Archers character JustGiving page raises thousands for domestic violence charity

Fan of BBC Radio 4 soap raises more than £10,000 for Refuge in response to powerful storyline of Helen Titchener’s abuse

It is an everyday story of internet folk and this time the tale is particularly heartwarming. An online donations page on behalf of a fictional character in the long-running soap, the Archers has raised more than £10,000 for domestic violence charity Refuge.

Archers fan Paul Trueman set up the Helen Titchener (née Archer) Rescue Fund on Tuesday night in response to a powerful storyline in the BBC Radio 4 soap involving the abuse of Helen Titchener by her controlling husband, Rob.

Overnight and within 12 hours of its launch, about £1,300 had been pledged to an appeal that pointed out that “for every fictional Helen, there are real ones”, beating Trueman’s initial target of £1,000. By Thursday lunchtime the page was on track to reach the new £10,000 target.

Support came from Refuge, which said the donations had already paid for 160 nights’ respite for victims of abuse, and long-time Archers fan Helen Walmsley Johnson, who wrote a heartbreaking account of her own abuse in the New Statesman this week which helped spur Trueman’s fundraising efforts.

Speaking to the Guardian from his home in north Devon, Trueman said he had been so moved by the article and Tuesday night’s storyline in which the fictional Helen tries to escape with her young son that he had set up the JustGiving page on a whim.

“It was just a way of turning this negative, horrible storyline, which has been brilliantly done and acted, into something positive. There are millions of massively loyal Archers fans and if each one just sent in a pound it would help,” Trueman said.

The idea of raising money for Refuge had come from Walmsley Johnson, formerly of the Guardian.

Please read this brilliant article then donate to The Helen Archer Rescue Fund

— Paul Trueman (@paultrueman74) February 2, 2016

The Archers storyline has been a slow burning tale about the arrival of a charming but manipulative man into the village and his impact on Helen, a single mother who had previously suffered with eating disorders.

With the suggestion of marital rape off-air and the on-air coercion, the menace of the ongoing relationship has prompted an outpouring of support and anguish on social media.

After joining in the reaction to the latest twist in the tale, Trueman, the head of social for a creative advertising agency, said: “If this was a real story you would call your mates and go to get her because you fear something bad is going to happen.” Instead, he thought, “what if you had a rescue fund and a whip round?”

On the page he set up within an hour, Trueman wrote: “If over the last year or two you’ve sworn at the radio, tweeted in outrage, taken the name ‘Robert’ in vain, or posted your disgust at the worsening situation in Blossom Hill Cottage, then now’s your chance to do something constructive about it.

“A fiver could get Helen (and Henry) a taxi (she’s not allowed to drive) round to the safety of her mum’s farm. A tenner could get her that maternity top (she had to send back). Just a crisp twenty could order a seasonal starter at Grey Gables and perhaps a quiet, conciliatory word with its head chef.

“Time to do something constructive and think of all the women who are genuinely stuck in relationships like this – and much, much worse.”

He credited Walmsley Johnson for suggesting Refuge as the right place to help “real Helens”.

In her article this week, Walmsley Johnson pointed out the importance of the storyline so soon after new laws made coercive or controlling domestic abuse a crime punishable by up to five years in prison last December.

Trueman found support on Twitter for his campaign from government minister Anna Soubry and Archers actors playing Fallon and Susan.

Having won praise for its social impact and acting, the story has also increased Archers ratings. In last quarter of 2015 the average weekly audience for the show was 4.84m, up from 4.74m the year before.


Jane Martinson

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Domestic violence services shouldn’t have to rely on The Archers’ fans for funds | Sandra Horley
It’s fantastic that an Archers storyline on domestic abuse has prompted a rush of donations to Refuge. But vital services to protect victims need central government funding

Sandra Horley

09, Feb, 2016 @4:01 PM

Article image
The Archers must not become too sensational, producer told
Former acting editor on the Radio 4 soap praises the Helen-Rob storyline but says such twists should be used sparingly

Hannah Ellis-Petersen

04, Apr, 2016 @5:48 PM

Article image
The Archers stabbing: a bit too EastEnders?
Domestic abuse storyline has divided listeners of the Radio 4 soap

Kevin Rawlinson

03, Apr, 2016 @9:55 PM

Article image
Plight of Archers' Helen leads Michael Gove to push for prison reform
Justice secretary praises ‘gripping’ storyline of pregnant woman refused bail for stabbing abusive husband

Jane Martinson

16, May, 2016 @11:01 PM

Article image
The Archers audience slips despite domestic abuse storyline
Radio 4 ratings fall slightly overall in first quarter, with Today programme losing 4% of its audience

John Plunkett

19, May, 2016 @8:31 AM

Article image
The Archers’ abuse storyline has year to run, BBC's Tony Hall reveals
Director general talks about Radio 4 soap’s dramatic twist during event addressing threat to corporation’s independence

Jane Martinson

05, Apr, 2016 @9:17 PM

Article image
The Archers: 65th anniversary show milks suspense from a cow crisis
Writers had hinted at a shock plot twist but the BBC Radio 4 stalwart marked its birthday with a dramatic discussion of dairy farming

Mark Lawson

01, Jan, 2016 @9:04 PM

Article image
Morrissey invited to take guest role in BBC Radio 4's The Archers
Former Smiths singer 'fascinated' by offer and could follow Bradley Wiggins and Duchess of Cornwall as Ambridge visitor. By John Plunkett

John Plunkett

15, May, 2014 @2:52 PM

Article image
Archers fans prepare for shock anniversary episode
Twists and teasers expected in double-length show 60 years after first broadcast

Mark Lawson

31, Dec, 2010 @2:55 PM

Article image
Sensitive Archers plot wins plaudits

A long running storyline in the Archers radio soap has been commended for its sensitivity and accuracy by the Alzheimer's Society. By Chris Arnot

Chris Arnot

29, Oct, 2008 @12:01 AM