Along with Nicola Hedlam, University of Liverpool, and Peter Matthews, University of Stirling, I am co-founder of The Archers in fact and fiction: Academic analyses of life in rural Borsetshire annual symposia, a day devoted to academic study of BBC Radio4's The Archers. The event also continues as #AacdemicArchers and on its Facebook page and as a book.

The second conference is taking place 17th to 19th February 2017, at University of Lincoln, and with a field trip to Rippingale followed by a meal the The Bull Inn (its special Archers menu). We're working this year with Professor for the Public Understanding of Research, Carenza Lewis, in the curation, programming and hosting of this event. All information on the event can be found here and the schedule listing below.

As usual, its a mix of academic research and a love for The Archers, mixed with a lot of laughs and lots of audience input from all The Archers expert knowledge in the room. We've 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. 

The first Academic Archers conference took place on 17th February 2016 at University of Liverpool in London (and thanks to it for the kind donation of its room). The book of the day is published by Peter Lang and can be found in bookshops and here for order.  

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

Trending 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, News 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 - Academic Archers - that we will be taking forward into research and dissemination projects, as well as publication and future symposium's and events.

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...

2017 Schedule: 

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

Rachel J. Daniels, Cranfield Defence and Security, Cranfield University Annie Maddison Warren, Cranfield Defence and Security, Cranfield University, “My parsnips are bigger than your parsnips”: The negative aspects of competing at Flower and Produce shows

Joanna Dobson, MA English by Research at Sheffield Hallam University, ‘Big telephoto lens, small ticklist’: birdwatching, class and masculinity in Ambridge

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

 Panel 2 – Educating Ambridge – Chair Professor Carenza Lewis

Madeleine Lefebvre, Chief Librarian, Ryerson University, Toronto, Canada, Ambridge as Metaphor: Sharing the mission and Values of a 21st century library

Principal Lecturer in Education and Director of the Primary Science Quality Mark, University of Hertfordshire and Dr Grant Bage, Research Fellow in Research Rich Teaching University of Hertfordshire, We Don’t Need No Education - the absence of primary education in the Archers

Felicity Macdonald-Smith, Newnham College Cambridge (retired), Phoebe goes to Oxford

 Panel 3 – The geography of Ambridge – Chair Professor Carenza Lewis

Dr Angela Connelly, Manchester Architecture Research Group, the University of Manchester, ‘I’m an Archer, get me out of here!’*: assessing Ambridge’s flood resilience

Fiona Gleed, Postgraduate Research Student, University of Bath, After the Flood: how can Ambridge residents develop resilience to future flooding

Tom Nicholls, Lincoln School of Media, University of Lincoln, ‘No, he’s not dead, he just moved to Birmingham’ – Geography and Identity in the Archers

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

Elizabeth Campion, Coercive and controlling relationships: the case of Helen and Rob

Katherine Runswick-Cole, Professor of Critical Disability Studies & Psychology, Manchester Metropolitan University, and Becky Wood, Research Fellow, department of Disability, Inclusion and Special Needs, University of Birmingham, Bag of the devil: the disablement of Rob Titchener

Amber Medland, Culinary Coercion; Nurturing Traditional Gender Roles in Ambridge

Dr Caroline Taylor, Wellcome Trust Research Fellow, Centre for Child and Adolescent Health, School of Social and Community Medicine, University of Bristol, Dietary provision for pregnancy and lactation in women’s prisons: an illustration from the case of Helen Archer

Dr Freya Jarman and Emily Baker, University of Liverpool, Soundtrack to a stabbing: what Rob’s choice of music over dinner tells us about why he ended up spilling the custard

Anna-Marie O'Connor, Forensic Scientist, University of Portsmouth, Forensic Blood Pattern Analysis (BPA) at Blossom Hill Cottage

Panel 5 – Power relationships. Chair Dr Peter Matthews

Dr Alastair Goode and Dr Cara Courage, Does personal and social status affect perceptions of physicality? Or, The Archers and big willies

Gillies & Helen M Burrows, Ambridge – a case study in using genograms to assess family dysfunctionality

Dr Nicola Headlam, Research Fellow, COMPAS, University of Oxford, The Small Worlds of Ambridge : Power, Networks & Actants

 Panel 6 – Bereavement and spirituality – Chair TBC

Revd Dr Jonathan Hustler, “God in Ambridge” – The Archers as Rural Theology

Rosalind Janssen, UCL Institute of Education and Dr Ruth Heilbronn, UCL Institute of Education, Freddie Pargiter - underachiever?

Jessica Meyer, University Academic Fellow in Legacies of War, School of History, University of Leeds, The Archers as lieux de memoire of the Great War in Britain

 Panel 7 – Ambridge online. Chair Dr Cara Courage

Professor Debi Ashenden, School of Computing, University of Portsmouth and Professor Lizzie Coles-Kemp, Information Security Group, Royal Holloway University of London, ‘An everyday story of country folk’ online?  The marginalisation of the Internet and social media in The Archers

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

Jerome Turner, Research Assistant, Birmingham Centre for Media and Cultural Research, Faculty of Arts, Design and Media, Birmingham City University, Being @borsetpolice: proposing an (auto)ethnographic understanding of Archers fan fiction on Twitter


2016 Schedule:

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