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For 70 years The Archers has ruled the airwaves but this week a new, post-Covid radio soap opera has launched across the UK with the help of government funding.
Set in a fictional village emerging from the effects of the pandemic, Greenborne stars EastEnders actors John Altman and Louise Jameson, along with a diverse range of co-stars, and is aiming to “reflect the reality we’re all now living in”, according to writer Colin Brake.
The idea for the show arose during the first lockdown when TV soaps had to halt filming.
Brake, who has worked on Crossroads, Doctors and EastEnders, and his co-creator Andrew Mark Sewell realised more people were listening to audio so there was an opportunity to create a radio soap that could carry on being made under lockdown restrictions.
“It gives us the opportunity to tell the stories and challenges we face as we emerge back out of lockdown … and I wanted to write something about positivity and hope,” Brake said.
Whereas The Archers is centred on the farming year, Greenborne aims to be more universal and is set in the early summer of 2021, although it was recorded during January and February.
Brake said he has not listened to the BBC Radio 4 show for years so when it came to writing Greenborne, “I just treated it like a new soap opera, I didn’t think too much about it being an audio soap”.
“It’s a modern soap being created for 2021. We never say where Greenborne is. It’s a generic village not far from a city … we wanted to give it a universal relevance. We’re all in the same situation, all going to be coping with the effects of the pandemic, so it’s time-relative rather than location relative,” he said.
The storylines include how the local pub – run by Altman’s character, former police officer Alan Godwin – adapts following the pandemic and how the village deals with the death of one of its residents from Covid-19. There is also a lesbian couple and topical issues such as Brexit are discussed.
Pal Aron, who plays local garage owner Samesh “Sam” Sharma, has also appeared in The Archers as tutor and cricketer Ifthikar “Ifty” Shah. He thinks Greenborne is different in a number of ways: “It may be set in Greenborne village, but it’s just outside a major city and city-matters are a part of Greenbone as well, whereas The Archers tends to be predominantly about country-matters.
“Also, Greenborne is more reflective of modern Britain. It is much more multicultural than Ambridge and the Greenborne community is richer for that, and I think partly because of that and the storylines that are coming up, Greenborne will attract a younger audience than audiences that usually listen to The Archers. But it’s main audience will be listeners who love good quality, entertaining radio drama.”
Twelve 15-minute episodes have been made and will be released weekly across about 50 local community radio stations as well as online on Greenborne’s website from 29 March.
Brake says the reaction from those stations that have aired it so far has been positive and hopes more will be made. Greenborne cost around £40,000 to produce with help from the Audio Content Fund, a not-for-profit company set up in 2019 to channel around £1m each year from the government into programmes on commercial and community radio that might otherwise not get made.
The ACF’s managing director, Sam Bailey, said: “The ACF exists to support programming that is traditionally more difficult to support on a commercial basis – such as drama, documentary, comedy etc. The fund is significantly increasing the amount of quality, crafted, high-public value content going out on UK radio.”
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: Watch out Ambridge: Covid radio soap Greenborne airs across UK | Radio