Researchers from the University of Portsmouth are taking part in a unique conference to discuss a variety of topics and issues related to the iconic BBC Radio 4 radio soap The Archers.
Professor Debi Ashenden and Anna-Marie O’Connor will join 32 academics from all fields and across the UK and the world at the two-day conference, which is taking place at University of Lincoln on 17 and 18 February 2017.
The Archers in fact and fiction: Academic analyses of life in rural Borsetshire takes an academic perspective on life in Ambridge and Borsetshire, but to also throw an interdisciplinary light on wider social issues too.
It will feature papers from across academic disciplines, including social media, education, religion, the negative aspects of competing at Flower and Produce shows, birdwatching, class and masculinity in Ambridge, eating disorders and dietary health, flood resilience, social status and perceptions of physicality, and family dysfunctionality.
All of the papers were subjected to a novel co-produced peer review process, which included a panel of 15 listeners – who proved extremely harsh reviewers indeed.
Unsurprisingly, the conference is dedicating a whole strand to the Helen and Rob story line (which involved domestic abuse and an attempted murder trial). Anna-Marie O’Connor, Senior Lecturer and Forensic Co-Ordinator, will present a talk on the forensic Blood Pattern Analysis (BPA) that may have resulted at Blossom Hill Cottage following Helen’s stabbing of Rob.
Debi Ashenden, Professor of Cyber Security from the School of Computing, will discuss the absence of stories related to social media, such as cybercrime and identify theft. She will explore what the virtual world of The Archers might tell us about the enmeshed nature of social media, rural communities and relationships in early 21st Century Britain.
Professor Ashenden said: “While The Archers is fictional it reaches out into the real-world and its storylines impact on real lives. As our use of technology evolves, we think The Archers hints at an important aspect of community resilience to online danger.”
The event also sees a field trip to one of the places considered to be an Ambridge birth place, Rippingale, for a film, talk and meal at The Bull Inn, which features in the programme.
The symposium is organised on a voluntary basis by long-time fans of the programme, Dr Cara Courage, and Dr Nicola Headlam from the University of Oxford, and is assisted this year by Professor Carenza Lewis, University of Lincoln, who are hosting the conference.
A book of papers from the first conference in 2016 is available, published by Peter Lang, and news on all things Academic Archers can be found on its Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/groups/AcademicArchers/