Tony Shryane

Creative producer for more than 7,000 episodes of the long-running radio drama 'The Archers'

Anthony Joseph Shryane, radio and television director and sound engineer: born Birmingham 20 January 1919; MBE 1961; twice married (three sons, and one daughter deceased); died St Austell, Cornwall 22 September 2003.

Tony Shryane was the quiet genius behind the crucial early years of what is now (and will almost certainly for ever be) the longest-running radio drama serial in the history of sound broadcasting: the BBC's The Archers, "an everyday story of country folk" in the fantasy village of Ambridge, in the fictional county of Borsetshire.

Shryane did not invent "the Archers". The basic concept was largely the inspiration of the BBC agricultural and gardening producer Godfrey Baseley, who responded to a half-joking suggestion by a Lincolnshire farmer, Henry Burtt, for a "farming Dick Barton" (the daily thriller serial). What was needed was something to sugar the pill of Ministry of Agriculture advice on good farming practice and "the importance of the February Price Review".

Baseley rounded up the chief Dick Barton scriptwriters, Edward J. Mason and Geoffrey Webb, together with a young sound engineer who had usefully worked on both Dick Barton and the new daily drama success Mrs Dale's Diary. This was Tony Shryane.

Mason and Webb were both pastmasters in the art of keeping a serial bubbling along with mini-climaxes, amusing dialogue and gripping storylines, and in 1950 they and Baseley concocted enough plot for five trial episodes, which were broadcast from the old Broad Street studios in Birmingham over the Midlands region Home Service. They scored a huge hit with listeners and, at lunchtime on New Year's Day 1951, now broadcasting on the national Light Programme, The Archers began its record-breaking run, almost instantly attaining an audience of two million.

This doubled to four million by Easter, when it was shifted to peak listening-time of 6.45 in the evening, thereby killing off the programme which had originally sparked it off, Dick Barton - Special Agent. At its peak, in the mid-Fifties, The Archers was being listened to each weekday evening by over 20 million people, roughly half the population.

Its popularity, however, was by no means due to the heavy top-dressing of Min of Ag propaganda which, when incorporated into the script, was usually handled by the farmer Dan Archer (Harry Oakes) at the breakfast table, opening his mail and commenting testily to his wife Doris (Gwen Berryman): "My word, Doris, listen to what the blessed ministry wants us to do now . . ."

What kept the fast-growing army of listeners silent in their seats were storylines stuffed with murder, arson, sabotage, poaching, Sapphic hints (for a while young Christine Archer had a very odd relationship with the exotic Lady Hylebarrow), kidnapping, robbery, a plane crash (decades before the Emmerdale blood-bath), and sex on the front-room sofa - and all within the first two or three years of the programme.

To those country folk who protested that The Archers wasn't much like their own "everyday story", Shryane pointed out that a perfectly reasonable division of subject-matter had been worked out: 20 per cent agricultural material, 10 per cent horticultural, 10 per cent country life and natural history, with the remaining 60 per cent story. What could be fairer? It was, after all, a drama.

By now Baseley was editor of the programme - i.e. overall boss, in charge of forward planning, product promotion, high-concepting - while Shryane had fast-tracked from lowly sound engineer to junior producer to, very swiftly, full-time producer which, in BBC-speak, meant director as well. And if Baseley was the impresario of Ambridge, whose dynamism kept the Midlands-based show storming along in the face of just about every bureaucratic clod of earth Portland Place could hurl at it, Shryane was the hands-on hero behind the studio sound-desk, actually keeping the show on the road.

An enthusiast for naturalism, he pushed the actors to "talk" their lines not "speak" them, pushed the writers to keep on injecting reality into their fantasy. He slogged round agricultural shows seeking out offbeat story material, and paid close attention to the actual sound of the serial: church bells, birdsong, farmyard noises-off (an early publicity photograph shows him jabbing a BBC microphone at a prize porker).

Both Baseley and Shryane constantly came up with fresh story ideas for the writers, but it does seem to have been Shryane who chose the actual victim of what was to become the most notorious incident in The Archers' history, the death of Grace Archer while trying to save her horse Midnight in a burning stable. This was the brilliant spoiler that kept so many potential television viewers, on the very night in 1955 that ITV was launched, listening, spellbound, to a mere radio programme.

