Custard...reviewed in the TLS

A review of Custard, Culverts and Cake appears in the current Times Literary Supplement, and the reviewer seems to have the measure of us perfectly! 

'It may look otherwise, but Custard, Culverts and Cake: Academics on life in “The Archers” is not a spoof. Instead, it involves the application of genuine research methodologies and concerns to the world of Ambridge and Borsetshire, which some people continue to believe is fictional. To underline that that is not the case, here each of these fascinating case studies is “peer reviewed” by an actual Ambridge inhabitant, so real academic protocols are applied throughout.

Ambridge is an outlier and a singularity, as well as a real place. Christine Michael’s essay on “The Ambridge Paradox: Cake consumption and metabolic health in a defined rural population” is a model social-medicine study that exposes a mystery on a par with the negative correlation in France between high blood pressure and coronary thrombosis.'

 

 

 

2019 conference schedule announced!

We are delighted to announce the schedule for the fourth Academic Archers conference! 

Topics cover cradle to grave themes and everything in between. Former pregnancy services worker Carolynne Henshaw talks birth rates and attitudes to pregnancy in Ambridge, and writer and journalist, Rob Stepney answers a common listener question of why are so many of The Archers still around to annoy us, with his paper ‘A series of unfortunate events? Mortality and medical incident in a small Borsetshire village.’

We’ll be looking at childhood, particularly that of Henry Archer, in ‘‘We Should have called him Damien.’ A discussion of the impact of Henry Archer’s early years on potential crimes of the future’, by Nicola Maxfield, Curriculum Manager for Health, Public Services and Education, Alton College, and the quandaries of middle age, through the prism of Shula and Reader in philosophy, St. Mary’s University, Hannah Marije Altorf’s paper, ‘This isn’t about curry, Alistair’: Shula Hebden-Lloyd and Iris Murdoch on Love.’

Brian will be pleased to know that farming business gets its own strand this year. But maybe not so pleased with two of the papers, ‘What to do when you’re no longer Borsetshire’s Business Person of the Year or How to handle a scandal’, from Olivia Vandyk, Communications Strategist, and ‘Borsetshire Businessman or Feckless Farmer?’ from Armchair Soil Scientist, Christine Narramore.

This year also sees strands on Ambridge and rural identities and the demographic composition of Ambridge, and three papers will be queering the village and its residents. Hit of the 2018 conference, NATO advisor James Armstrong is back, with a podcast satire on counterinsurgency in Borsetshire.

The full schedule can be found on the 2019 conference page, and box office is open

2019 conference box office now open!

Ta-da! The box office for the fourth Academic Archers is live!

You’re the first to know of course – you’re welcome to share this post as you wish, but we won’t be posting this news to other Archers sites or groups for another month so you have the chance to get in first!

The 2019 conference is taking place over the weekend of 6th and 7th April, at The Edge, University of Sheffield’s conference venue.

We start with the offer of a dinner for those of you travelling up on the Friday – 90 tickets for this available. The conference itself will be over the Saturday and Sunday, with an optional conference dinner on the Saturday night – a total of 300 tickets available for the conference and also for the dinner.

As ever, we have the cost of this at the forefront of our minds. Half the allocation of all the tickets are offered at an Early Bird rate (until 31st October or until all sell out, whichever comes first) and we have kept both the Early Bird and Standard ticket rates as low as possible. There is also a limited run Saturday-only ticket option.

All the tickets (the dinners, the conference options, Early Bird and Standard) are found on the one box office page but can be bought at different times so you can purchase to suit your budget and cash flow. Please note, the Friday night dinner has a 90 capacity, so you may want to book for that sooner rather than later if you are staying on the Friday night and please note that if you pay for one ticket at the Early Bird rate, you may end up paying the Standard rate for subsequent tickets.

Sheffield University has three on-site options for accommodation (though it may not be able to accommodate all of us) and we will send on details of that to those with a conference ticket from September. There are also lots of hotel, B+B and AirBnB options locally.

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/academic-archers-2019-in-sheffield-tickets-46680949978

Conference response - 'Boffin hits back at critics' - in Borchester Echo

Boffin hits back at critics

Professor Sally Shortall was unrepentant when Anne Liddon, our reporter from the Borchester Echo, caught up with her following her widely reported remarks about “rural proofing” – a process intended to ensure government policy does not disadvantage rural residents.  As readers will remember from previous coverage, the Newcastle University boffin is no believer in special consideration for countryside dwellers and has previously insisted that government policy should target need rather than geography.

