One of the staples of British radio broadcasting history (along with the Shipping Forecast) long-running rural drama The Archers will be 70 years old in January
The storyline of the anniversary episode itself is, as ever, a closely guarded secret, but celebratory programming on Radio 4 will include a special edition of With Great Pleasure at Christmas (25 December) where cast members from The Archers share their favourite prose and poetry. Selections will include Stella Gibbons’ Cold Comfort Farm, and a comic poem on the hazards of being an actor on a long-running drama specially written for Charles Collingwood (Brian Aldridge) and his wife Judy Bennett (Shula Hebden Lloyd) by their friend Sir Richard Stilgoe.
In a special edition of Farming Today (1 January, 5.45am), editor Jeremy Howe, actor Timothy Bentinck (David Archer) and agricultural story advisor Sarah Swadling discuss the role of farming in The Archers. Woman’s Hour (1 January, 10am) focusses on the female characters and storylines that have shaped the programme: comedian Angela Barnes; Charlotte Martin, who plays Susan Carter; Dr Cara Courage of the Academic Archers, Mary Cutler and Naylah Ahmed (scriptwriters), and Mary Quicke of Quicke’s Cheeses speak to guest presenter Felicity Finch who plays Ruth Archer.
After the Anniversary episode on the evening of New Year’s Day listeners are invited to figuratively gather at The Bull for The Archers Anniversary Quiz. Hosted by Borsetshire’s finest publicans Jolene (Buffy Davis) and Kenton Archer (Richard Attlee), two teams will pit their Archers expertise against each other. Radio 4’s own Jane Garvey, Martha Kearney and Chris Aldridge are up against three superfans.
On Saturday 2 January, eminent historian David Kynaston delves into the history of the programme in A Social History Of The Archers. The documentary features contributions by June Spencer (Peggy Archer), Patricia Greene (Jill Archer), Angela Piper (Jennifer Aldridge), Timothy Bentinck (David Archer), Louiza Patikas (Helen Archer), former programme editor Vanessa Whitburn, script writers Tim Stimpson and Joanna Toye, agricultural story advisor Sarah Swadling and Jeremy Howe.
And there’s more
The BBC has a lot more to say on the subject of The Archers, and you can read various interviews with some of those involved in the show in the media pack, available here.