To be sure, years later (in 1989), in his eighties, Baseley launched his own spoiler - just before the serial's 10,000th episode - by claiming he had dreamed up Grace's death to get rid of the actress who played her, Ysanne Churchman, because she was an Equity member and he wanted to keep the actors' union out of the programme. But as he was one to let off irate broadsides at his old programme, which he believed was "going to the dogs" under a bunch of "interfering feminists", this revelation was ignored.

Tony Shryane was born in Harborne, Birmingham, in 1919, and educated as normal up to secondary stage, even passing his grammar-school entrance exams. But then he opted out of the system, preferring to take a job in the effects department of the BBC Birmingham studios.

Only 20 when the Second World War broke out, he joined the Royal Warwickshires, transferring later to the Reconnaissance Corps, where, in 1944, he sustained shrapnel wounds after the Normandy landings. While convalescing in England he produced revues for the troops before being demobbed in 1945, when he returned to the BBC.

In all Shryane spent nearly 30 years with The Archers (and more than 7,000 episodes). At the same time he devised (usually with Edward J. Mason) other hugely entertaining shows, all of which found favour with the listeners, such as Guilty Party, in which a panel of celebrities tried to work out "whodunit" after listening to a studio playlet featuring murder or mayhem, or both, and My Word!, chiefly memorable for the often hilarious verbal contributions of Frank Muir and Denis Norden, with the film critic Dilys Powell and the journalist Nancy Spain. A by-blow was My Music, again starring Muir and Norden, as well as Ian Wallace and the irascible bass David Franklin (later John Amis).

Shryane was a highly creative radio director/producer who understood his medium thoroughly (in the "death of Grace Archer" sequence he brought off a final brilliant coup de radio by not using the programme's signature tune "Barwick Green" at the climax, leaving listeners in horrified silence - although, for the archive "remake" over 30 years later, the thunderously apocalyptic finale was restored). He imbued those under him with his understanding, as well as a deep affection for the medium itself.

In 1961 he was appointed MBE "for services to broadcasting".

Jack Adrian

News
In this photo illustration, the Twitter logo and hashtag '#Ring!' is displayed on a mobile device as the company announced its initial public offering and debut on the New York Stock Exchange on November 7, 2013 in London, England. Twitter went public on the NYSE opening at USD 26 per share, valuing the company's worth at an estimated USD 18 billion.
news

Arts and Entertainment
Australia singer Iggy Azalea has been attacked by Eminem in a new rap
music

Singer was ordered not to 'blow her rape whistle' in song 'Vegas'

News
news

Arts and Entertainment
'Africa' will be Angelina Jolie's fifth film as a director
film

Mr and Mrs Smith star admits she's 'never been comfortable on-screen'

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
News
Myleene Klass
people
Arts and Entertainment
Winnie the Pooh has been branded 'inappropriate' in Poland
books
News
Ashton Kutcher speaking at Human Rights Watch's Voices For Justice dinner in November 2013
people'What is so wrong about digging up dirt on shady journalist?'
Arts and Entertainment
Martin Freeman and Benedict Cumberbatch as John Watson and Sherlock Holmes in Sherlock
tv

Co-creator Mark Gatiss dropped some very intriguing hints ahead of the BBC drama's return next year

Life and Style
Jane Merrick rides on a Micro Scooter through St James's Park, on November 18, 2014 in London, United Kingdom.
life
Arts and Entertainment
Babysitter Katie and Paul have terse words in the park
tvReview: The strength of the writing keeps viewers glued to their seats
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
American singer, acclaimed actor of stage and screen, political activist and civil rights campaigner Paul Robeson (1898 - 1976), rehearses in relaxed mood at the piano.
filmSinger, actor, activist, athlete: Paul Robeson was driven to a miserable death. His story is to be told in film
Sport
Qatar has very little football history

