BBC accused of lacking diversity in Archers 70th anniversary celebration

The BBC‘s radio soap The Archers has been accused of ‘lacking racial diversity’ after a photograph of 70 cast members showed three are from BAME backgrounds.

The row erupted after the corporation’s publicity department released the cast picture to celebrate the upcoming 70th anniversary of the programme in January.

But social media users took aim at the BBC to point out the composite image, bringing together characters from across seven decades, was almost entirely white, with just a handful of cast members from ethnic minority backgrounds. 

However many were quick to hit back at the outrage and leapt to defence of the long-running Radio 4 soap, saying that it was representative of rural parts of Britain.

The Archers is set in the fictional village of Ambridge in the fictional county of Borsetshire, said to be sandwiched between the counties of Worcestershire and Warwickshire.

According to a January 2020 report from the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, the white ethic group still makes up 97.6 per cent of the rural population of the UK.

‘I’ve lived in a rural village all of my 44 years and never have any black people been locals,’ said one user. It’s a sign of the times that to authentically represent certain parts of the British experience is to risk inferences of racism.’

The BBC's radio soap The Archers has been accused of ‘lacking racial diversity’ after a photograph of 70 cast members showed just three are from BAME backgrounds

The BBC's radio soap The Archers has been accused of ‘lacking racial diversity’ after a photograph of 70 cast members showed just three are from BAME backgrounds

The BBC’s radio soap The Archers has been accused of ‘lacking racial diversity’ after a photograph of 70 cast members showed just three are from BAME backgrounds

Another commented: ‘If we expect to see statistically correct representations of racial groups in radio dramas set in the country, then this is probably accurate.’ 

The picture features three BAME cast members – Mogali Masuku, Adjoa Andoh and Souad Faress – alongside several prominent figures including Lesley Saweard and Patricia Greene who have been on the show since the 1950s. 

One of the first to highlight the ‘lack of diversity’ in the image was journalist and author David Aaronovitch wrote: ‘Been an A’s (Archers) fan for decades. Even so it’s hard for a metropolitan liberal like me not to notice what’s missing here.’

Another Twitter user said: ‘Why are they even now all white?’ and another added: ‘Just hire some black actors for heaven’s sake.’

British film director Peter Webber referred to the photo as a ‘fever dream of what the UK should be like’ for any ‘Brexiteer’.

Others said it ‘draws attention to the lack of diversity’ and one said: ‘Not much in the way of diversity or inclusion here.’ 

Journalist and author David Aaronovitch wrote: 'Been an A's (Archers) fan for decades. Even so it's hard for a metropolitan liberal like me not to notice what's missing here.' But others responded to him saying the cast was representative of rural Britain, where 97.6% of the population is from a white ethic group

Journalist and author David Aaronovitch wrote: 'Been an A's (Archers) fan for decades. Even so it's hard for a metropolitan liberal like me not to notice what's missing here.' But others responded to him saying the cast was representative of rural Britain, where 97.6% of the population is from a white ethic group

Journalist and author David Aaronovitch wrote: ‘Been an A’s (Archers) fan for decades. Even so it’s hard for a metropolitan liberal like me not to notice what’s missing here.’ But others responded to him saying the cast was representative of rural Britain, where 97.6% of the population is from a white ethic group

Social media users took aim at the BBC to point out the composite image, bringing together characters from across seven decades, was almost entirely white, with just a handful of cast members from ethnic minority backgrounds

Social media users took aim at the BBC to point out the composite image, bringing together characters from across seven decades, was almost entirely white, with just a handful of cast members from ethnic minority backgrounds

Social media users took aim at the BBC to point out the composite image, bringing together characters from across seven decades, was almost entirely white, with just a handful of cast members from ethnic minority backgrounds

The soap opera has also starred well known actors including Tamsin Greig and Felicity Jones. 

Ironically the row blew up at the very moment the show was attempting to highlight an issue with politically correct credentials.

In the latest episode it was revealed that three men kept as modern slaves on the outskirts of the show’s fictional home, Ambridge, have a learning or mental health disability.

It was the culmination of a story line running since March and intended to highlight the vulnerability of people with learning or mental health disabilities.

IT worker Carl, played by Nicholas Bailey, was depicted as adulterous when he was introduced as the vicar's daughter Amy's boyfriend in 2012

IT worker Carl, played by Nicholas Bailey, was depicted as adulterous when he was introduced as the vicar's daughter Amy's boyfriend in 2012

Scottish character Jack ‘Jazzer’ McCreary, played by Ryan Kelly, was accused of being portrayed as a heavy-drinking, drug-taking, womanising Glaswegian

Scottish character Jack ‘Jazzer’ McCreary, played by Ryan Kelly, was accused of being portrayed as a heavy-drinking, drug-taking, womanising Glaswegian

The show was previously been accused of racial stereotyping both Scottish and Caribbean characters 

The show was previously been accused of racial stereotyping both Scottish and Caribbean characters.

In 2012, IT worker Carl, a black character, was introduced as the new boyfriend of the vicar’s daughter Amy.

But listeners complained to the BBC that the character, played by Nicholas Bailey, was being depicted as adulterous as they had been led to believe he was already married.

Before this the long-running soap had also accused of stereotyping its only Scottish character.

Listeners objected to the behaviour of Jack ‘Jazzer’ McCreary, played by Scottish actor Ryan Kelly, who is shown as a mean, heavy-drinking, car-stealing, drug-taking, womanising Glaswegian who likes to eat porridge.

The BBC was contacted for comment.

Who’s who in the Archers’ 70 characters for 70 years photo 

 

1 Peggy Woolley (Played By June Spencer)

2 Jill Archer (Patricia Greene)

3 Leonard Berry (Paul Copley)

4 Christine Barford (Lesley Saweard)

5 David Archer (Timothy Bentinck)

6 Ruth Archer (Felicity Finch)

7 Pip Archer (Daisy Badger)

8 Josh Archer (Angus Imrie)

9 Ben Archer (Ben Norris)

10 Elizabeth Pargetter (Alison Dowling)

11 Lily Pargetter (Katie Redford)

12 Freddie Pargetter (Toby Laurence)

13 Russ Jones (Andonis James Anthony)

14 Vince Casey (Tony Turner)

15 Kenton Archer (Richard Attlee)

16 Jolene Archer (Buffy Davis)

17 Shula Hebden-lloyd (Judy Bennett)

18 Alistair Lloyd (Michael Lumsden)

19 Jim Lloyd (John Rowe)

20 Fiona Lloyd (Adjoa Andoh)

21 Jazzer Mccreary (Ryan Kelly)

22 Tony Archer (David Troughton)

23 Pat Archer (Patricia Gallimore)

24 Helen Archer (Louiza Patikas)

25 Lee Bryce (Ryan Early)

26 Tom Archer (William Troughton)

27 Natasha Archer (Mali Harries)

28 Johnny Phillips (Tom Gibbons)

29 Lilian Bellamy (Sunny Ormonde)

30 Justin Elliott (Simon Williams)

31 Lynda Snell (Carole Boyd)

32 Robert Snell (Graham Blockey)

33 Leonie Snell (Jasmine Hyde)

34 James Bellamy (Roger May)

35 Jennifer Aldridge (Angela Piper)

36 Brian Aldridge (Charles Collingwood)

37 Adam Macy (Andrew Wincott)

38 Ian Craig (Stephen Kennedy)

39 Ruairi Donovan (Arthur Hughes)

40 Debbie Aldridge (Tamsin Greig)

41 Kate Madikane (Perdita Avery)

42 Jakob Hakansson (Paul Venables)

43 Noluthando Madikane (Mogali Masuku)

44 Alice Carter (Hollie Chapman)

45 Chris Carter (Wilf Scolding)

46 Susan Carter (Charlotte Martin)

47 Neil Carter (Brian Hewlett)

48 Tracy Horrobin (Susie Riddell)

49 Emma Grundy (Emerald O’hanrahan)

50 Ed Grundy (Barry Farrimond)

51 Eddie Grundy (Trevor Harrison)

52 Clarrie Grundy (Heather Bell)

53 Will Grundy (Philip Molloy)

54 Mia Grundy (Molly Pipe)

55 Kirsty Miller (Annabelle Dowler)

56 Philip Moss (Andy Hockley)

57 Gavin Moss (Gareth Pierce)

58 Harrison Burns (James Cartwright)

59 Fallon Rogers (Joanna Van Kampen)

60 Rex Fairbrother (Nick Barber)

61 Toby Fairbrother (Rhys Bevan)

62 Phoebe Aldridge (Lucy Morris)

63 Roy Tucker (Ian Pepperell)

64 Alan Franks (John Telfer)

65 Usha Gupta (Souad Faress)

66 Oliver Sterling (Michael Cochrane)

67 Kathy Perks (Hedli Niklaus)

68 Bert Fry (Eric Allan)

69 Hannah Riley (Helen Longworth)

70 Joy Horville (Jackie Lye)

71 Xander Macy-Craig (Crawling into shot to represent all of Ambridge’s children)

 

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