Cheltenham Literary Festival

Delighted to be asked to join a panel at the Chelthenham Literary Festival, on 11th October, to talk The Archers, with a very esteemed guest alongside! 

Tickets will be on sale in due course, but in the meantime, this to whet your appetite: 

'Charting the ups and downs in the lives of residents of rural Ambridge, The Archers has captured record numbers of listeners for over 60 years. So what is the secret behind its enduring success? Cara Courage, co-founder of The Academic Archers conference, and Tim Bentinck, best known for his role as David Archer in the drama, speak to Paddy O’Connell about the world’s longest-running radio soap and its influence upon our contemporary culture.'

Academic Archers - book 2

Dr Nicola Headlam and myself are delighted to be working with Emerald to publish the second  Academic Archers book, out in the Autumn. 

Custard, Culverts and Cake: Academics of life in The Archers is the collected volume of papers from the 2017 Academic Archers conference, a sometimes serious and most often wry look at the people of Ambridge, and each chapter satirically peer-reviewed by one of those residents.

The book comes out of the 2017 Academic Archers conference that featured leading scholars in their fields that merged their love of The Archers with their specialist subjects, from aspects of the Helen and Rob story, through to food, geography, social media and faith.

The book blurs the line between The Archers being fictitious and Ambridge being a real place in a county called Borsetshire, deliberately obscuring boundaries between fact and fiction. It gives the reader a fuller understanding of the real life issues covered in the programme, a deeper insight into the residents of Ambridge, and the validation that their hours of listening to The Archers is indeed academic research.

To keep up to date with all things Academic Archers, head over to its website and sign up to its newsletter. 

Academic Archers 2017 conference

February 2017 sees the second Academic Archers conference, this time held over two days and including a field trip, and hosted by University of Lincoln, with thirty-two academics from all fields and across the UK, gathering to talk on a subject that crosses their discipline boundaries, Radio 4’s The Archers.

The Archers in fact and fiction: Academic analyses of life in rural Borsetshire takes an academic perspective on life in Ambridge and Borsetshire, with papers from across academic disciplines, from social media, education, religion, the negative aspects of competing at Flower and Produce shows, birdwatching, class and masculinity in Ambridge, eating disorders and dietary health, flood resilience, social status and perceptions of physicality, and family dysfunctionality.

Unsurprisingly, the conference is dedicating a whole strand to the Helen and Rob story line, with papers covering coercive and controlling relationships, the disablement of Rob Titchener, nurturing traditional gender roles in The Archers, music and the ‘soundtrack to a stabbing’ and forensic Blood Pattern Analysis (BPA) at Blossom Hill Cottage. This sits alongside strands on Genteel country hobbies?, Educating Ambridge, The geography of Ambridge, Power relationships, Bereavement and spirituality and Ambridge online.

Taking place over Friday 17th to Saturday 18th of February 2017, the Friday evening sees a field trip to one of the places considered to be an Ambridge birth place, Rippingale, for a film, talk and meal at The Bull Inn. 

The full programme can be found here and listed below. The book of papers from the first conference, with reviews by The Archers characters can be found in bookshops and online

To register to attend the conference please go to the University of Lincoln shop page at

Conference Fee – £50. This rate includes entry to all of the conference presentations as well as refreshments throughout the conference and lunch on both days. If the conference is over- subscribed a waiting list system will be available. Friday evening trip to Rippingale including conference dinner - £30 (including return travel, talk and a film on how the village inspired the programme, and The Archers-themed menu at The Bull Inn). 

Accommodation is NOT included in the conference fee, but a wide range of accommodation to suit all requirements and budgets is available in the city of Lincoln at

The University of Lincoln has secured a preferential rate for Academic Archers conference delegates with the Holiday Inn Express Lincoln City Centre for the night of Friday 17th February 2017. This is very close to the conference venue, and 50 rooms are available at £70.00 per room, per night on a first-come-first-served basis. This rate includes breakfast, WiFi and VAT. Car parking, if required, is £5.00 per vehicle, per night, payable on arrival at reception. Lincoln is a lovely city and if you decided to make a weekend of it and stay Saturday night as well, there are also 20 rooms available at £95 per room per night for Saturday 18th February, also on a first-come- first-served basis.

To book at this rate, call 0871 902 1617 option 5 which will bring you straight through to the Holiday Inn Express Lincoln City Centre Team. When booking your room please let them know that you are booking as part of The Academic Archers Conference. Payment will be taken in full at the time of booking and is non-refundable once paid. This rate cannot be booked via the website, any third party or via the central reservations team. You can book at this rate up to and including the day of Monday 23rd January 2017. Please remember that accommodation is not included in the conference fee and needs to be paid for separately.

2017 Schedule: 

Session 1 – Genteel country hobbies? – Chair Dr Cara Courage

Daniels & Maddison Warren: “My parsnips are bigger than your parsnips”: The negative aspects of competing at Flower and Produce shows.

Dobson: ‘Big telephoto lens, small ticklist’: birdwatching, class and masculinity in Ambridge.

Michael: The Ambridge Paradox: inverse correlations between cake consumption and incidence of metabolic disorders in a defined rural population.

Session 2 – Educating Ambridge – Chair Professor Carenza Lewis

Lefebvrere: Ambridge as Metaphor: Sharing the mission and Values of a 21st century library.

Turner & Bage: We Don’t Need No Education - the absence of primary education in the Archers.

Macdonald-Smith: Phoebe goes to Oxford.


