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Friday, 23 February, 2001, 13:08 GMT
Archers takes on foot-and-mouth
Orchard Farm
Orchard Farm in Essex was cordoned off on Wednesday
BBC Radio 4's rural drama The Archers has taken on the foot-and-mouth disease scare by rushing through a new storyline for Thursday's programme.

Listeners heard Ambridge farmer Brian Aldridge discuss the outbreak with church warden and keen horsewoman Shula Hebden Lloyd.

The pair considered the likely consequences for Ambridge, the fictional village where The Archers is set.

"The Archers are reflecting farmers' feelings and we will continue to monitor the situation," said The Archers editor Vanessa Whitburn.

Topicality

Since recording for the programme is done three to six weeks in advance, such topicality required an emergency recording by actors Charles Collingwood and Judy Bennett, who happen to be married in real-life.

Many listeners had hoped for some discussion of a disease that could devastate rural communities.


The Archers are reflecting farmers' feelings and we will continue to monitor the situation

Editor Vanessa Whitburn
The last foot-and-mouth disease epidemic in 1967 was not mentioned on The Archers, which celebrated its 50th birthday on 1 January.

"I well remember the last major outbreak in the late 1960s," listener Stephen Nancledra wrote on the radio soap's website.

"I also recall that Ambridge was the only place in the UK that wasn't affected.

"So I wonder how long it will be before the new outbreak and it's consequences will affect Ambridge?

"I'll be listening out for it."

Other website correspondents were confident that The Archers would at least touch on the criris.

One pointed out that Brookfield Farm, the 469 acre mixed farm that belongs to the Archer family, "did suffer the effects of the SVD pig disease in the mid-seventies".

Website

But another criticised the programme for its lack of support for farming issues:

"As they seem to be the only farmers in the UK who weren't affected by floods, perhaps they'll avoid the foot-and-mouth too, and won't even notice that they are profiting by others' misfortunes."

Another Archers storyline that has created a stir is the plan to include next month's Countryside Alliance demonstration in London in the storyline.

It has been hotly debated by listeners, but being as topical as this is a challenge for programme makers.

As one listener on the web-site today wrote: "It would be a bit embarrassing if the real-life demo had to be cancelled because of foot-and-mouth or because of violence between rival factions.

"Then the Ambridge lot might be the only ones there."

See also:

01 Feb 01 | Entertainment
Charles to host Archers party
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