More than 100 professors and lecturers from universities all over the country descended on the tiny village of Rippingale to hear about the origins of the radio drama Archers.
The academics were attending a two-day conference at Lincoln University, researching the world’s longest running and most listened to broadcast drama.
On Friday last week, they were driven down from Lincoln, to hear a lecture in Rippingale Village Hall, by retired journalist Jim Latham, who has spent the last 15 years researching how the idea for the programme was first suggested by local farmer Henry Burtt.
Jim and his colleague John Warman also presented a video of the then longest serving Archers actor and scriptwriter Norman Painting, recorded shortly before his death in 2009.
In it, Norman described, in tear-jerking detail, how one of the most famous storylines in the serial’s history – the “death” of Grace Archer – was decided on and how he was asked to write his first script-line for the programme: “In my arms- on the way to the hospital – she died in my arms,” followed by the Archers theme tune Barwick Green. Jim said that even 60 years later, hankies were very much in evidence in Rippingale Village Hall, when that scene was replayed.
The audience then walked up to the local pub, The Bull, where they were treated to a dinner based on favourite recipes of Archers main characters’ favourite recipes, by landlord and landlady John and Louise Smith and their chef Ross.
Jim said: “Amongst many other things, I’d told them all that the research and more detail of how The Archers was based on Dowsby and Rippingale was never ending. And sure enough, after they’d all gone we sat down for a quiet pint and a story emerged about how scripts of very early episodes were sent to Henry Burtt for him to check farming details.”
A similar public event is set to be held later this year.