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Tuesday, 2 January, 2001, 08:20 GMT
Archers celebrate 50th birthday
archers cast
Roy Tucker successfully wooed Hayley Jordan
The world's longest running radio soap opera, The Archers, has celebrated its 50th anniversary.

The first episode of the Archers was broadcast on 1 January 1951 and it is still going strong, with a weekly audience of around four million listeners.

The show has been a broadcasting institution for five decades and its anniversary, episode 12,169, is being marked with special broadcasts, off-air events and dramatic storylines.

The highlight for many fans was the engagement of two of the main characters.

Hayley Jordan (played by Lucy Davis), accepted a marriage proposal and a diamond ring from Roy Tucker (Ian Pepperell).

And David Archer (Timothy Bentinck), apparently crushed by a cow as he tried to rescue it from a water-filled ditch, is found with three broken ribs by his father Phil, who then gives him the farm.

In a personal letter, Agriculture Minister Nick Brown congratulated The Archers saying it was a "momentous day" for British farming.

"I am delighted to be able to wish The Archers a happy half century and not just because as minister of agriculture I need to be a regular listener," he said.

Informing farmers

"Since the programme's inception it has led the way in addressing issues of importance to farmers across the UK."

The show has focused public perceptions on countryside issues such as BSE and GM trials, he said, and has done it through the lives and concerns of country people.

Originally The Archers' main role was to inform farmers about agricultural techniques as they struggled to feed a nation hit by post-war food shortages.

But its dramatic content soon captured the public's imagination and when Grace Archer died in 1955, an audience of 20 million hung on to every word.

The show has had its ups and downs since then. At one point it was almost taken off the air in favour of a series called Waggoner's Walk.

It has gone on to become an institution, loved by millions of listeners throughout the country who follow the trials and tribulations of the Archer family in the village of Ambridge.

The Archers is broadcast on BBC Radio 4 at 1900GMT and repeated at 1400 GMT the following day.

See also:

02 Mar 00 | Entertainment
New boss for Radio 4
02 Nov 00 | Entertainment
Breakfast rejects boost Radio 1
22 Dec 00 | Entertainment
Archers veteran has cancer
30 Dec 00 | Entertainment
Showbiz honours in full
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