|Running time||12 minutes (formerly 15 minutes)|
|Country of origin||United Kingdom|
|Home station||BBC Light Programme|
later BBC Home Service
now BBC Radio 4
|Created by||Godfrey Baseley|
|Edited by||Jeremy Howe|
|Produced by||Julie Beckett|
|Recording studio||BBC Birmingham|
|Original release||29 May – 2 June 1950 (Pilot)|
1 January 1951–present
|No. of episodes||19,158 (as of 16 February 2020)|
Six per week, plus 75 mins. omnibus
|Audio format||Stereophonic sound|
|Opening theme||Barwick Green|
|Podcast||The Archers podcast|
The Archers is a British radio soap opera on BBC Radio 4—the BBC's main spoken-word channel—broadcast since 1951. It was initially billed an everyday story of country folk and now, a contemporary drama in a rural setting. Having aired over 19,100 episodes, it is the world's longest-running drama.
Five pilot episodes were aired in 1950 and the first episode was broadcast nationally on 1 January 1951. A significant show in British popular culture, and with over five million listeners, it is Radio 4's most listened-to non-news programme, and with over one million listeners via the internet, the programme holds the record for BBC Radio online listening figures.
In February 2019, a panel of 46 broadcasting industry experts, of which 42 had a professional connection to the BBC, listed The Archers as the second-greatest radio programme of all time. Partly established with the aim towards educating farmers following World War II, The Archers soon became a popular source of entertainment for the population at large, attracting nine million listeners by 1953.
The Archers is set in the fictional village of Ambridge in the fictional county of Borsetshire, in England. Borsetshire is situated between what are, in reality, the contiguous counties of Worcestershire and Warwickshire, south of Birmingham in The Midlands. Ambridge is possibly based on the village of Cutnall Green, though various other villages claim to be the inspiration for Ambridge; The Bull, Ambridge's pub, is modelled on The Old Bull in Inkberrow, whereas Hanbury's St Mary the Virgin is often used as a stand-in for Ambridge's parish church, St Stephen's.
Other fictional villages include Penny Hassett, Loxley Barrett, Darrington, Hollerton, Edgeley, Waterley Cross and Lakey Green. The county town of Borsetshire is Borchester, and the nearest big city is the cathedral city of Felpersham. Felpersham also has a university. Anywhere further from Ambridge may be referred to humorously with comments such as 'that's on the other side of Felpersham!', but characters do occasionally venture further: several attended the Countryside Alliance march in London, there have been references to the gay scene in Manchester's Canal Street. There have been scenes set in other places in the United Kingdom and abroad, with some characters residing overseas such as in South Africa and Hungary.
Since Easter Sunday 1998, there have been six episodes a week, from Sunday to Friday, broadcast at around 19:03 following the news summary. All except the Friday evening episode are repeated the following day at 14:02. The six episodes are re-run unabridged in the Sunday morning omnibus at 10:00. On Remembrance Sunday, the Omnibus edition begins at the earlier time of 09:15. This information is available in the press and on the BBC's website.
As of 27 March 2020[update], due to the 2019-20 coronavirus pandemic restrictions, weekly programming reduces to five episodes. Friday's episode will cease to be broadcast. The Sunday omnibus will be correspondingly reduced in length to one hour.
Unlike some soap operas, episodes of The Archers portray events taking place on the date of broadcast, allowing many topical subjects to be included. Real-life events which can be readily predicted in advance are often written into the script, such as the annual Oxford Farming Conference and the FIFA World Cup. On some occasions, scenes recorded at these events are planned and edited into episodes shortly before transmission.
More challengingly for the production team, some significant but unforeseen events require scenes to be rewritten and rerecorded at short notice, such as the death of Princess Margaret (particularly poignant because she had appeared as herself on the programme), the World Trade Center attacks, and the 7 July 2005 London bombings. The events and implications of the 2001 foot-and-mouth crisis required many "topical inserts" and the rewriting of several storylines.
In January 2012, Oliver Sterling, owner of Grange Farm, together with his tenant, Ed Grundy, elected to vaccinate the badgers on their farm in an attempt to prevent the spread of bovine tuberculosis. The plotline came within weeks of the government confirming a badger cull trial.
