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Archers to mark 60 years

BBC Radio 4's long-running drama serial The Archers is to celebrate 60 years on air in the New Year with a double-length episode.

There'll also be a day of programmes on sister station BBC Radio 7 which will broadcast some archive omnibus editions featuring favourite Archers moments from over the years.

The much-loved drama, set in the fictional village of Ambridge, attracts an audience of over five million in the UK and has a worldwide following. First broadcast to the nation in 1951, daily life in Britain's favourite village continues to enthral audiences as much today as it did when it was first heard.

Vanessa Whitburn started as a producer on the show and has been its editor since 1991. "I believe the secret to The Archers enduring popularity over the decades is a combination of characters that the audience can identify with, strong storylines and an affirmation of the importance of community in all our lives," she said. "We have a wonderfully loyal audience from right across the age spectrum. In the run-up to the anniversary episode we'll be hearing from some of those fans about their favourite moments from down the years and why they feel part of the Ambridge community."

The anniversary will be marked by a special 30-minute episode instead of the usual 15 minutes on the evening of 2 January 2011. The BBC Radio 7 specials will air on the same day. The BBC's Archers website will also show a visualisation of tweets made during the programme using the hashtag #thearchers

Among the famous names to have played themselves on the drama over the years are Sir Terry Wogan and John Peel – as well as Princess Margaret, the Duke of Westminster and actress Dame Judi Dench.

In 2007, The Archers became the first BBC audio drama to be available as a podcast. Since then it's had 24.2 million downloads, 16.7m of those from the UK.

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