12 September 1997

Archers fans will love this

LIKE it or loathe it, a radio serial thats run for the best part of 50 years must have something extra special about it. A new paperback* chronicles the progress of The Archers from its conception in the late 40s right up to the present day.

Author William Smethurst has painstakingly researched his material from many sources and, as producer of the programme for many years, has a mass of anecdotes and delicious tittle-tattle to draw on.

The Machiavellian twists and turns among the programmes creators, editors, writers and actors are all lovingly detailed and many fine black-and-white photographs add period atmosphere.

I found the account of the appointment of Mr Smethursts replacement, Liz Rigbey, particularly interesting. Ms Rigbey was a colleague on this journal for a couple of years in the early 80s and her brief was, presumably, to "soap up" the programme and bring in more controversial material. This seemed to work well for a while but, alas, Ms Rigbey, like many high-fliers, got singed by the sun and fell.

Confession: I am not in any way an Archers lover. But if you are, rush out and buy it. For an addict, it must be a bargain batch of enjoyable reading for under a tenner. JE

*The Archers, The History of Radios Most Famous Programme by William Smethurst. Michael OMara Books (0171-720 8643) (£8.99).