Unlike television soaps, The Archers actors are not held on retainers and work on the series usually for a few days a month. By the nature of the storylines concentrating on particular groups of characters, in any one week out of a cast of about 60, the episodes include approximately 20–30 speaking-characters. Most of the cast do acting work on other projects and can disappear for long periods if they are working on commitments such as films or television series. Tamsin Greig plays Debbie Aldridge and has appeared on many television series such as Green Wing, Love Soup, Black Books and Episodes, so Debbie manages a farm in Hungary and her visits to Ambridge are infrequent. Felicity Jones played Emma Carter from the age of 15 but after a period of studying at Wadham College, Oxford, she gave up the role to move into television and cinema.
Some of the actors, when not playing their characters, earn their money through different jobs altogether: Charlotte Connor, when not playing Susan Carter (credited as Charlotte Martin), works full-time as a senior research psychologist at the Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health Foundation; her office is a short walk from BBC Birmingham, and thus she is able to fit her work around recordings. Meanwhile, Graham Blockey, who plays Robert Snell, worked till recently as a full-time general practitioner in Surrey, commuting to and from BBC Birmingham at weekends and on his days off. He kept his role secret from his patients, for fear of losing their respect, until his retirement from medicine in March 2017. Other examples include Felicity Finch (Ruth Archer), who also works as a BBC journalist having travelled on a number of occasions to Afghanistan; and Ian Pepperell (Roy Tucker), who manages a pub in the New Forest.
A five-episodes pilot series started on Whit Monday, 29 May 1950, and continued throughout that week. It was created by Godfrey Baseley and was broadcast to the English Midlands in the Regional Home Service, as 'a farming Dick Barton'. Recordings were sent to London, and the BBC decided to commission the series for a longer national run. In the five pilots the Archers owned Wimberton Farm, rather than Brookfield. Baseley subsequently edited The Archers for 22 years.
Since 1 January 1951, five 15-minute episodes (since 1998, six 12½-minute episodes) have been transmitted each week, at first on the BBC Light Programme and subsequently on the BBC Home Service (now Radio 4). Early afternoon repeats of the previous evening's episode began on 14 December 1964. The original scriptwriters were Geoffrey Webb and Edward J. Mason, who were also working on the nightly thriller series about the special agent Dick Barton. The popularity of his adventures partly inspired The Archers, which eventually took over Barton's evening slot. At first, however, the national launch placed the serial at the 'terrible' time of 11.45 am, but it moved to Dick Barton's former slot of 6.45 pm from Monday, 2 April 1951. An omnibus edition of the week's episodes began on Saturday, 5 January 1952.
Originally produced with collaborative input from the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, The Archers was conceived as a means of disseminating information to farmers and smallholders to help increase productivity in the Postwar era of rationing and food shortages.
The Archers originally centred on the lives of three farmers; Dan Archer, farming efficiently with little cash, Walter Gabriel, farming inefficiently with little cash, and George Fairbrother, a wealthy businessman farming at a loss for tax purposes (which one could do in those days). The programme was hugely successful, winning the National Radio Awards' 'Most entertaining programme of the Year' award jointly with Take It from Here in 1954, and winning the award outright in 1955, in which year the audience was reported to have peaked at 20 million.
At the late 1950s, despite the growth of television and radio's consequent decline, the programme was still claiming eleven million listeners and was also being transmitted in Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. By the mid-1970s, however, the audience for the two daily broadcasts and the weekend omnibus combined was less than 3 million and in 1976 the BBC Radio Four Review Board twice considered whether or not the programme should be axed. The serial's woes at this time were seen to mirror the poor standing of radio drama in general, described as "a failure to fully shake off the conventions of non-realism which had prevailed in the 1940s and 1950s."
Programme chief Jock Gallagher, responsible for The Archers, described these as the serial's "dog days". Sweeping editorial reforms followed, included the introduction of women writers (there had been none before 1975), two of whom, Helen Leadbeater and Margaret Phelan, were credited with giving the programme a new definitive style of writing and content, although some listeners complained about their radical feminism.
In 1980 Julie Burchill commented that the women of Ambridge were no longer stuck with "the gallons of greengage jam old-guard male scriptwriters kept them occupied with for over twenty years"; but were 'into post-natal depression and alcoholism on the way to self-discovery'. By the mid-1980s the Radio Four Review Board noted that scripts, directing and acting was "very good" and sometimes "better than ever". In August 1985 The Listener said that the programme's revival was "sustained by some of the best acting, direction and writing on radio."
