Rob Titchener – who we all hate! He’d been chipping away at his wife Helen’s confidence – and her bank balance – for months, and it had us all on the edge of our seats until poor Helen finally fought back….or did she? She’s now had Rob’s baby and is banged up in a mother and baby unit awaiting trial while Rob’s got custody of Henry (Helen’s son by donor – we know, you couldn’t make it up!).
16. We held our breath last year when there was a dodgy moment where it looked like Ruth and David Archer, who run family farm Brookfield, almost upped and moved to Northumberland. But at the 11th hour, David saw sense and called it all off. Phew!
17. Before she married dastardly Rob, Helen was an Archer, the main family. Along with the Aldridges, they make up the main characters of the show. And they’re all related to one another one in one way or another!
18. All classes are catered for. There’s the out-and-out posh Jennifer and Brian Aldridge, and at the other end of the social scale, there are the Grundys…
19. Eddy Grundy is one of life’s chancer’s…always looking to make a some easy money, even if it means bending the law ever so slightly! Clarrie, his long-suffering wife is mum to William, the local gamekeeper (he works for Brian), and Edward, a stockman who has had so much bad luck it’s not true! Ed and Will used to hate each other, mainly because Emma, the mother of William’s child fell in love with – and married Ed. You couldn’t make it up… (Oh, they did!)
20. There have been plenty of controversial moments…like when Sid resigned the captaincy of the local cricket team because he discovered teammate Adam was gay… Or Ugandan Asian lawyer Usha Gupta was the victim of a prolonged series of racially motivated attacks by a local gang… Fellow villager Roy Tucker was revealed to be a member, a fact of which he is still ashamed. Oh and heavens above, in 1996 some residents were appalled when Janet Fisher was appointed the parish’s first female vicar!
21. We will never forget certain scenes. We all remember the moment when Tony Archer’s eldest son John died in a tractor accident in 1998 – and then his father found his body, already cold.
22. Also etched in your imagination forever is the moment, in 2000, when married publican Sid Perks (then married to Kathy) got extremely hot and steamy in the shower with country singer Jolene Rogers. Oh, Sid..! Oh, Jolene..!
23. And who’ll ever forget the blood-curdling scream as Nigel Pargeter plummeted to his death from the roof of Lower Loxley?
24. Thanks to Jennifer’s son Adam, who now manages the 1,585 acres of Home Farm, we now all know what an herbal ley is! You don’t? It’s sowing fields with deep-rooting herbs and plants that enrich the soil without the need for chemical fertilisers. (See – you do now!)
25. Adam is married to Ian, the head-chef at Grey Gables, the local stately home-cum-hotel. When they first got together, it caused many a raised eyebrow…
26. The Archers is broadcast on BBC Radio Four every day, Sunday to Friday at 7pm, and then repeated the next day at 2pm, except on Saturdays. Or you can listen to the omnibus edition, on Sunday morning at 10am.