03 February 2022, The Tablet

When the Archers played God

An Ambridge Passion pageant

When the Archers played God

Timothy Bentinck (David Archer) took the role of Herod
Photo: BBC


The longest-running drama series in the world has always veered between small family squabbles and facing painful issues. Last year, the familiar characters came together in a memorable performance of the medieval Mystery Plays

Some years ago, while on holiday in Greece and waiting for an inter-island ferry, I was approached by a woman with an urgent question. “Excuse me,” she said, “but could you possibly tell me what’s going on in Ambridge? I’m rather worried about the Grundys.” She’d lived in Greece for nearly a decade and was in need of a thorough update. Happy to oblige, I filled her in with all the news and gossip I could remember: she was visibly relieved. A French woman standing nearby was becoming confused. “I’m sorry,” she said, “but – are you two related?”

In a way we were. We were part of the vast family who listen, whenever we can, to The Archers on BBC Radio 4. This, the longest-running radio drama in the world, was originally billed as “an everyday story of country folk”, and for many of us it has been a fixture in our lives for as long as we can remember.

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