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.’

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

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