On BBC Radio 4, 92-95 FM and 198 LW, after the seven o'clock news for almost 15 minutes there is 'an everyday tale of country folk'. The show is then repeated the following day at 2pm, every day except Saturday and on Sundays there's an omnibus edition of the weeks' shows.
The Archers has been broadcast since 1951 and is the longest running radio 'soap opera' in the world. There is only one actor still in the show who was in the first episode - Norman Painting, who plays Phil Archer. The original concept of the programme was to inform the UK's farming community of best practice and new developments, a function that is often apparent in present story lines.
The show is set in the fictional village of Ambridge, in the fictional county of Borchester. Plot lines follow a variety of subjects and tackle a number of modern issues: divorce, adultery, bigotry, drinking tea, countryside and farming issues.
The Archers Theme Tune
There are a number of different style recordings of this tune, called Barwick Green1, which are played to enhance the relevant plot of the particular show. Only once in the last few years was it deemed inappropriate to play the theme tune. This was on the occasion of the tragic death of John Archer.
People and places
The village pub would be the best place to start as it is now the only drinking hole in the Archers, since The Cat and Fiddle2 closed down.
Sid Perks will usually be on hand as the publican to serve you a pint of 'Shires' beer, as will Jolene Rogers, line-dancing and country-and-western singer and recent addition to the staff. She was the reason for Sid's break up from his wife - Kathy Perks who is mother of toddler Jamie, ex-part-time teacher and now working at Lower Loxley.
Fallon - Jolene's teenage daughter - also lives above the pub and is often heard playing in her band with Edward Grundy.
If you turn up at the farm, Marjorie Antrobus will willingly invite you in for a cup of tea, just watch out for her dogs. This dear old lady has often rented her spare room but has presently converted it into a flat where Roy Tucker and Hayley Jordan live. They got married and live with Phoebe Aldridge. Phoebe is the daughter of Roy by Kate Aldridge. Kate left Phoebe behind for a year when she went travelling in Africa.
Home of the Archer's big, bad Brian Aldridge, land baron, and Jennifer Aldridge (née Archer), long-suffering, dizzy mother of Debbie Gerrard (who's the farm manager and has recently moved in with an older man, college lecturer Simon Gerrard, much to Brian's annoyance). The Aldridges' eldest daughter, Kate, has recently returned from Africa to have a baby with her South African boyfriend. Alice, the youngest daughter, is only in her early teens and isn't part of many plot lines.
Grand house occupied by the Snells: Robert, computer-boffin type and long-suffering husband of Lynda, the village busybody who puts on the Christmas panto.
Home of Phil and Jill Archer, parents of Shula, David and Kenton Archer - who lives abroad - and Elizabeth Pargetter. The time has come for Phil to stand down and let David take over the running of the farm. This has caused lots of friction as Elizabeth believes she should have a share of this early inheritance.
Home of David and Ruth Archer and their offspring Pip and Josh, both toddlers. The cottage is handily situated at the end of the lane from the farm and is relatively small in comparison. Ruth had a major storyline last year fighting against breast cancer.
Home of Caroline Pemberton, wealthy widow who rents out a room to her godson, William Grundy. She has only had one happy romance - which ended in marriage for a few months before her husband's death - and many bad ones.
The Grundys recently moved into this small cottage. This move followed a bad spell in a council flat in urban Borchester which in turn followed on from their eviction from their farm by the company that Brian Aldridge works for as an agent. This was the cause of old Joe going a bit mad, driving his daughter-in-law Clarrie to her wits end and also giving her son Edward a chance to be a delinquent and throw parties for his school friends. Husband Eddie is one of the most colourful characters in Ambridge. He is often found propping up the bar at the Bull and developing plans to make money through various schemes. Eldest son William moved into his Godmother's (Caroline Pemberton) house so he could keep his job as assisant gamekeeper to Greg Turner.
Luxury country club, hotel and conference centre, owned by Jack Woolley, a Brummie done good who married one of the original Archers - Peggy, mother of Jennifer and Tony. Jack also owns the village shop and the local paper, the Borchester Echo. The Hotel is managed by Caroline Pemberton with assistance from Roy Tucker (who has recently been promoted from waiter to trainee assistant manager) and Lynda Snell on the reception desk.
Stately Home and conference centre run by Nigel and Elizabeth Pargetter who recently became parents to twins. Julia Pargetter, Nigel's mother, will often be found lording it over the village or spending money like water.
A good example of a mixed organic farm and dairy, the farm being run by Tony Archer and the dairy by Pat. They are parents of Helen, the stroppy overeducated, opinionated, manageress of the organic shop recently set up by Pat and Tony in Borchester, and Thomas (he'd prefer if you called him Tom), who has recently been taught a lesson about two-timing his girlfriend Kirsty, also famous for trashing Brians' GM crops. Mention should also be made of John Archer, who died in a tragic tractor accident on Tommys' birthday.
Not much of a farm, really. Only a little bit of land comes with it. Home of Betty and Mike Tucker. Betty works part-time in the village shop while Mike is the village milkman. They have two kids, Roy and Brenda (who is currently working for Radio Borchester).
Home for the village Doctor, Tim Hathaway, and his wife Siobhan. Siobhan recently miscarried and is throwing herself into a career, resulting in her travelling away from home a lot. Meanwhile Tim has been getting a bit fond of the vicar, Janet Fisher.
A rundown dairy farm, recently vacated by the Grundys and renovated by Oliver Stiling. Oliver is moving into the area and has already become joint master of the local hunt. He also appears to be wooing the eligible Caroline.
Alistair Lloyd is the village vet and cricket team captain. His wife, Shula Hebden Lloyd, is the widowed mother of Daniel, son of Mark Hebden (who died before he discovered his wife was pregnant).
Ambridge shares its vicar with a number of parishes and Janet Fisher is likely to be seen rushing between services. As a woman vicar she has had some trouble being accepted by a few of the old stalwarts of the village.
Titkum: An old retainer at Lower Loxley. He does the work in the grounds of the house.
Higgs: Driver for the Wooleys. He undertakes occasional other duties.
Freda Fry: Wife to Bert. She is often mentioned by Bert, but never heard.
Recently Deceased Characters
Mark Hebden: Solictor and husband of Shula. He died in a car crash.
John Archer: Eldest son of Pat and Tony. He was engaged to Hayley and was becoming a succesful organic pig farmer. He died under an overturned classic Ferguson tractor.
Guy Pemberton: Old, nice bloke who died a few months after marrying Caroline. He owned the Estate.