To read this content please select one of the options below:

‘Big Telephoto Lens, Small Ticklist’: Birdwatching, Class and Gender in Ambridge

Custard, Culverts and Cake

ISBN: 978-1-78743-286-4, eISBN: 978-1-78743-285-7

Publication date: 5 October 2017


This chapter explores the role that birdwatching plays in The Archers. It demonstrates some significant similarities between the way that birdwatching is portrayed in present-day Ambridge, and the way it was presented in both fictional and non-fictional literature of the 1940s. These similarities suggest that birdwatching in Ambridge is an activity that tends to perpetuate traditional class and gender divisions. Particularly in terms of gender, this is a surprising discovery, given the many strong female characters in the show, and suggests that cultural assumptions about gender and birdwatching run deep in UK society today. The chapter warns that a failure to recognise these assumptions not only hampers the progress of women who aspire to be taken seriously as ornithologists, but also risks reinforcing dualistic thinking about humans and nature at a time when the environmental crisis makes it more important than ever to recognise the ecological interconnectedness of human and nonhuman worlds. However, the recent development of Kirsty Miller’s storyline, in which she is rediscovering her earlier love of the natural world, not only offers hope of a shift away from this traditional bias but also opens a space for a more nuanced examination of the importance of birds in human–nature relations.




My thanks to Dr Samantha Walton of Bath Spa University for insightful comments on a draft of this chapter, and to Emily Baker (this volume) for alerting me to the way that Kirsty and Helen are often linked sonically with blackbird song (see also review by Jennifer Aldridge).


Dobson, J. (2017), "‘Big Telephoto Lens, Small Ticklist’: Birdwatching, Class and Gender in Ambridge", Courage, C. and Headlam, N. (Ed.) Custard, Culverts and Cake, Emerald Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 25-42.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2017 Emerald Publishing Limited