Thursday, 3 July 2008

Richard Handford And Stuart Doughty - Two Producers Of 1980s Emmerdale Farm

The producers of Emmerdale Farm in the 1980s were as follows:

Anne W. Gibbons (1979 to 1983)

Richard Handford (1983 to 1986)

Michael Russell (1986 to 1988)

Stuart Doughty (1988 to 1991)

Here we present the views of two Emmerdale Farm producers of the 1980s - Richard Handford is first, in an article from the Yorkshire Evening Post 1985 supplement, Emmerdale Farm 1,000!


“Emmerdale Farm” is more than just another time-consuming soap opera. Ever since its conception by time-honoured writer Kevin Laffan, the series has had a message to give to its millions of fans.

That message, says producer Richard Handford, latest in 13 years to wear the mantle, is that it should always be “warm and caring.”

“Most of the characters,” he says, “adhere to moral values. And it’s bound to stay that way.”

Richard, who read English at Cambridge and spent nearly every night at the cinema, is the sixth producer of “Emmerdale” and has been responsible for 200 of the 1,000 episodes.

He admits that there has been a hardening of the storylines from the cosy fireside yarns and sheep shearing shots that introduced Beckindale to a nation obviously gasping for a breath of fresh country air.

“At one time everybody was good,” he says. “Now we are challenging traditional values.”

Challenging these values has meant introducing such modern traits which obviously effect both urban and rural communities, as extra-marital affairs. The sort of thing that makes Annie Sugden clank her pans on the solid-fuel kitchen range.

But it’s only done to reflect life as it really is, Richard insists.

“I don’t do it to pull in viewers,” he says. “Jack’s affair was a good story that we could deal with well. And I wanted to show that life isn’t all that easy

“It can happen to anyone. It’s just that some of us are lucky, but we can’t hide away from the fact that some aren’t.”

Jack’s little romp - a great departure for the clean-cut Sugdens - surprised the “Emmerdale” team by bringing “very few” compaints. “I think there were about twelve,” Richard recalls.

The changes in modern values must come through in the programme, he says. “For instance, nobody now expects their children to be virtous until marriage.

“Annie, who sets ther moral tone for her family, has had to be challenged with these problems.”

When Richard looks to the future, he says it would be impossible to predict what’s going to happen In the next 1,000 episodes. “Why change the tone for the sake of it,” he says.

But one thing is certain. It will always be a happy programme.

“It always has been, both on and off the set,” says Richard. “It shows in the way the artistes keep coming back for more.”

“People will bust a gut for the programme. They really believe in it, seriously and passionately.
“We’re not a soap opera. We believe we’re a long-running drama.”

And on to Stuart Doughty - an article from the Hotten Courier, Yorkshire Television's Emmerdale Farm programme publicity, summer 1988:

No big shake-up says the farm’s new boss

Former “Brookside” producer Stuart Doughty has crossed the Pennines to join Yorkshire Television’s top serial, “Emmerdale Farm”.

But Stuart, who took over the reins in January, has no wish to turn life down on the farm into a “rural ‘Brookside’”.

“I haven’t any plans to urbanise it and fill ‘Emmerdale’ full of social problems,” says Stuart.

During his two-and-a-half-year spell on the Channel 4 series, set in Liverpool, storylines included a fatal gun siege, rape, suicide and the first AIDS sufferer in a British soap.

But, though he won’t radically alter the formula that has made “Emmerdale Farm” a TV favourite, with a regular 12 million viewers per episode, Stuart admits he doesn’t want to see things standing still.

He sees the future as one of evolution rather than revolution. “Any serial has got to move with the times. If it stops it will become old-fashioned and out of touch with its viewers,” he says.

“Soaps must reflect life. They have to keep in touch with real life, otherwise viewers regard them as fantasy.”

He certainly believes it would be wrong for British soaps to become as escapist as “Dallas” or “Dynasty”, in which the characters are unbelievably rich and beautiful.

“British soaps tend to portray ordinary people in everyday situations,” he says.

Stuart, 38, has a varied broadcasting background. After university, he joined the BBC’s Overseas Service.

Then, after a brief spell as an actor - when he worked with Andrew Burt, who played the original Jack Sugden - he began supplying quiz questions for “University Challenge”.

This eventually led to a job with Granada as a researcher.

Moving on, Stuart became an associate producer at Granada, responsible for dramas like “Crown Court”, “A Kind Of Loving” and “The Adventures Of Sherlock Holmes”. In 1985, he went to Mersey Television to become Bookside’s producer.

Now, Stuart believes he’s the first soap producer to make the move from one serial to another.

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