Archers favourite Norman Painting dies aged 85
Norman Painting, who played the role of Phil Archer in the long-running radio soap opera The Archers for nearly 60 years, died yesterday at the age of 85.
He is listed in the Guinness Book of Records as the actor who holds the world record for the longest continuous role. Having created the character for the pilot episodes which were broadcast on the BBC Midlands Home Service at Whitsun 1950, he recorded his final episode of the Birmingham-produced programme only two days before his death.
Painting. who was born in Leamington, was a graduate of both Birmingham and Oxford universities, and was already a writer and broadcaster before he was cast in The Archers.
He was a scriptwriter for the programme between 1967 and 1982, writing 1,198 scripts under the pseudonym Bruno Milna. He also published a memoir titled Forever Ambridge in 1975 and an autobiography, Reluctant Archer, in 1982.
BBC director-general Mark Thompson led the tributes to the long-serving actor last night.
“Norman chose to leave behind a promising career in academia at Oxford to devote 60 years in the service of BBC audiences,” he said.
“He rightly became renowned for his portrayal of Phil Archer, but he was also a gifted writer and talented, versatile broadcaster. He was a pillar of The Archers family, but to millions of listeners he became a friend and latterly a wonderful father figure.
“His death leaves us with a great sense of loss but an even deeper feeling of gratitude for such a huge contribution to the BBC and its audiences over six decades.”
Vanessa Whitburn, editor of The Archers, said: “Norman was simply the consummate professional. Under his sure hand, Phil graduated seamlessly from young romantic hero, to serious farmer and father – holding Brookfield together in good times and bad, handing over the farm to eldest son David in 2001.”
While still a postgraduate student at Oxford Painting directed a production of King Lear with a retrospectively star-studded cast of fellow students including Baroness Williams, television presenter Robert Robinson and film director John Schlesinger.
From the mid-1980s he returned to the stage in pantomime, including a season with Russ Abbott at the Birmingham Hippodrome in 1988. He also appeared at Birmingham Rep in David Storey’s play the Contractor.
Appointed OBE in the New Year’s Honours for 1976, he was active on behalf of many good causes including being instrumental in finding the site for the Shakespeare Tree Garden at Stratford-upon-Avon in his role as vice president of the Tree Council.
He was a patron of The Friends of Birmingham Cathedral, vice-president of The Friends of St Mary’s Collegiate Church, Warwick, and a trustee and former chairman of the Warwickshire and Coventry Historic Churches Trust.