Tony Shryane MBE was the programme's producer from 1 January 1951 to 19 January 1979. Vanessa Whitburn was the programme's editor from 1992 till 2013. Whitburn took service leave from March to July 2012, when John Yorke, a former executive producer of EastEnders, was the acting editor. Yorke's arrival prompted charges that the programme was importing the values of EastEnders to Borsetshire, with fans and commentators complaining that characters were behaving unrealistically simply to generate conflict. This was denied by Yorke, who wrote that he agreed to take over "on one condition – that it stayed exactly as it was and that I didn't have to change anything."
Vanessa Whitburn was succeeded as editor by Sean O'Connor in September 2013. In September 2016, Huw Kennair-Jones took over as editor though O'Connor continued to oversee the Helen and Rob storyline until its conclusion. Kennair-Jones announced in October 2017 that he was to leave the BBC to work as commissioning editor for ITV. The short presence of two successive Archers editors in the job led to concerns that there might be a trend of radio drama editing being seen as "training ground" for higher-paid positions in TV. Alison Hindell, the BBC's head of Audio Drama until October 2018, took over as acting editor before and after Kennair-Jones's time in charge. She effectively swapped with Jeremy Howe when she succeeded him as the BBC's commissioning editor for drama and fiction and he started as editor of the Archers in late August 2018.
One of the most controversial Archers episodes was broadcast on 22 September 1955, which coincided with the launch of the UK's first commercial television station. Phil and Grace Archer had been married just a few months earlier, and their blossoming relationship was the talk of the nation. However, searching for a story which would demonstrate some real tragedy among the increasingly unconvincing episode cliff-hangers, Godfrey Baseley had decided that Grace would have to die. The scripts for the week commencing 19 September 1955 were written, recorded, and broadcast on each day, with an "exercise in topicality" given as the explanation to the cast. On Thursday, listeners heard the sound effects of Grace trying to rescue Midnight, her horse, from a fire in the stable at Brookfield and the crash of a falling timber beam.
Whether the timing of the episode was a deliberate attempt to overshadow the opening night of the BBC's first commercial rival has been debated ever since. It was certainly planned some months in advance, but it may well be that the actual date of the death was changed during the scriptwriting stage to coincide with the launch of Associated-Rediffusion. Deliberate or not, the episode attracted widespread media attention, being reported by newspapers around the world.
This controversy has been parodied twice: in "The Bowmans", an episode of the television comedy programme Hancock, and in the play The Killing of Sister George and its 1968 film adaptation. On the 50th anniversary of ITV's launch, Ysanne Churchman, who played Grace, sent them a congratulatory card signed "Grace Archer".
In 1996, William Smethurst recounted a conversation with Baseley in which he reveals his real motivation for killing off Grace Archer: Churchman was encouraging the other actors to join a trade union.
The actor Norman Painting played Phil Archer continuously from the first trial series in 1950 until his death on 29 October 2009. His last Archers performance was recorded just two days before his death, and was broadcast on 22 November. He is cited in Guinness World Records as the longest-serving actor in a single soap opera. Under the pseudonym "Bruno Milna", Painting also wrote around 1,200 complete episodes, which culminated in the 10,000th episode.
June Spencer has played Peggy Archer/Woolley from the pilot episode onwards, though not for all of the period since. According to Who's Who in The Archers 2008, episode 15,360 was to be broadcast on 1 January 2008. Episode 15,000 was broadcast on 7 November 2006.
The Archers reached its 60th anniversary on 1 January 2011 and to mark this achievement, a special half-hour episode was broadcast on Sunday, 2 January, on BBC Radio 4 from 7pm. The episode had been advertised as containing events that would "shake Ambridge to the core". This phrase even gave rise to the initialism #SATTC trending on the website Twitter during that weekend as listeners speculated about what might happen, and then reported their views as the story unfolded.
The main events in the episode were Helen Archer giving birth to her son Henry and Nigel Pargetter falling to his death from the roof of Lower Loxley Hall. This unlikely event provoked interest in the frequency and causes of death in the series. In fact, although the incidence of accidental death and suicide is seven times the national average, the overall mortality rate in Ambridge is almost exactly what would be expected.
