Aris­to­crat of the air­waves

EDP Norfolk - - Books -

Nor­folk crops up sur­pris­ingly of­ten in the au­to­bi­og­ra­phy of farmer David Archer. Or at least it would be sur­pris­ing if Be­ing David Archer, and Other Un­usual Ways of Earn­ing a Liv­ing, was ac­tu­ally by the fic­tional farmer whose ev­ery move is fol­lowed by mil­lions on Ra­dio 4’s The Archers.

The book is ac­tu­ally by Tim Bentinck, who as well as playing David Archer for the past 35 years, is also an in­ven­tor, com­puter pro­gram­mer and the Earl of Port­land. He’s been an HGV driver, the ‘mind the gap’ voice on the Tube, and ap­peared in many tele­vi­sion shows, stage plays, films and mu­si­cals. As a young dad (Tim and his wife Judy have two grown-up sons) he in­vented a baby car­rier.

While David Archer is firmly rooted in Borset­shire, Tim has a cottage near Burn­ham Mar­ket and spends a lot of time in Nor­folk. Tim’s father, Henry, grew up in Heacham and the fam­ily con­nec­tions go back cen­turies. Bentincks ar­rived from Hol­land in the 17th cen­tury, bought and drained land, and are still com­mem­o­rated to­day in place names around King’s Lynn.

Tim en­joyed child­hood hol­i­days in Bran­caster and was a stu­dent at the Univer­sity of East Anglia. He said: “I’m not the kind of earl that you ex­pect. I have a tiny gar­den, not an es­tate. My father in­her­ited the ti­tle from a sixth cousin twice re­moved in 1990.”

Tim was still in his 20s when he landed the part of David Archer and said: “I love the way that the au­di­ence en­gages with it so much. They care, and are pas­sion­ate about the peo­ple.

“I re­ally like David; he’s hon­est, he’s got enor­mous in­tegrity. I am like him in as much as I’m very prac­ti­cal. I have worked on farms. But he’s not at all like me. He wouldn’t go to the the­atre or read a book on phi­los­o­phy.”

“I’m a job­bing ac­tor and wake up in the mid­dle of the night, wor­ry­ing where the next job is com­ing from,” he said.

As much at home in the flat­lands and marshes of East Anglia as the rolling farm­land of Borset­shire, he is a master of the speech of both – and his next book could be an in­ves­ti­ga­tion of the sim­i­lar­i­ties be­tween Nor­folk and Aus­tralian.

Hear the many voices of Tim Bentinck in con­ver­sa­tion with Henry Layte, of Nor­wich’s Book Hive, at Ayl­sham Town Hall, on Sun­day, Novem­ber 19. Tick­ets £6 from the Book Hive, www.the­bookhive.co. uk or 01603 219268.

Be­ing David Archer and Other Un­usual Ways of Earn­ing a Liv­ing, by Tim Bentinck, is pub­lished by Con­sta­ble for £20.

Tim Bentinck

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