We need to talk about Matt...

Academic Archers co-founder, Dr Nicola Headlam, has some thoughts on the issue of Matt Crawford and just who was behind the wheel...read the introduction to the blog below and download it here


Can you catch the perpetrator of a hit-and-run in an ego-net?

Dr Nicola Headlam

This blog argues that Social Network Analysis (SNA) can be deployed as an investigative tool –using the hit and run of Matt Crawford in The Archers on 29th October 2017 as a worked example.  It explains the context for the incident, proposes that SNA, using graph analysis package YeD, can help in narrowing the field of those who may have deliberately or accidentally run over Matt and that these tools have more in common with the careful approaches of classic detective fiction as espoused by Miss Marple created by Agatha Christie.  It suggests that only a few of the tropes of classic detective fiction apply to village law enforcer Harrison Burns and that he may  need some help drawing on the methods of Miss Marple but further that a network approach might aid his investigations.  Using the SNA method of an ego-net focussed on Matt Crawford it explores those with network centrality by both motivation and circumstance and explores four further dimensions for the core characters which may rule them in or out of involvement  considering (1) their strength of their connection with matt,  (2) whether they are able to drive and with access to a car. (3) Whether they were in the vicinity at the time, and whether through prior behaviours they have demonstrated either (4)untruthfulness or a flexible moral compass.

It concludes that Matt Crawford’s ego-net contains 55 people, from which there is a long list of 29 possibilities and that perpetrator must be from within a defined shortlist of 5 of whom 3 have centrality, motive and opportunity (suggesting intention by the perpetrator) and 2 have only centrality and opportunity (leading to the conclusion that the collision was more genuinely accidental.)

Women in Ambridge Discussant announced

We are delighted to announce that Charlotte Martin (actor) aka Dr Charlotte Connor (Research Psychologist) is the Discussant for the afternoon conferemce panel, Women in Ambridge. 

The session includes topics on gossip and networks, gender roles, women in sport and on mental health, with two papers focusing on the character of Susan Carter, a topic that Charlotte is especially qualified to talk on. 

The symposium is organised on a voluntary basis by long-time fans of the programme, Dr Cara Courage, and Dr Nicola Headlam, University of Oxford.

Cara comments: ‘Academic Archers is for anyone that loves The Archers, wants to get to know more on its storylines and quite simply, want to talk about Ambridge and its residents all day. We’ve another day of varied, and some quite leftfield, takes on life in Ambridge and we can’t wait to welcome our delegates to British Library in February.’

Nicola adds: ‘Ever since @ambridgeview [Charlotte Martin] first engaged with us online we have been intrigued, as she truly is an academic Archer. As well as the character our Research Fellows love to study, Charlotte is herself a research active psychologist. We are delighted she has agreed to act as a Discussant for Women of Ambridge.’

Portsmouth in-store

Join Debi and Anna-Marie at the launch of Custard, Culverts and Cake at Blackwell Bookshop in Portsmouth. Debi and Anna-Marie will be joined by one of the book's editors, Dr Cara Courage where they will all speak about their involvement with the conference, the book, their work and The Archers.

Date: Wednesday 15 November 2017

Time: 5-6.30pm

Venue: Blackwell Bookshop, Cambridge Road, Portsmouth PO1 2EF

Custard, Culverts and Cake podcasts

Our Dr Nicola Headlam interviewed some of our Custard, Culverts and Cake book contributors on their chapters, and had a general conversation about all things Academic Archers. 

Not more than 15 minutes apiece, the podcasts get straight to the nub of Academic Archers - to be joyful, generous and curious in all that we do. 


“Be curious, be joyful, be generous”: a model for successful interdisciplinary research

Social Science research into the fictional world of a radio show could be seen as frivolous, but members of the Academic Archers network find it provides a lens for successful interdisciplinarity, and a unique way to take research beyond the academy.


Josh’s business, Lily’s party: ‘An Everyday story of Country Folk’ Online

Lizzie Coles-Kemp, Debi Ashenden and Nicola Headlam take a look at how The Archers undermines pervasive moral panic about social media, and provides alternative narratives about online safety and security in the context of community life.