It is a crazy place to play in summer, writes Paul Scholes

Life and Style
Make-up artists prepare contestants for last year’s Miss World, held in Budapest
fashion
News
Actor Dave Prowse in his role as the Green Cross Code Man in 1982
peopleStar Wars actor to reprise his other role - as the Green Cross Man
Life and Style
life
Arts and Entertainment
Brit Marling as PR woman Liz Garvey
tv

It was all about Liz’s cocaine-fuelled brainwave, 'The Metwork'

Voices
The Emir of Qatar Sheikh Hamad and Russia’s deputy prime minister Igor Shuvalov flank Fifa president Sepp Blatter
voices
Life and Style
tech
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.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Argyll Scott International: Senior Perl Developer

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits : Argyll Scott International: Senior Perl...

Austen Lloyd: Commercial Property / Planning - Bristol

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: BRISTOL - A VERY HIGH QUALITY FIRM - A high qu...

Recruitment Genius: Solar Field Sales Executive

£30000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Content / Copy Writer

£18000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity has bec...

Day In a Page

US immigration: President Obama ready to press ahead with long-promised plan to overhaul 'broken system' - but will it get past a Republican-controlled Congress?

Immigration: Obama's final frontier

The President is ready to press ahead with the long-promised plan to overhaul America's 'broken system' - but will it get past a Republican-controlled Congress?
Bill Cosby rape allegations explained: Why are these allegations coming out now? Why didn’t these women come forward earlier? And why has nobody taken legal action?

Bill Cosby rape allegations explained

Why are these allegations coming out now? Why has nobody taken legal action? And what happens next for the man once thought of as 'America's Dad'
Four years of excruciating seizures caused by the 1cm tapeworm found burrowing through a man's brain

You know that headache you’ve got?

Four years of excruciating seizures caused by the 1cm tapeworm found burrowing through a man's brain
Travelling to work by scooter is faster than walking and less sweaty than cycling, so why aren’t we all doing it?

Scoot commute

Travelling to work by scooter is faster than walking and less sweaty than cycling, so why aren’t we all doing it?
Paul Robeson: The story of how an American icon was driven to death to be told in film

The Paul Robeson story

How an American icon was driven to death to be told in film
10 best satellite navigation systems

Never get lost again: 10 best satellite navigation systems

Keep your vehicle going in the right direction with a clever device
Paul Scholes column: England must learn to keep possession and dictate games before they are exposed by the likes of Germany and Brazil

Paul Scholes column

England must learn to keep possession and dictate games before they are exposed by the likes of Germany and Brazil
Michael Dawson: I’ll thank Spurs after we win says defender as he prepares to return with Hull

Michael Dawson: I’ll thank Spurs after we win

Hull defender faces his struggling former club on Sunday ready to show what they are missing. But he says he will always be grateful to Tottenham
Frank Warren column: Dr Wu has big plans for the professionals yet he should stick to the amateur game

Frank Warren column

Dr Wu has big plans for the professionals yet he should stick to the amateur game
Synagogue attack: Fear unites both sides of Jerusalem as minister warns restoring quiet could take 'months'

Terror unites Jerusalem after synagogue attack

Rising violence and increased police patrols have left residents of all faiths looking over their shoulders
Medecins sans Frontieres: The Ebola crisis has them in the headlines, but their work goes far beyond West Africa

'How do you carry on? You have to...'

The Ebola crisis has Medecins sans Frontieres in the headlines, but their work goes far beyond West Africa
Isis extends its deadly reach with suicide bombing in Kurdish capital

Isis extends its deadly reach with suicide bombing in Kurdish capital

Residents in what was Iraq’s safest city fear an increase in jihadist attacks, reports Patrick Cockburn
Underwater photography competition winners 2014 - in pictures

'Mysterious and inviting' shot of diver wins photography competition

Stunning image of cenote in Mexico takes top prize
Sir John Major: Negative West End portrayals of politicians put people off voting

Sir John Major hits out at theatres

Negative West End portrayals of politicians put people off voting
Kicking Barbie's butt: How the growth of 3D printing enabled me to make an army of custom-made figurines

Kicking Barbie's butt

How the growth of 3D printing enabled toy-designer to make an army of custom-made figurines