The Archers

The Archers
TheArchersLogo.jpg
GenreSoap opera
Running time12 minutes (formerly 15 minutes)
Country of originUnited Kingdom
Home stationBBC Light Programme[1]
later BBC Home Service
now BBC Radio 4
Created byGodfrey Baseley
Edited byJeremy Howe[2]
Produced byJulie Beckett
Recording studioBBC Birmingham
Original release29 May – 2 June 1950 (Pilot)
1 January 1951–present
No. of episodes19,128 (as of 12 January 2020)[3]
Six per week, plus 75 mins. omnibus
Audio formatStereophonic sound
Opening themeThe Archers podcast

The Archers is a British radio soap opera on BBC Radio 4—the BBC's main spoken-word channel—broadcast since 1951. It was initially billed an everyday story of country folk and now, a contemporary drama in a rural setting.[4][5] Having aired over 19,000 episodes, it is the world's longest-running drama.[6][7]

Five pilot episodes were aired in 1950 and the first episode was broadcast nationally on 1 January 1951. A significant show in British popular culture, and with over five million listeners, it is Radio 4's most listened-to non-news programme,[8][9][10] and with over one million listeners via the internet, the programme holds the record for BBC Radio online listening figures.[11]

In February 2019, a panel of 46 broadcasting industry experts, of which 42 had a professional connection to the BBC, listed The Archers as the second-greatest radio programme of all time.[12] Partly established with the aim towards educating farmers following World War II, The Archers soon became a popular source of entertainment for the population at large, attracting nine million listeners by 1953.

Synopsis

The Archers is set in the fictional village of Ambridge in the fictional county of Borsetshire, in England. Borsetshire is situated between what are, in reality, the contiguous counties of Worcestershire and Warwickshire, south of Birmingham in The Midlands. Possibly based on the village of Cutnall Green,[13] various other villages claim to be the inspiration for Ambridge; The Bull, Ambridge's pub, is modelled on The Old Bull in Inkberrow,[14] whereas Hanbury's St Mary the Virgin is often used as a stand-in for Ambridge's parish church, St Stephen's.[15][16]

Other fictional villages include Penny Hassett, Loxley Barrett,[17] Darrington, Hollerton, Edgeley, Waterley Cross and Lakey Green. The county town of Borsetshire is Borchester, and the nearest big city is the cathedral city of Felpersham. Felpersham also has a university. Anywhere further from Ambridge may be referred to humorously with comments such as 'that's on the other side of Felpersham!', but characters do occasionally venture further: several attended the Countryside Alliance march in London,[18] there have been references to the gay scene in Manchester's Canal Street. There have been scenes set in other places in Great Britain and abroad, with some characters residing overseas such as in South Africa and Hungary.

Since Easter Sunday 1998, there have been six episodes a week, from Sunday to Friday, broadcast at around 19:03 following the news summary. All except the Friday evening episode are repeated the following day at 14:02. The six episodes are re-run unabridged in the Sunday morning omnibus at 10:00. On Remembrance Sunday, the Omnibus edition begins at the earlier time of 09:15. This information is available in the press and on the BBC's website.[19]