Aldridge v Horrobin: Family Dysfunction and Social Class in Ambridge

Louise Gillies, Helen M. Burrows and Nicola Headlam discuss how the study of genograms for two of the village’s oldest families leads to surprising conclusions about where true family dysfunction is to be found in The Archers.

Academic Archers at Cheltenham Literature Festival

We were delighted to share a stage with Tim Bentinck, aka David Archer, at this years Cheltenham Literature Festival

The event, in the sold-out 900-capacity Town Hall, was an hour spent talking about the enduring appeal of The Archers, and of Tim's insights into the programme, also found in his Being David Archer book (a cracking read, and visit the companion website for images and audio, and to buy the book). 

Our Dr Cara Courage and Tim were in conversation with Radio 4 Broadcasting House's superlative Paddy O'Connell, and his dog, Bob (who some of you might recall stole the show on Paddy's travels around the UK one election time - he did the same this time, not to anyone's complaint). As ever, when you get a bunch of Archers fans in a room, it was a huge giggle, and the audience played a key role in proceedings - boo's when Rob was mentioned, chipping in with facts from storylines, and some great questions! 


2018 conference programme announced!

We are delighted to announce the programme for the 2018 conference schedule – another packed day of a smorgasbord of topics, from crime to Morris dancing, counter-insurgency to gossip, and introducing two new disciplines to the Ambridgology canon, Ambridgonomics and Ambridistaology.


The programme.

Academic Archers: Analyses of life in rural Borsetshire conference schedule*

British Library, Euston, London, 17th February 2018


8.30 am                                Doors and registration

9 am to 9.15 am                Welcome from Dr Cara Courage and Dr Nicola Headlam


Session One: Ambridgonomics - Planning and Economic Development in Ambridge

Part 1: The Housing Crisis in Borsetshire                

9.15 am to 9.25 am: Rich Relatives or Ambridge Fairy? Patronage and expectation in Ambridge housing pathways, from Claire Astbury, Head of Housing Strategy & Development at Luton Borough Council

9.25 am to 9.45 am: Staying in the Spare Room: Social Connectedness and Household Co-residence in The Archers, from Paula Fomby, Research Associate Professor in the Survey Research Center and Population Studies Center, Institute for Social Research, University of Michigan

Part 2: Placemaking and shaping

9.45 am to 10.05 am: Set in aspic?: Ambridge rural placemaking in a place of contested politics and conflicted identity, from Dr Cara Courage

10.05 am to 10.25 am: Can rural proofing make life in Ambridge better?, from Sally Shortall, Duke of Northumberland Professor of Rural Economy at Newcastle University and Anne Liddon, Science Communications Manager, Centre for Rural Economy, Newcastle University


Morning Break


Session Two: Wildcards

11 am to 11.10 am: Ambridgology and Counter-insurgency doctrine, from James Armstrong, political advisor to the NATO Senior Civilian Representative in Afghanistan

11.10 am to 11.30 am: Heavy Petting: An Examination of Metaphoric Relationships with Pets, from Rachel Daniels, Deputy Head and Group Leader, Barrington Library, Cranfield University, and Dr Annie Maddison Warren, Senior Lecturer in Information Systems, Centre for Electronic Warfare, Information and Cyber, Cranfield University



Session Three: Said and Unsaid

11.30 am to 11.40 am: Jim Lloyd: Quomodo Latine loqui facit? [how does he speak/pronounce Latin?], from Dr Catherine Sangster, ex BBC Pronunciation Unit

11.40 am to 12 pm am: Foucault, Freda Fry and the power of silent characters on the radio, from Rebecca Wood, Honorary Research Fellow at the University of Birmingham in the Department of Disability, Inclusion and Special Needs

12 pm to 12.10 pm: Accent and identity in Ambridge, from Dr Rob Drummond, Senior Lecturer in Linguistics at Manchester Metropolitan University


Session Four: Wildcards

12.10 pm to 12.20 pm: Their Names Liveth Forevermore: Recreating the Ambridge War Memorial, from Dr Jessica Meyer, University of Leeds

12.20 pm to 12.30 pm: Unique Borsetshire climate or exemplary sun protection?, from Dr Nicola Boyle, Harlaxton College, Dr Tanya Bleiker, Clinical Vice President of the British Association of Dermatologists, Dr Nick Levell, dermatologist and Nina Goad.