Emphasising her own farming background and academic credentials, she went so far as to accuse the Echo of failing in its background research.  When challenged over the obvious housing deficit in Borsetshire villages, Professor Shortall conceded that some residents were disadvantaged but insisted your reporter had “the wrong end of the stick” and that she is, in fact, “very sympathetic to Emma Grundy” an Ambridge Parish Councillor who, as readers will recall, has been particularly vocal on this topic.

 “There is a rural housing problem but there is also an urban housing problem,” claimed Professor Shortall, before revealing a startlingly intimate knowledge of the private lives of Ambridge families.

“When the Grundy family lost their farm and had to move to Meadow Rise, a Borchester sink estate, everything went wrong for them and Ed Grundy went completely off the rails. Eddie bought a caravan and moved them back to Ambridge because the quality of life was so much better there, and Clarrie was so worried about whether they would have to go back to Borchester,” she pointed out.  “This nicely demonstrates that it is not a case of rural disadvantage and urban privilege – the Grundys wanted to get back to the countryside because it was better for their mental health.”

She was equally vociferous when challenged about rural transport problems.  Prominent local farmer Brian Aldridge has often complained about the lack of consideration given to land managers.

“We are expected to be custodians of the countryside but we get no special consideration for the added costs of living here,” he said when asked to comment.  “It costs me a fortune to fill up the car – and I have no choice but to drive a 4x4 to get around the farm.”

Professor Shortall was unimpressed however and accused Mr Aldridge of being “a polluter eating venison casserole.” 

“Don’t talk to me about Brian Aldridge” she fumed.  “But I am sympathetic to people like poor old Joe Grundy with his pony and trap.  Transport can be a real issue for certain social classes but it’s not about rural or urban.  You should go to some of the peripheral urban sink estates where people don’t have cars rather than presuming urban privilege.”

She referred us to her research report on rural proofing for the Northern Ireland Government and suggested we consult the work being carried out by Claire Astbury, Head of Housing Strategy at Luton Borough Council.

 

Save the Date! and Call for Papers!

A very important date for your diary – 6th April 2019, the date of the fourth Academic Archers conference!

Next year, we’re heading to Sheffield and have a venue that offers accommodation – so a veritable Butlins for Archers fans with Nicola and I as your Red Coat entertainers (but without the bing-bong-bing tannoy announcements of Hi-di-Hi).

We’re talking to the venue at the moment about a Friday night arrival dinner and going through to a Sunday morning conference session, so pencil in the 5th and 7th for now too.

As soon as the format and prices are agreed, we’ll open the box office!

 

Call for Papers - The Archers in fact and fiction: Academic analyses of life in rural Borsetshire

Dr Cara Courage and Dr Nicola Headlam invite the submission of abstracts to the fourth Academic Archers conference, to be held on 6th April 2019 at University of Sheffield.

The one-day conference will feature a number of 15 minutes papers, as well as 5 minute Quick Pitches and posters, around the programme and issues contained therein, of BBC Radio4’s The Archers.

Submissions are invited from any academic discipline and subjects. Past papers have included: 
- Rich Relatives or Ambridge Fairy? Patronage and expectation in Ambridge housing pathways
- Ambridgology and Counter-insurgency doctrine
- Heavy Petting: An examination of Metaphoric Relationships with Pets
- Cider with Grundy, On Orchards and the Commonplace in Ambridge
- ‘Seeming, seeming’: Othello, reputation, and Rob Titchener
- After the Flood: how can Ambridge residents develop resilience to future flooding?
- The Small Worlds of Ambridge: Power, Networks & Actants

This list is not meant to be proscriptive, exclusive or exhaustive, but is meant to inspire you to think how your academic research, sector professional expertise or listener forensic knowledge of The Archers can illuminate and explain life in Ambridge and Borsetshire as well as national and global rural issues. The conference is intended to give fans of The Archers a platform to exercise their love of the programme and their subject area and submissions for consideration are welcomed from those within academia and professional sectors, those working and retired and those with specialist knowledge of The Archers.

If you are a fellow The Archers fan and/or academic please submit your abstract of 200 words with a short biography to both cara@caracourage.net and headlams@gmail.com by 18th May 2018, indicating if you are proposing a paper (15 minutes), Quick Pitch (5 minutes) or poster (print and digital). Please submit this as a Word attachment. Programming will be determined by an Academic Archers peer review panel and will be communicated by 4th July 2018.

Further information on Academic Archers can be found at www.academicarchers.net/ where you will also find links to films of the 2017 and 2018 conferences.

