University of Portsmouth take academic look at radio soap ‘The Archers’

University of Portsmouth take academic look at radio soap ‘The Archers’.jpg

University of Portsmouth researchers are taking part in a unique conference to discuss a variety of topics and issues related to long-running BBC Radio 4 soap The Archers.

Professor Debi Ashenden and Anna-Marie O’Connor will join 32 academics from all fields across the UK and the world at the two-day conference, taking place at the University of Lincoln on Friday 17th and Sunday 18th February 2017.

The overall study, titled ‘The Archers in fact and fiction: Academic analyses of life in rural Borsetshire’ takes an academic perspective on life in Ambridge and Borsetshire, whilst also throwing an interdisciplinary light on wider social issues.

It will feature papers from across various 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 co-produced peer review process, which included a panel of 15 listeners.

The conference will dedicate a whole strand of study to the Helen and Rob storyline, 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) process which may have taken place at Blossom Hill Cottage following Helen’s stabbing of Rob.

Debi Ashenden, Professor of Cybersecurity at the University of Portsmouth’s School of Computing, will discuss the absence of stories related to social media, such as cybercrime and identity theft. She will explore what the virtual world of The Archers might tell audiences 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 Archershints at an important aspect of community resilience to online danger.”

The conference will also feature a field trip to one of the places considered to be the inspiration for Ambridge: Rippingale. Here, there’ll be a film screening, a talk, and a meal at The Bull Inn, which features in the programme.

The symposium has been organised this year on a voluntary basis by long-time fans of the programme, Dr. Cara Courage and Dr. Nicola Headlam.

A book of papers from the 2016 conference is available » and news on all things related to academic explorations of The Archers can be found on a dedicated Facebook page »