12.30 pm to 12.40 pm: The Morris in The Archers – and The Archers in The Morris, from Helen Burrows, social worker.


Lunch – including Morris dancing in the British Library square.


Session Five: Ambridgistas - Women of Ambridge

Part 1: Lives of Ambridge Women

1.30 pm to 1.50 pm: Does The Archers reflect contemporary values on gender, and sexuality?, from Bill Pitt, social researcher

1.50 pm to 2 pm: ‘I am woman, hear me roar - and now watch me play cricket!’, from Katharine Hoskyn, Auckland University of Technology

2 pm to 2.10 pm: Sow’s ears and silk purses: upcycling and The Archers, from Madeleine Lefebvre is Chief Librarian of Ryerson University in Toronto

2.10 pm to 2.20 pm: Strong or Silenced? The Under-Representation of Mental Health Problems in Ambridge's Women, from Elizabeth Campion, University of Cambridge



Part 2: Women’s Talk?

2.20 pm to 2.40 pm: In praise of gossip – why tongue-wagging and the rumour mill are important in Ambridge, from Louise Gillies, King’s College, London

2.40 pm to 3 pm: Neighbourhood Watch: Gossip, Power and the Working-Class Matriarch in The Archers, from Claire Mortimer, University of East Anglia

3 pm to 3.45 pm: Discussants


Afternoon break


Session Six: Pot Pouri

4.15 pm to 4.35 pm: It’s Not Cricket: Fibbing in The Archers, from Dr Ruth Heilbronn and Dr Rosalind Janssen, University College London, Institute of Education

4.35 pm to 4.45 pm: Fear, fecklessness and flapjacks: imagining Ambridge’s offenders, from Charlotte Bilby, Reader in Criminology, Northumbria University

4.45 pm to 5.05 pm: Paths to the polling station at the village hall: Social networks and voting in Ambridge, from Dr Timothy Vercellotti, professor of political science, Western New England University in Springfield, Massachusetts

5.05 pm to 5.35 pm: Closing remarks and prize-giving



*correct at time of publishing – additional guests TBC and times may be subject to change

Books arrived!

Early copies of Custard, Culverts and Cake have arrived to the publishers office - and they will be out with bookstores from 5th October. Copies can be pre-ordered online, in all the usual places, and go to the homepage here for a 30% discount code to order direct from Emerald Publishing. 

Its been a joy for us to work on, a huge thank you to all the contributors and to the team at Emerald for getting us all through it. 

first book picture.jpg

Conference Buddies

This year we're introducing a Conference Buddy system to pair up those that are joining us for the first time, with those that have been before.

It means that the buddies can meet up on the day, either arranging to arrive together or meet at registration, to take away any trepidation of joining a room full of strangers (and to assure you from audience experience that we're not a bunch of dry academics!).

When you book a ticket you will be asked if you want a buddy, and we'll then introduce the two buddies together over email. 


2018 conference box office open!

The third Academic Archers conference, a day of academic takes on BBC Radio 4's The Archers has opened its box office! Tickets available from: https://www.eventbrite.com/o/dr-cara-courage-9002739106.

This conference gathering sees us at BL - not Borchester Land, but the British Library, Euston, London, and we’re delighted to be there, its a wonderful venue and they are looking forward to having us.

From now until the end of November, an early bird ticket (£70) is available – limited in number so get in there fast! From 1st December up to the day of the conference, ticket price will then rise to £85. Tickets are for the full day, and include catering (ticket price covers the venue hire and catering only, no organiser or speakers fees).

Details of speakers will follow – our Peer Review Panel is just about to start on the decision making process of choosing from those ideas submitted who will get to speak on the day. As ever, we have an embarrassment of riches here, its set to be another diverse, inspiring and informative day – with a lot of laughs, as ever.