Thank you all for a great conference!

Our third annual conference was a huge success - thank you to all our speakers, to our wonderful delegates, to Chuckling Goat for supplying us with its goats kefir, and to British Library for hosting us. Take a look at the 2018 conference page for all full low down! 

Thank you also to the support given to us from the media (and links to all of that can be found on the media page) and to the universities that have blogged about us, a selection of which can be found below. 

UCL Institute of Education, Academics speak at conference dedicated to The Archers

UCL Institute of Education, The Archers academic conference: hot ticket for Radio 4 fans and insurgency experts

CRE, CRE goes to Ambridge...tum te tum te tum te tum

 

Pip and progeny power - updating The Headlam Hypothesis

Following on from her paper at last year’s conference that looked at the family networks in Ambridge and where the social power therein lay, our co-founder/organiser Dr Nicola Headlam has updated this theory now with regards the current happenings in Ambridge – its baby boom, and what this means for where power is located. The PDF here updates ‘The Headlam Hypothesis.’

With Pip about to expand the Brookfield Archer clan, and through this, raising the cache of the Fairbrother family, both these families find themselves in a new position of influence vis-à-vis other Archers and non-Archers alike.

In Nicola’s own words, ‘In this blogpost I am focusing on the putative baby boom in 2018 in Ambridge and explaining the ways in which the Archer/Fairbrother baby imperils the Headlam Hypothesis and shores up the tribe of Jill both vis-à-vis the hitherto larger and more powerful tribe of Peggy, but also as regards the combined network strength of the non-Archers who had been gathering in strength by virtue of their multiple connections with one another.’

Ambridge after all is nothing if not about the Archers families and their tussles…

The January 21st 2028 omnibus – competition winners

Over on the Facebook group we ran a competition to win a free ticket to the forthcoming conference by predicting storylines for a 2028 The Archers omnibus and our brilliant Academic Archers did not disappoint! We chose one overall winner, and so impressed were we and such a close call it was, we chose some special commendations too, who will get a discounted conference ticket.

As The Archers hunts for a new editor surely these brilliant stories of revenge poetic justice and political careers must be in the Ambridge crystal ball…

 

Winner - Beth LadyMac

Joe Grundy, millionaire CEO of Tumble Tussock Cider Inc, and Peggy Woolley enter The Guinness Book of Records as the oldest couple to find love and marry, after an almost fatal argument about the venue and celebrant. They finally agree upon Lower Loxley Mediaeval Theme Park and the parachuting vicar, Nigella. Bartleby, the world's oldest working horse, takes them to their honeymoon destination, St Steven's Home of the Am Upstream. Brookfield Farm is now being managed by Fairbrother Ltd and is a successful distillery, its history commemorated in the names of its fashionable gins, the most successful of which is Grace's Stable. The Bull goes from strength to strength, little changed but for the addition of the DWE shower and B&B Block, financed by L & M Crawford (Costa Rica). Guests are sometimes unsettled by the call of a ghostly peacock.

Special commendations:

Eva Stickyfingers

Jack decides to request hormone therapy in preparation for a gender reassignment and intends to divorce Helen as a parent, while tracking down Rob to establish a new parent-child relationship

Vanessa FitzGerald

Pip’s twins, Phil and Heather, are 10 and already fighting over which will inherit Brookfield and which will inherit Toby’s multi-million pound gin business. Jill thinks they are both highly gifted and bakes flapjacks for them every day. Josh is furious at the injustice of one of the twins getting the farm, despite not having lifted a finger to help since 2015. Ben hasn’t been heard for the past 12 years so no-one knows, or cares, what he thinks. David and Ruth decide to sell out to Freddie, who has taken over Demara from Justin Elliott and wants to buy as much land as possible to develop his personal sideline - mushrooms and weed. Rob comes back having spent the past 10 years studying how to successfully block a culvert without getting caught and the entire village is destroyed in an epic flood. Only Hilda Ogden survives.

Sam Dixon

Having lost out on the Bridge Farm housing development, Emma has stepped into political life and is now spending most of her week at Westminster as a newly elected independent MP standing on the issue of affordable housing. She often meets up with Brenda in London. Ian and Adam have bought Grange Farm from Oliver where they live with 9 year old Alexa. Eddie & Clarrie live in Will's cottage while Ed and Emma are in a caravan still saving for their deposit. Pip has retrained as a relationship counsellor and is successfuly raising Jilly 50/50 with Toby who has bought a half share in The Bull (inexplicably renamed The Scruffy Duck) with his inheritance from Robin.