Archers keep mum

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The Independent Online
AMBRIDGE, the mythical Borsetshire village of The Archers, is set for a happy event this week. On Wednesday, listeners will hear Ruth Archer, wife of David and daughter-in-law of Phil and Jill, giving birth to her first child, the first time the country's longest- running radio soap opera has broadcast from a delivery room, writes Chris Arnot.

The actress Felicity Finch has been researching in maternity hospitals near Birmingham's Pebble Mill Studios. Such was the intensity of her performance during recording that she hyper-ventilated and had to be hurriedly handed glass after glass of water.

The impending birth, much- heralded on the airwaves and important because it introduces a new generation of the Archer family, has put strain on the programme editor, Vanessa Whitburn. She has been working with nine other writers on the details of the baby's sex and possible names over the past six months. 'When you're deciding on births, deaths and marriages, the whole weight of your control of the dynasty comes down on you.'

Listeners have sent in their own suggestions, including putting the names of past Wimbledon champions into a hat.

The vital question remains: will it be a boy or a girl? The baby cries that the programme's seven million listeners hear will be male - they belong to Elliott Davies, young son of the producer Kerry Davies. Beyond that, however, no one in Borsetshire, or Pebble Mill, is revealing anything.