Academic Archers

Along with Nicola Hedlam, University of Liverpool, and Peter Matthews, University of Stirling, I was organiser of The Archers in fact and fiction: Academic analyses of life in rural Borsetshire symposia, which took place on 17th February at University of Liverpool in London (and thanks to it for the kind donation of its room).

13 papers from across cultural studies, geography, engineering, archelogy, sociology, social policy, medicine, literature and history (full listing below) were delivered to an audience of 100 academic and ‘non-academic’ Archers fans and delivered and received with great enthusiasm, interest, and a lot of laughter.

Trending top ten on UK Twitter that day, the event garnered a lot of media attention too, with coverage in The Guardian, The Observer, The Times, The Telegraph, The Independent, New Statesman and the Daily Mail and across BBC Radio 4 on Feedback, PM and Farming Today, as well as local radio stations.

What we all shared was our love and knowledge of The Archers and we formed on the day a unique community of practice that we will be taking forward into research and dissemination projects, as well as publication and future symposia’s and events.

The conversation continued at #AacdemicArchers and on its Facebook page.


I just wanted to say thank you for organising yesterday - I had a lovely, lovely day, and you should all be proud of being responsible for such a successful event.  It's no mean feat to keep an entire room engaged and interested through an entire day, including the afternoon slot! It was also great to have so many different disciplines represented.  I really liked that variety, and again, it's a rare thing to have that spread of interests at a conference. 

I'd like to thank you and your colleagues for organising such a tremendous event. It was thoroughly enjoyable, with an excellent programme, built towards appropriate climaxes at each break, and treated of some very profound themes. It was great to see the way the presenters took seriously the questions and processes without taking themselves - or The Archers - too seriously.

Thank you everyone for such wonderful papers, and congratulations to the organisers for putting together such an engaging, hilarious and truly interdisciplinary day. I was really happy to be involved, and humbled by the Archers expertise in the room!

A very unusual conference - the interdisciplinarity linked by a fictional text really worked. And the audience just loved it. Quite an achievement as Archers fans can be very critical! 

The energy and encounters coming out the day are what conferences should be about. A fun-filed, focused, interdisciplinary, critical celebration.

The range of presentations and subject matter were outstanding and so humorous and some touched with sadness. There were many sobering issues dealt with in such an informative light way. Obviously using a soap as a medium to deliver education is clearly the way forward in education. I must remember this for my own undergrads and post grads.

it was great to take part in such a fascinating set of interdisciplinary discussions and to be able to talk to such an enthusiastic audience!

I learned a lot and laughed a lot, which is a fantastic combination.

Your conference showed academics have got a sense of humour and don't take themselves too seriously.

It was a fabulous day. I've been talking about it ever since!

The conference was just brilliant! A remarkable and memorable day!

A brilliant idea! I look forward to attending events in the future!

Thank you so much for making this happen

Telling everyone I went to an Archers conference seems to be making me very popular, everyone wanting to know what it was like. I think, 25 years after we left school, it might be safe to be out to my school friends about it, now they've all become listeners too...

 Prof. Carenza Lewis and Clemency Cooper

Prof. Carenza Lewis and Clemency Cooper



Keynote, Prof. Lyn Thomas, Professor of Cultural Studies, School of Media, Film and Music, Sussex University: Nostalgic Englishness, the rural everyday and high drama:  The Archers in the 21st Century

Christopher Perkins, Reader in Geography and Programme Director Geography with International Study, School of Environment Education and Development, University of Manchester: Mapping Ambridge

Dr William Barras, Undergraduate Programme Convener in Linguistics, School of Language and Literature, University of Aberdeen: Rural Voices: What can Borsetshire tell us about accent change?

Dr Samantha Walton, Lecturer in English Literature: Writing and the Environment, Bath Spa University: Cider with Grundy: On Orchards and the Commonplace in Ambridge

Prof. Deborah Bowman, Professor of Bioethics, Clinical Ethics and Medical Law, Institute of Medical and Biomedical Education, University of London               From Dr. Locke’s Professional Boundaries to Carol’s Confession: On MedicalEthics in The Archers

Prof. Neil Mansfield, Professor of Design Engineering and Human Factors, Imperial College London and Visiting Professor of Human Factors Engineering, Loughborough Design School and Dr Lauren Morgan, University of Oxford: Tony’s troubles: back-pain amongst agricultural workers and design improvements

Dr Katherine Runswick-Cole, Senior Research Fellow in Disability Studies & Psychology, Manchester Metropolitan University: The dis/appearance of disability … or why Bethany had to leave Ambridge

Helen Burrows, MBASW, Independent Social Work Education Consultant: An everyday story of dysfunctional families: using The Archers in Social Work Education

Jo Moriarty, Social Care Workforce Research Unit, King's College London: Heather Pet – a dramatic end to ongoing lack of good social care

Prof. Carenza Lewis, Professor for the Public Understanding of Research, College of Arts, University of Lincoln and Clemency Cooper, MA MSc PASt Explorers Outreach Officer, Portable Antiquities Scheme: The historical development of Ambridge, as revealed by archaeological test pit excavations

Philippa Byrne, British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow, University of Oxford: Scenes from the Feudal System in Ambridge: The Archers as Anti-Utilitarian Medievalism

Abi Pattenden: ‘Seeming, seeming’: Othello, reputation, and Rob Titchener

Dr Peter Matthews, Lecturer in Social Policy, University of Stirling: Lynda Snell as Archetypal Class Warrior