Aristocrat of the airwaves
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.