The 2017 The Archers in fact and fiction: Academic analyses of life in rural Borsetshire conference took place 17th-19th February, hosted by University of Lincoln. 


listener selection panel

32 speakers, 27 papers

175 attendees over 3 days


February 2017 saw the second Academic Archers conference, this time held over two days and including a field trip, and hosted by University of Lincoln, with thirty-two academics from all fields and across the UK and the world gathering to talk about The Archers from across their discipline boundaries, from social media, education, religion, the negative aspects of competing at Flower and Produce shows, birdwatching, class and masculinity in Ambridge, eating disorders and dietary health, flood resilience, social status and perceptions of physicality, and family dysfunctionality.

The conference dedicated a whole strand to the Helen and Rob story line, with papers covering coercive and controlling relationships, the disablement of Rob Titchener, nurturing traditional gender roles in The Archers, music and the ‘soundtrack to a stabbing’ and forensic Blood Pattern Analysis (BPA) at Blossom Hill Cottage. This sits alongside strands on Genteel country hobbies?, Educating Ambridge, The geography of Ambridge, Power relationships, Bereavement and spirituality and Ambridge online.

The organisation of the conference was underaken by Cara and Nicola, with the generous suport and huge capabilities of Prof Carenza Lewis and Julie Barclay, University of Lincoln. 

In the room, there was a total of 3349 years of listening to The Archers


Filmed proceedings. 

A huge thanks due to the University of Lincoln team for the livestreaming of the conference, the use of their radio station for down the line interviews, and for the films of the sessions, now all on YouTube. 

Genteel Country Hobbies?: In the first session of the Academic Archers Conference 2017 Professor Carenza Lewis, Dr Nicola Headlam and Dr Cara Courage introduce the conference followed by Rachel J. Daniels & Annie Maddison Warren, Joanna Dobson, and Christine Michael present the topic genteel country hobbies.

Educating Ambridge: In the second session of day one of the Academic Archers Conference 2017 Madeleine Lefebvre, Jane Tuner and Dr. Grant Bage, and Felicity MacDonald-Smith discuss Educating Ambridge.

The Geography of Ambridge: In the third session of the Academic Archers Conference 2017 Dr. Angela Connelly, Fiona Gleed, and Tom Nicholls discuss the Geography of Ambridge.

Helen'n'Rob: Session four of the Academic Archers Conference 2017 looks at the relationship between Helen and Rob. Speakers include Katherine Runswick-Cole & Becky Wood, Amber Medland, Elizabeth Campion, and Dr Freya Jarman & Emily Baker.

Helen'n'Rob: Session four, part two, Dr. Caroline Taylor and Keynote, Professor Jennifer Brown, continue the discussion of Helen and Rob.

Power Relationships: In part one of session five of the Academic Archers Conference 2017 Dr. Alastair Goode & Dr Cara Courage, Louise Gillies & Helen M Burrows, and Dr Nicola Headlam examine Power Relationships.

Keynote, presented by Hannah Ratcliffe (Assistant Producer, BBC Radio 4, The Archers) and Jenny Thompson (Producer, BBC Radio 4, The Archers).

Bereavement and Spirituality: Session Six sees Revd. Dr Jonathan Hustler, Rosalind Janssen & Dr Ruth Heilbronn, and Jessica Meyer discuss Bereavement and Spirituality in Ambridge.

Ambridge Online: In the final session of the 2017 Academic Archers Conference Professor Lizzie Coles-Kemps & Professor Debi Ashenden, Olivia Vandyk, Jerome Turner, and Dr. Nicola Headlam & Dr. Cara Courage discuss Ambridge Online.

    The programme.

    Session 1 – Genteel Country Hobbies? – Chair - Dr Cara Courage
    Rachel J. Daniels (Cranfield Defence and Security, Cranfield University) and Annie Maddison Warren (Cranfield Defence and Security, Cranfield University): “My parsnips are bigger than your parsnips”: The negative aspects of competing at flower and produce shows
    Joanna Dobson (MA English by Research at Sheffield Hallam University): ‘Big telephoto lens, small ticklist’: birdwatching, class and masculinity in Ambridge
    Christine Michael: The Ambridge Paradox: inverse correlations between cake consumption and incidence of metabolic disorders in a defined rural population