The writing out of the character of Nigel caused much controversy among listeners, with a large number of complaints variously expressing dismay at the death of a popular character, concerns over the manner of the dismissal of the actor, belief that the promise to "shake Ambridge to the core" had been over-hyped, criticism of the credibility of the script and acting for the anniversary episode, and a perceived unwillingness of the editorial team to engage with these listener complaints.
The series initially made no mention of the coronavirus pandemic: " Whereas topical subjects ... have previously been added to scripts, that has not been possible with Coronavirus." It was announced that there would be only five broadcasts a week, with the Friday broadcast omitted, from 27 March until the end of April, and that enough recordings were in hand "for the weeks ahead".
It was announced on 29 March 2020 that the programmes would include reference to the pandemic from 4 May onwards. There would be four episodes a week, recorded in the actors' homes, with "fewer characters who will be sharing more of their private thoughts with the listener". The series editor Jeremy Howe said, "Coronavirus will be reflected in The Archers from May ... in a way that the programme's many loyal listeners might expect."
The programme has tackled many serious, contemporary social issues: rural drug addiction; rape, including rape in marriage; inter-racial relationships; direct action against genetically modified crops and badger culling; family break-ups; and civil partnerships, and a family being threatened by a gang of farm thieves. There has been criticism from conservative commentators, such as Peter Hitchens in 1999 that the series has become a vehicle for liberal and left-wing values and agendas, with characters behaving out of character to achieve those goals. However, one of the show's charms is to make much out of everyday, small concerns, such as the possible closure of the village shop, the loss and rediscovery of a pair of spectacles, competitive marmalade-making, or nonsense such as a 'spile troshing' competition, rather than the large-scale and improbable events that form the plots of many soap operas.
According to some of the actors, and confirmed in the writings of Godfrey Baseley, in its early days the show was used as a conduit for educational announcements from the Ministry of Agriculture, one actor reading an announcement almost verbatim to another. Direct involvement of the government ended in 1972. The show has reacted within a day to agricultural emergencies such as outbreaks of foot and mouth disease which affect farmers nationwide when livestock movements are restricted.
Many famous people have made cameo appearances on the programme:
The theme tune of The Archers is called "Barwick Green" and is a maypole dance from the suite My Native Heath, written in 1924 by the Yorkshire composer Arthur Wood. The Sunday omnibus broadcast of The Archers starts with a more rustic, accordion-arranged rendition by The Yetties. The theme for BBC Radio 4 Extra's The Archers spinoff, Ambridge Extra, is a version arranged by Bellowhead.
A library music recording of Barwick Green was used for the pilot and during the early years of the national version, because a bid by Godfrey Baseley to have a special theme composed had been turned down on the grounds of cost, put at £250-£300. However, once the serial had become undeniably established, a new recording of Barwick Green was authorised and performed by the BBC Midland Light Orchestra on 24 March 1954. This mono recording was also accompanied by four movements entitled "A Village Suite", composed by Kenneth Pakeman to complement Barwick Green. Excerpts from these movements were then used for a time as bridging music between scenes. The 1954 recordings were never made available to the public and their use was restricted even inside the BBC, partly because of an agreement with the Musicians' Union.
In 1992, the theme was re-recorded in stereo, retaining the previous arrangements. The venue was Symphony Hall in Birmingham, the conductor Ron Goodwin, producer David Welsby and the sound mixer Norman McLeod. The slightly different sound mixing and more leisurely tempo reportedly led some listeners to consider the new version inferior, specifically that it lacked "brio", although the BBC publicised the fact that the orchestra contained some of the musicians who had played in the previous recording, including Harold Rich (piano) and Norman Parker (percussion).
Robert Robinson once compared the tune to "the genteel abandon of a lifelong teetotaller who has suddenly taken to drink". On April Fool's Day 2004 both The Independent and The Today Programme claimed that BBC executives had commissioned composer Brian Eno to record an electronic version of "Barwick Green" as a replacement for the current theme, while comedian Billy Connolly included in his act the joke that the theme was so typically British that it should be the national anthem of the United Kingdom.
In 2009, comedian Rainer Hersch conducted the Philharmonia Orchestra in a performance of the theme, live from the Royal Festival Hall to a listening BBC Radio 3 audience in an attempt to confuse them. He then went on to show how similar it is to "Montagues and Capulets" – "Dance of the Knights" – from Romeo and Juliet by Sergei Prokofiev, claiming that this was a result of Russian spies going through the BBC's rubbish bins looking for the scripts.
