Review: Anarchy on the airwaves

The Archers Anarchists aim to prove that the BBC Radio Four soap is real. Sue Brattle infiltrated their convention to find out more about these misguided Ambridge acolytes.

"To me, Ambridge is somewhere between Birmingham and heaven," said the man who had just spent the evening knocking spots off a room packed with Archers Anarchists.

He and his friends, the Cat and Fiddle Line Dancing Team, had won the 100-question quiz about life in The Archers' village by several lengths and some of us were concerned that one member of his team was a BBC journalist. Nobody but the saddest could score 19 out of 20 in the Recent History round, surely.

It had been an evening when all it took to slip out of reality was a climb up a flight of stairs into a packed room above a pub in London's Covent Garden.

The bar staff at The Sun Tavern had hours before given up trying to make sense of the 50-odd publishers, GPs, lawyers, writers and academics who were drinking them dry. "I never listen to The Archers," one of the barmen said. This was blasphemy at the high altar of soap, but what can an Anarchist do? No one's in charge, so action couldn't be taken.

The convention had opened with a one-second silence in memory of Mrs Barraclough, an old lady at the centre of a storyline last year in which the Ambridge doctor washed up at a tribunal charged with negligence.

That over, the second annual convention (the first was two years ago) got off with a hate session. "What would you like to get from the Anarchists?" asked founder Ian Sanderson.

"Ellie May on a spit," one shouted, cruelly dismissing a much-loved pedigree cow kept as a pet by the Archer family's youngest, Lizzie.

"Can we have a website, like the Archers Addicts have got," suggested a woman in a reasonable tone. "I think website, I see anorak," said founder Ian, managing to keep a straight face in a room with more anoraks than Milletts.

What he really wanted was some direct action. "We should raid bookshops and rip out pictures of the so-called cast in all the Archers' books," he suggested. But Ian is possibly a man ahead of his time. Anarchy for the present must come diluted. "Let's put leaflets in the books stating our point of view," one more lily-livered member said. Call this anarchy? They should be ashamed, I thought.

"Sling Vanessa Whitburn into the Tower and throw away the keys," said one referring to The Archers' editor largely credited with bringing a more politically correct attitude into Ambridge. "That's bordering on the harsh, she's never done us any harm," the meeting decided. So, Vanessa's safe for a while, she'll be relieved to know.

The convention was warming up, but nothing prepared the room for the following. "Who's really getting up your nose?' asked Ian. With one voice, the room rang with: "RUTH, RUTH, RUTH!"

Ruth is the Archers' Geordie daughter-in-law, married to the ghastly David Archer and an expert cowherd. But, my God, she's boring - suddenly the Anarchists and I had common ground. Except, of course, I know it's only a soap.

And so to Nelson Gabriel, my favourite character, sorry, villager. Nelson was an urbane, witty, acerbic wine bar owner and antiques dealer with a drop-dead-gorgeous voice. But the actor who played him, Jack May, died just before Christmas and the storyline has his alter ego on holiday out in Spain.

The BBC is in a tight corner over Nelson, but an Anarchist had the solution. "Just say he's having a throat operation, prepare us for his voice to change, and bring in a new actor," one said. Sorted, but at the cost of admitting at last that there is a cast.

Meanwhile, the London Pride bitter had run out at the bar and another Addict had come out of the woodwork, Mark Sutton. "I love The Archers," said this professor of music. "I'm a Sunday omnibus man, myself."

The Archers goes out twice every weekday, and gets squeezed into an hour's omnibus at 10.15am on Sundays. Trivia supremo Murray Craig, 36, is an omnibus man, too.

True anarchy, at last. Nineteenth century American anarchist Josiah Warren said that "every man should be his own government, his own law, his own church". Omnibus types know that Sunday is for the ritual sacrifice of reality.

The time was coming to walk back down those stairs and melt into real life again. But the age-old argument about cuts at the BBC was beginning; Anarchists must be ever-vigilant in case of any future threat to Ambridge. "Dropping The Archers would be the only true grounds for civil disobedience," said founder Ian, as he finally admitted that in what in real life he works at Conservative Party Central Office.

With anarchists like these, the status quo is safe and sound.

For details of the Archers Anarchists, write to: 15 Hewgate Court, Henley- on-Thames, Oxon, RG9 1BS

Suggested Topics
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Administrative Assistant / Order Fulfilment

    £14000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity to join a thrivi...

    SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

    £18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consulta...

    SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

    £18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consulta...

    Recruitment Genius: Production Operative

    £13000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Due to a period of sustained an...

    Day In a Page

    Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

    Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

    But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
    Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

    Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

    Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
    Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

    Britain's 24-hour culture

    With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
    8 best children's clocks

    Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

    Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
    Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

    How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

    Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
    Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

    'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

    In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
    Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

    The Arab Spring reversed

    Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
    King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

    Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

    Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
    Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

    Who is Oliver Bonas?

    It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
    Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

    Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

    However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
    60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

    60 years of Scalextric

    Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
    Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

    Why are we addicted to theme parks?

    Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
    Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

    Iran is opening up again to tourists

    After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
    10 best PS4 games

    10 best PS4 games

    Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering