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Arts

Nancy Banks-Smith on The Archers: every man and his donkey is a suspect

Who tried to kill Matt? We’re not short of leads after Huw Kennair-Jones’s final act as Archers editor is to frame half of Ambridge

This month Huw Kennair-Jones, briefly the editor of The Archers, leaves Ambridge for the bright lights of ITV. The last day at work is a wonderful opportunity for a leg pull. You can delete Donald Trump’s Twitter account or, in this case, leave every man in Ambridge under suspicion of attempted murder.

It happened during the Hunt Ball, which everyone said was a roaring success though most of them were unaccountably absent for lengthy periods. Matt, a man with the popular appeal of a dog fox, was in The Bull, bibulously discussing hopeless love with the landlord (“So set ’em up, Joe”). Joe understandably urged him to get some fresh air. A screech of tyres ... a whispered “Lilian!” ... and Matt was in Borsetshire General with broken ribs, a collapsed lung, head injuries and an induced coma. The kindly consultant – but not the kind I’d want at my deathbed – urged a distraught Lilian not to look on the bright side.

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Abigail's Party: Nancy Banks-Smith reviews the TV version of the play - archive 1977

2 November 1977 Any party on TV is the signal for insult, indigestion and vomiting off


Pearls are caused by irritating oysters in the privacy of their own homes and Abigail’s Party (BBC1) was a fine pearl, the result of one of those TV parties where everyone has a simply terrible time.

Any party on TV is the signal for insult, indigestion and vomiting off. Charles Wood’s Love-Lies-Bleeding was this year’s clear favourite in that most of the party was spent cowering under the kitchen table, the soup was off and the host was shot.

Related: Mike Leigh on Abigail’s Party at 40: 'I was sure it would sink without trace'

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Nancy Banks-Smith on The Archers: a prizewinning lamb tops a dazzlingly dull year

Ian and Adam are hiring a womb, Ed Grundy is hunting online for top lamb sperm – and editor Huw Kennair-Jones is leaving Ambridge just as I’ve learned how to spell his name

“You picked a fine time to leave me, Lucille,
With 400 children and a crop in the field.”

– Kenny Rogers

After barely a year of country life, the editor of The Archers, Huw Kennair-Jones, whose name I have only just learned to spell with any confidence, is leaving us for the bright lights. As his boss said over Pringles and prosecco: “He’s done a great job. It’s been an eventful year in Ambridge.” He may have done a great job, but it has been a dazzlingly dull year and, after the fireworks display of the previous editor, that may well have been the idea. Silence like a poultice came to heal the blows of sound. Jones the Poultice.

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Nancy Banks-Smith on The Archers: is Grey Gables Ambridge's answer to The Shining?

Caroline’s ashes are unlikely to make Grey Gables feel any less haunted. Maybe a new coat of paint will do the trick? Meanwhile, Adam is wondering if he’s ready to add to the village’s extraordinary array of tots

“Take me when I’m gorn /
To Forest Lawn.”

– John Denver

Grey Gables always reminds me of the hotel in The Shining. Endless echoing corridors and unoccupied conference suites. Run by a skeleton staff for invisible guests. It is almost certainly haunted. The bones of previous residents moulder in the spacious grounds. Captain, Jack Woolley’s unattractive bull terrier, is here with his own headstone and the ashes of Caroline, the former owner, nourish a cherry tree. “No better place for her final rest” as her sorrowing widower put it this week and, indeed, there is a sense of mausoleum about the place. Grey Gables is the nearest thing to a white elephant you will find outside Whipsnade Zoo.

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