At times, a cliffhanger involving the death of a major character or a disaster was marked by the traditional closing theme being replaced by the final dramatic section of Barwick Green involving trombones, cymbals and the closing bars of the signature tune – known as the "doom music" to some fan groups. This tradition has been dropped more recently, with events such as the death of Nigel Pargetter being followed by the normal closing music despite the gravity of the incident. This has irritated some followers, who consider the jollity of the normal segment inappropriate in such circumstances.
A brief extract from The Dream of Gerontius was played following the death of Phil Archer. When John Archer died no music was played.
There was a nod to The Archers in the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games in London on 27 July 2012, where the theme tune was played at the beginning of a segment celebrating British culture: the sound of a radio could be heard being tuned in as Barwick Green was played.
|June Spencer||Peggy Woolley||1950–1953, 1961–|
|Lesley Saweard||Christine Barford||1953–|
|Patricia Greene||Jill Archer||1957–|
|Angela Piper||Jennifer Aldridge||1963–|
|Judy Bennett||Shula Hebden-Lloyd||1971–|
|Brian Hewlett||Neil Carter||1973–|
|Patricia Gallimore||Pat Archer||1974–|
|Terry Molloy||Mike Tucker||1974–1977, 1986–|
|Charles Collingwood||Brian Aldridge||1975–|
|Hedli Niklaus||Kathy Perks||1977, 1978–1981, 1983–|
|Trevor Harrison||Eddie Grundy||1979–|
|Heather Bell||Clarrie Grundy||1979–1988, 2013–|
|Timothy Bentinck||David Archer||1982–|
|Charlotte Martin||Susan Carter||1983–|
|Alison Dowling||Elizabeth Pargetter||1984–|
|Edward Kelsey||Joe Grundy||1985–2019|
|Carole Boyd||Lynda Snell||1986–|
|Graham Blockey||Robert Snell||1986–|
|Felicity Finch||Ruth Archer||1987–|
|Philip Molloy||Will Grundy||1989–|
|Tamsin Greig||Debbie Aldridge||1991–|
|William Gaminara||Richard Locke||1992–|
|Souad Faress||Usha Franks||1994–|
|Ian Pepperell||Roy Tucker||1995–|
|Buffy Davis||Jolene Archer||1996–|
|Jamilla Massey||Aunty Satya Khanna||1996–|
|Robin Pirongs||Sam Batton|
|Eric Allan||Bert Fry||1997–|
|Kim Durham||Matt Crawford||1997–|
|Michael Lumsden||Alistair Lloyd||1998–|
|Annabelle Dowler||Kirsty Miller||1999–|
|Louiza Patikas||Helen Titchener||2000–|
|Richard Attlee||Kenton Archer||2000–|
|Barry Farrimond||Ed Grundy||2000–|
|Robert Lister||Lewis Charmichael||2000–|
|Joanna Van Kampen||Fallon Rogers||2000–|
|Michael Cochrane||Oliver Sterling||2000–|
|Sunny Ormonde||Lillian Bellamy||2001–|
|Ryan Kelly||Jack McCreary||2001–|
|Hollie Chapman||Alice Carter||2001–|
|Andrew Wincott||Adam Macy||2003–|
|John Telfer||Rev Alan Franks||2003–|
|Stephen Kennedy||Ian Craig||2003–|
|Mona Hammond||Mabel Thompson||2003–|
|Lorraine Coady||Hayley Tucker||2006–|
|John Rowe||Prof Jim Lloyd||2007–|
|Julia Hills||Annabelle Schrivener||2007–|
|Arthur Hughes||Ruairi Donovan||2007–|
|Helen Longworth||Hannah Riley||2008–|
|Emerald O'Hanrahan||Emma Carter||2009–|
|Lucy Morris||Phoebe Aldridge||2010–|
|David Hargreaves||Alf Grundy||2012–|
|James Cartwright||Harrison Burns||2013–|
|Daisy Badger||Pip Archer||2014–|
|Angus Imrie||Josh Archer||2014–|
|David Troughton||Tony Archer||2014–|
|Simon Williams||Justin Elliott||2014–|
|Tom Gibbons||Johnny Phillips||2014–|
|William Troughton||Tom Archer||2014–|
|Eleanor Bron||Carol Tregorran||2014–|
|Perdita Avery||Kate Madikane||2014–|
|Toby Laurence||Freddie Pargetter||2016–|
|Isobel Middleton||Anna Tregorran||2016–|
|Katie Redford||Lily Pargetter||2017–|
|Will Howard||Dan Hebden-Lloyd||2017–|
|Andy Hockley||Philip Moss||2017–|
|Wilf Scolding||Christopher Carter||2017–|
|Ben Norris||Ben Archer||2018–|
|Mogali Masuku||Noluthando Madikane||2018–|
|Ania Sowinski||Lexi Viktorova||2018–|
|Mali Harries||Natasha Archer||2018–|
BBC Radio 4 Extra ran an occasional short supplement, Ambridge Extra, between 2011 and 2013, featuring characters away from the Ambridge environs. Series 1 and 2 had 26 episodes and series 3, 4 and 5 had 20. The reason offered for non-renewal was limited resources.