    Session 2 – Educating Ambridge – Chair - Dr Nicola Headlam
     Quick Pitch - Madeleine Lefebvre (Chief Librarian, Ryerson University, Toronto, Canada): Ambridge as Metaphor: Sharing the mission and values of a 21st century library
     Jane Turner (Principal Lecturer in Education and Director of the Primary Science Quality Mark, University of Hertfordshire) and Dr Grant Bage (Research Fellow in Research Rich Teaching University of Hertfordshire): We Don’t Need No Education - the absence of primary education in the Archers
    Quick Pitch - Felicity Macdonald-Smith (Newnham College Cambridge -retired): Phoebe goes to Oxford

    Session 3 – The Geography of Ambridge – Chair - Professor Carenza Lewis
    Dr Angela Connelly (Manchester Architecture Research Group, the University of Manchester): ‘I’m an Archer, get me out of here!’*: assessing Ambridge’s flood resilience
    Fiona Gleed (Postgraduate Research Student, University of Bath): After the Flood: how can Ambridge residents develop resilience to future flooding?
    Tom Nicholls (Lincoln School of Media, University of Lincoln,): ‘No, he’s not dead, he just moved to Birmingham’ – Geography and Identity in the Archers

    Session 4 – Helen ’n’ Rob - Chair - Dr Cara Courage
    Katherine Runswick-Cole (Professor of Critical Disability Studies & Psychology, Manchester Metropolitan University), and Becky Wood (Research Fellow, Department of Disability, Inclusion and Special Needs, University of Birmingham): Bag of the devil: the disablement of Rob Titchener
    Amber Medland: Culinary Coercion: Nurturing Traditional Gender Roles in Ambridge
    Quick Pitch - Elizabeth Campion: Coercive and controlling relationships: the case of Helen and Rob
    Dr Freya Jarman and Emily Baker (University of Liverpool): Soundtrack to a stabbing: what Rob’s choice of music over dinner tells us about why he ended up spilling the custard
    Anna-Marie O'Connor (Forensic Scientist, University of Portsmouth): Forensic Blood Pattern Analysis (BPA) at Blossom Hill Cottage
    Quick Pitch - Dr Caroline Taylor (Wellcome Trust Research Fellow, Centre for Child and Adolescent Health, School of Social and Community Medicine, University of Bristol): Dietary provision for pregnancy and lactation in women’s prisons: an illustration from the case of Helen Archer

    Keynote: Professor Jennifer Brown (Co Director, Mannheim Centre, London School of Economics): Rob is not a monster: understanding the antecedent’s of the domestic violence perpetrator using The Archers coercive controlling behaviour storyline as a case study

    Session 5 – Power Relationships Professor Katherine – Chair - Runswick-Cole
    Dr Alastair Goode and Dr Cara Courage: Does personal and social status affect perceptions of physicality? Or, The Archers and big willies
    Louise Gillies (King's College, London) and Helen M Burrows: Ambridge – a case study in using genograms to assess family dysfunctionality
    Dr Nicola Headlam (Research Fellow, COMPAS, University of Oxford): The Small Worlds of Ambridge: Power, Networks & Actants

    Keynote: Hannah Ratcliffe (Assistant Producer) and Jenny Thompson (Producer, BBC Radio 4 The Archers): Spooling back 66 years: an exploration of The Archers archive

    Session 6 – Bereavement and Spirituality – Chair - Prof Carenza Lewis
    Revd Dr Jonathan Hustler: “God in Ambridge” – The Archers as Rural Theology 
    Rosalind Janssen (UCL Institute of Education) and Dr Ruth Heilbronn (UCL Institute of Education): Freddie Pargiter - underachiever?
    Jessica Meyer (Academic Fellow in Legacies of War, School of History, University of Leeds): The Archers as lieux de memoire of the Great War in Britain

    Session 7 – Ambridge Online - Chair - Dr Cara Courage
    Prof Lizzie Coles-Kemp (Information Security Group, Royal Holloway University of London) and Prof Debi Ashenden (School of Computing, University of Portsmouth): ‘An everyday story of country folk’ online? The marginalisation of the Internet and social media in The Archers
    Olivia Vandyk, (social media consultant): The importance of social media in modern Borsetshire life: domestic and commercial
    Jerome Turner (Research Assistant, Birmingham Centre for Media and Cultural Research, Faculty of Arts, Design and Media, Birmingham City University): Being @borsetpolice: proposing an (auto)ethnographic understanding of Archers fan fiction on Twitter



    Speaker biographies can be found here