Session 3 – The Geography of Ambridge – Chair Professor Carenza Lewis

Connelly: ‘I’m an Archer, get me out of here!’: assessing Ambridge’s flood resilience.

Gleed: After the Flood: how can Ambridge residents develop resilience to future flooding.

Nicholls: Placing Ambridge in the West Midlands – Geography, Identity and Culture (pre-field trip think-piece).

Field Trip and dinner (optional)

 Latham: Rippingale and the Origin of The Archers, followed by dinner at The Bull Inn, Rippingale.

Session 4 – Helen ’n’ Rob - Chair Dr Cara Courage

     Runswick-Cole & Wood: Bag of the devil: the disablement of Rob Titchener.

     Medland: Culinary Coercion; nurturing traditional gender roles in Ambridge.

      Campion: Coercive and controlling relationships: the case of Helen and Rob.

     Jarman & Baker: Soundtrack to a stabbing: what Rob’s choice of music over dinner tells us about why he          ended up spilling the custard.  

      O’Connor: – Forensic blood pattern analysis at Blossom Hill Cottage

     Taylor: Dietary provision for pregnancy and lactation in women’s prisons: an illustration from the case of Helen Archer

      Keynote : Brown: A legal perspective on ‘Helen & Rob’


Session 5 – Power relationships - Chair Dr Peter Matthews

 Goode & Courage: Does personal and social status affect perceptions of physicality? Or, The Archers and big willies.

Gillies & Burrows: Ambridge – a case study in using genograms to assess family dysfunctionality.

Headlam: The Small Worlds of Ambridge: Power, Networks & Actants.

Session 6 – Bereavement and spirituality – Chair Dr Nicola Headlam

 Hustler: “God in Ambridge” – The Archers as Rural Theology.

Janssen & Heilbronn: Freddie Pargiter - underachiever?.

Meyer: The Archers as lieux de memoire of the Great War in Britain.


Session 7 – Ambridge Online - Chair - Dr Cara Courage

 Coles-Kemp and Ashenden: ‘An everyday story of country folk’ online? The marginalisation of the Internet and social media in The Archers.

Vandyk: ‘An everyday story of country folk’ online? The marginalisation of social media in The Archers

Turner: Being @borsetpolice: proposing an (auto)ethnographic understanding of Archers fan fiction on Twitter



Academic Archers book out!

The Archers in fact and fiction: Academic analyses of life in rural Borsetshire, edited by Cara Courage, Nicola Headlam and Peter Matthews, is published today by Peter Lang.

Academic Archers front cover.jpg

The book takes an academic perspective on BBC Radio 4’s The Archers and life in Ambridge and Borsetshire and comes from the Academic Archers conference held in February this year. Each chapter is based on one of the conference papers, reaching across academic disciplines and topics from analyses of rural accents and archelogy, through to back pain and the ergonomics of the tractor, a Shakespearian understanding of character Rob Titchener, and issues of social care and class.

In a twist to the academic peer review, each chapter closes with a peer review from the character that is its focus or that is closest to the topic, responses ranging from praising, the humble brag to the indignant and confused.

Cara comments: ‘It’s been to joy to work on this book and thank you to everyone that has been a part of it. As with everything Academic Archers it’s been a fun process, the peer reviews in particular have brought tears of laugher.’

We are doing this out of a love for the programme, and of our subjects, the day intended to join the two to illuminate and explain life in Ambridge and using the programme to talk about wider social issues too.’

Nicola continues: ‘We always knew that there were a lot of Archers fans out there in academia, Academic Archers has formed a place for us and all fans of the programme to talk about the issues it raises in more depth’.

Peter also comments: ‘The response from Archers listeners has been overwhelmingly positive and we’re looking forward to the responses to this book and to the next conference.’

The book is available in bookshops and online

For more on Academic Archers, please visit its Facebook page - - and join in the conversation there and via #AcademicArchers. 


Book chapters

Cara Courage, Nicola Headlam and Peter Matthews - Introduction to Academic Archers: The Birth of a New Academic Community

Lyn Thomas - The Archers and its Listeners in the Twenty-First Century: Drama, Nostalgia and the Rural Everyday

William Barras - Rural Voices: What Can Borsetshire Tell Us about Accent Change?

Neil Mansfield and Lauren Morgan - Tony Archer the Farmer: The Toll of Life as an Agricultural Worker and Changing Technology in Modern Farming

Abi Pattenden - Seeming, Seeming: Othello, The Archers and Rob Titchener

Helen M. Burrows - An Everyday Story of Dysfunctional Families: Using The Archers in Social Work Education

Carenza Lewis and Clemency Cooper - Dig The Archers: What Community Archaeological Excavations Can Achieve in Places like Ambridge

Philippa Byrne - The Medieval World of The Archers, William Morris and the Problem with Class Struggle

Chris Perkins - Mapping Ambridge

Peter Matthews - Lynda Snell, Class Warrior: Social Class and Community Activism in Rural Borsetshire

Jo Moriarty - The Death of Heather Pritchard: An Everyday Story of Inadequate Social Care

Deborah Bowman - From Dr Locke’s Boundaries to Carol’s Confession: On Medical Ethics in The Archers

Samantha Walton - Cider with Grundy: On the Community Orchard in Ambridge

Katherine Runswick-Cole - The Dis/appearance of Disability in The Archers … or Why Bethany had to go to Birmingham

Nicola Headlam, with Cara Courage and Peter Matthews - Conclusion: Academic Archers as a Fine-Detailed, Open, Cross-Disciplinary Space