English actor Norman Painting dies at age 85

Friday, October 30, 2009

English actor and scriptwriter Norman Painting has died at the age of 85 in Warmington in the county of Warwickshire in England. He had been fighting a battle with bladder cancer since 2000.

Painting was most famous for playing the voice of the character Phil Archer in BBC Radio 4 drama "The Archers" since the programme piloted on 29 May 1950, making him involved in the series for 59 years. According to the Guinness Book of Records, Norman is recognised as the "longest-serving character in a single soap-opera". He has also written over 1000 scripts for the programme between 1966 and 1982. Despite the long period of time on the show, he was having a reduced number of appearances in later years due to his declining health. In 2000, he made the announcement that he was suffering from bladder cancer, but said at the time: "I see no reason why this illness should prevent me from continuing doing what I love."

His last day in the recording studio was on October 20, which was a Tuesday. Mark Thompson, who is the BBC general director, spoke of how he was "deeply saddened" by this happening: "He rightly became renowned for his portrayal of Phil Archer, a role he created in the pilot episode in 1950, 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," said Thompson.

Norman Painting's star on the Birmingham Walk of Stars.

Painting was appointed OBE in 1976 and also has a star on the Birmingham Walk of Stars. Mark Damazer, who is the current BBC Radio 4 controller, also expressed his gratitude to the actor. "Norman Painting was for almost 60 years a central figure in one of Radio 4's hallmark programmes," he said. "As Phil Archer, he became a wonderful patriarch yet he had started decades earlier as a young romantic hero. He will be deeply missed by the rest of The Archers team and his millions of fans."

The last episode in which he is featured will be broadcast on BBC Radio 4 on November 22, 2009. An extract of the episode can be found on the BBC News website.