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:

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.

2018 Conference Call for Papers

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 third Academic Archers conference, to be held on 17th February 2018 at The British Library, London.

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 might include but are by no means limited to:

·         Queer perspectives on life in Ambridge

·         Rural housing development – who benefits?

·         Entrepreneurialism in rural communities

·         Politics and protest – ‘right to the field’ in Borsetshire

·         Brexit & Ambridge, what future post CAP?

·         Gender, class and cricket in the village

·         What is a gossip? Gendered approaches to info sharing

·         Intergenerational justice in Ambridge

·         Greenwashing Ambridge, from eco-warriors to biodiversity accountants?

This list is not meant to be 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. The day is intended to give fans of The Archers a platform to exercise their love of the programme and their subject area.

If you are a fellow Archers fan and/or academic please submit your abstract of 200 words with a short biography to both and by 28th July, indicating if you are proposing a paper, Quick Pitch or poster. Please submit this as a Word attachment. Programming will be determined by an Academic Archers panel and will be communicated by mid-September.


Book number 2...

We are delighted to say that the next Academic Archers book, Custard, Culverts and Cake: Academics on life in The Archers, has been sent to the print and will be available for pre-order imminently and on the shelves in October. 

It has been a joy to work with Emerald and we're all super excited to see the book in print, and to put a smile on our readers faces! A huge thanks you of course to the contributors that worked so hard on this and to turn around their chapters so quickly and so diligently. 

BY way of some sweeteners to the book, the wonderful cover can be seen below, and here's a link to the episode (if you can bear to listeh to it again!) that is the focus of the Emily Baker (University of Liverpool) and Freya Jarman (University of Liverpool) chapter, Soundtrack to a stabbing: what Rob’s choice of music over dinner tells us about why he ended up spilling the custard