MS200 comprises material by created and collected by Norman Painting during the course of his varied and productive life. A significant proportion relates to his performance as 'Phil Archer' in the long-running Radio 4 series 'The Archers', and his script writing for that series; but there is also much relating to his output as a poet, dramatist and documentary writer, to his performance in and direction of plays and to his interests in travel, gardens and gardening, charity work, and to his circle of friends.
Norman's literary work is reflected in his poetry which dates from the late1930s; and in the scripts for plays which he either wrote himself or adapted from existing works for radio broadcast, the former including 'Stories of the Saints' produced for Children's Hour in the 1950s, the latter including an adaption of Elizabeth Bowen's 'The Little Girls', aired in 1967. There are also scripts of plays in which he performed as an actor before his voice became too well known as 'Phil Archer', and papers relating to his later appearances in pantomime. His working notes include draft poems and notes of ideas and collected jottings for possible use in future literary works. There are drafts, papers and correspondence relating to his six books: 'Stories of the Saints' which was published in 1956; More Stories of the Saints, 1958'; 'St Anthony: The Man Who Found Himself', 1957; 'Forever Ambridge' , 1975, and its 1980 revision; and his autobiography, 'Reluctant Archer', 1982.
There is much material relating to Norman's involvement with 'The Archers' right from its pilot run in 1950 almost up to his death. There are copies of the first five scripts aired in January 1951, and copies of 1,144 of the 1,198 scripts written by Norman himself, under the pseudonym 'Bruno Milna', 1966-1980. Other papers relate to his publicity work and appearances at a variety of events as 'Phil Archer', and there is a quantity of fan mail, particularly dating from the the 1950s and 1960s. Photographs of himself which Norman sent out upon request to fans and photographs of other members of the cast are also included.
The correspondence in the collection is that received from a number of friends and some relations. In particular, there are the letters from Viola Barrett, an avid rose grower, 1981-2000; and letters and papers relating to Joan Hassall, the woodcut artist, 1968-1988.
Norman filed a proportion of his papers into an alphabetical filing series, and these files contain papers relating to all aspects of Norman's life. Notably there are papers relating to his purchase of the Old Rectory at Warmington in 1967; the conversion of its barn into a residence in 1983-1984; his garden, including photographs, 1967-2002; photographs and slides relating to his holidays mainly in Italy; local material relating to Leamington and elsewhere in Warwickshire; and his charity work, revealing in particular his support of the Tree Council, Age Concern Warwickshire and the Royal Agricultural Society of England, 1980s-2008.
The papers in this collection shed light on the long career of a man who was anxious to be known of as 'more than just an Archer'. Norman's early poetic and dramatic work may reflect a capability as well as a tangible academic interest in these literary genres. These later included the discipline of adapting the works of others for dramatic production on radio and of composing episodes for 'The Archers' serial to carry forward story lines and characterisations within strict 13-minute time slots. The fan mail reflects the success of 'The Archers' and its impact on the daily life of millions especially in the 1950s. The records are an interesting resource for the study of the development of an individual's literary output and performance as an actor as well as general topics including mid-20th century life and custom.