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

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.

Academic Archers on the road

Through the whole of March, Academic Archers co-founders/organisers are travelling the UK to talk all things Custard, Culverts and Cake, the book of papers from the second conference, and all things Ambridge.


3rd March, Lichfield Literature

‘On Life in The Archers’, and joined by Academic Archer, Joanna Dobson

5.15 pm, at The George Hotel

More information and tickets here.


10th March, Essex Book Festival

‘Custard, Culverts & Cake: Academics on Life in the Archers’

2 pm, at Colchester Library

More information and tickets here.


17th March, Aye Write

‘Academics on Life in The Archers’

6.30 pm, Mitchell Library

More information and tickets here.

World Championship of Irritating Archers Characters 2018

Knowing the love/hate relationship we have with those in Ambridge, the World Championship of Irritating Archers Characters 2018 caught our eye on Twitter this past week – so we asked its instigator, Andrew Camp (@arcamp1971) to blog on it for us.

At the time of posting, the Championship is into its second round – vote by following #wciac2018.


Although ‘The Archers’ has been, in some ways, part of my life since I was a small child, it is only since the digital age and the advent of podcasts, that I have been a compulsive listener. I loathe TV soaps and mini-series but radio drama often has me hooked and none so much as our daily visit to Ambridge.

However, it was only after discovering the Sunday morning ‘Tweetalong’ that I found like-minded people with whom I could discuss the programme. Without fail, I am reduced to fits of laughter by some of the irreverent Tweets made by various people about situations that arise in each episode. I love some of the put-downs of different characters, none so much as the following example on a recent show where Shula was asked where she would ‘be putting her cross’ in the forthcoming parish elections. A Tweeter, speaking on behalf of Shula responded with the delicious,

“I’m permanently nailed to mine.”

I also discovered the delightful weekly podcast, ‘Dum Tee Dum’ and eagerly await the often hilarious and mocking week’s review from the wonderful Lucy Freeman.

This got me thinking. ‘The Archers’ has a huge and loyal following of people of all ages and backgrounds. Yet the Tweetalong seems to prove one thing. So much of the show irritates us. We insult Lillian for her love of gin. We cringe every time Ruth speaks. We shake our heads in desperation every time Pip and Toby converse. Rarely an omnibus goes by without someone asking, ‘Is Peggy STILL alive?’ I made a list of characters I liked and disliked and the second column was almost twice as long. Yet, when I compared this to the opinions of others on Twitter, I found that just as many seemed to disagree with me as agreed. This then naturally led me to wonder which character irritated us the most.

The idea for the absurdly named, World Championship of Irritating Archers Characters came after seeing similar ‘events’ held by Richard Osman, of BBC1’s Pointless. He has run (for his several thousand followers) a number of ‘World Championships’ for subjects as diverse as crisps and Christmas songs. Shamelessly, I stole the idea and began this event. After a slow start, it now seems to be catching the Tweetalongers’ imagination and in just a few days, I have met some wonderful new friends and had some interesting conversations; not to mention being asked to write this article.

One thing that did concern me (and as such made me grateful to be able to write this blog) was that people may think I was having a go at the actors and the writers. This absolutely is not the case. I have nothing but total respect for everyone who contributes to ‘The Archers’ and wish I possessed even a tiny fraction of the talent they all display. This whole project is nothing more than an attempt at engaging with the wonderful people I speak to every Sunday morning, to embrace the irreverent nature of the hashtag group and maybe meet a few new people on the way.


Andrew R. Camp

December 2017

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.’

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.