Two organisations dedicated to the programme were established in the 1990s. Archers Addicts was the official body, run by members of the cast. The club had five thousand members and an online shop where Archers memorabilia was sold under licence. It closed as a club on 31 December 2013 but still has a Facebook page and Twitter feed. Archers Anarchists was formed some time later, objecting to the "castist" assumptions propagated by the BBC, and claiming that the characters are real.
The usenet newsgroup uk.media.radio.archers (referred to as UMRA by its users, who call themselves umrats) has been running since 1995. Its users include experts on subjects covered by the programme, such as the many aspects of farming, the running of small businesses, bell ringing; lengthy discussions ensue – as well as light-hearted matters, and plot speculation. Various gatherings occur where umrats come together. The first were a series of about ten annual barbecues. The first was attended by Carole Boyd (Lynda Snell)]. They have included participants from Europe and the Americas. It has nicknames for many of the main Archers characters, such as S'aint for Shula. There are nicknames for most of the regular participants). Due perhaps to it being initially more accessible in academia, the discussions can be quite detailed, though UMRA considers itself to be a friendly and welcoming group, where in particular flamewars and the like are not welcome. Despite the general decline of usenet with the advent of trendier media such as Facebook and Twitter, UMRA remains a very active newsgroup compared to many. Its one-time T-shirts and mugs bore the legend (in yellow on "Barwick Green", of course) "An everyday story of internet folk."
The Academic Archers, founded in 2016, is a community of fans who share an academic approach to the programme. It organises an annual conference at which papers are presented which draw on academic expertise along with enjoyment. Papers from these have been published as The Archers in Fact and Fiction: Academic Analyses of Life in Rural Borsetshire (2016, Peter Lang:ISBN 9781787071193), Custard, Culverts and Cake (2017, Emerald: ISBN 9781787432864 and Gender, Sex and Gossip: Women in The Archers (2019, Emerald: ISBN 9781787699489 ) The group aims to be "curious, generous and joyful".
In 1994, the BBC World Service in Afghanistan began broadcasting Naway Kor, Naway Jwand ("New Home, New Life"), an everyday story of country folk incorporating pieces of useful information. Although the useful information was more likely to concern unexploded land mines and opium addiction than the latest modern farming techniques, the inspiration and model of Naway Kor, Naway Jwand was The Archers, and the initial workshopping with Afghan writers included an Archers scriptwriter. A 1997 study found that listeners to the soap opera were significantly less likely to be injured by a mine than non-listeners.
John Finnemore's Souvenir Programme has parodied The Archers with its recurring "The Archers Accidentally" sketches; the sketches claim to portray The Archers the way it sounds to people who only listen to the show inadvertently.
The radio series of Dead Ringers has frequently parodied characters from The Archers, including a special edition.
The subtitle was parodied by Bill Tidy in his long-running cartoon of The Cloggies, "an Everyday Saga in the Life of Clog Dancing Folk", which ran in the satirical magazine Private Eye, and later in The Listener.
Even this presupposes that the BBC realized the impact that the 'death' would have — and all the evidence is that the BBC was totally taken by surprise.
'She was trying to get the actors to join a trade union,' he told the author of this book, in 1995, 'so I killed her off. Very few of the original actors were professionals. I'd taken them on because they were countrymen with natural country voices. But she was stirring them up and trying to get them to join the actors' union, and saying we should only employ union actors, which would have been fatal.'