Academic Archers – Achievement Unlocked

i am not a huge fan of bucket lists, they tend to assume various privileges such as not being disabled, a certain level of income, no caring responsibilities to name just three. There is also often an element of “shoulds” about them, a socially acceptable list of things which we should do – very often dominated by white, western – eurocentric ideas.

That said, if I did write my own bucket list, attending the Academic Archers conference would have been very high on the list. Founded by Dr Cara Courage and Dr Nicola Headlam, each year a group of fans, academics, and experts in everything from end of life care to quilting get together to discuss the goings on in Borchestshire.

I have used the adventures of the residents of Ambridge in my writings, in an echo of the very reason for the shows existence. Originally intended to educate farmers about modern farming methods in the post-war period The Archers was using the technology of it’s day in an innovative and ground breaking way. BBC World Service continues to do this, and recently a colleague wrote about an attempt to replicate this for a digital era.

So education and The Archers go hand in hand. and have done from the very first episode broadcast in 1950. In being given the opportunity to present I may not have explicitly thought “I will educate people on queer theory” but in exploring the story of Shula I had exactly that opportunity.

Shula Hebden Lloyd recently decided to end her marriage at the age of 60. In doing so she has faced the ire of her mother, a large part of the fandom, and most recently her father in law. The general line has been that she should remain in an unhappy and loveless marriage for the sake of her husband. A feminist reading might consider the pressure on women to never consider their own needs (and I touch on this gender non-conformity in the presentation). We might also look at the infantalisation of men which results from considering them as little more than children whose needs must always be put before those of their wives. However, in a queer reading of her decision I wanted to look at the drive to be authentic, to be her true self, and how this was received by those around her.

Many thanks to all who spoke, attended, and were part of making a lifes ambition come true.

Presenting at Sheffield University at the Academic Archers Conference

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