Earlier this year, 94-year-old actress June Spencer received a lifetime achievement award, having played Archers character Peggy Woolley on the rural Radio 4 drama series since the pilot episode in 1950.
And it turns out that many Archers devotees have been with the show just as long as June…
A quarter of current listeners first tuned in six decades (and around 17,000 episodes) ago in the early 50s, according to a BBC survey of 600 fans. And while a recent rise in the show’s weekly audience to over 5 million suggests that so-called “sexed up” storylines are not putting listeners off, a 1955 twist in which Grace Archer died in a fire remains one of the most popular plotlines in the show’s history.
Conducted via social media, the BBC poll also gathered anecdotes that reveal the extent of fans’ devotion to The Archers.
One listener recalled hiking two miles while on holiday in France in order to find radio reception so she could listen to the show, while three fans said they had tuned in while in labour. One even admitted: “I delayed going into hospital to have my second child so I could download the omnibus podcast.”
With dedication like that (not to mention a new generation of potential listeners), The Archers could still be around in another 60 years…