The Archers’ Edward Kelsey gave ‘object lesson in great radio acting’

The Archers’ Tim Bentinck has said it was a privilege to work with his late co-star Edward Kelsey, who he said gave an “object lesson in great radio acting”.

Kelsey – who played Joe Grundy on the BBC Radio 4 soap from 1985 – has died at the age of 88.

Bentinck plays David Archer and said his character’s next birthday would be particularly poignant because he shared his special day with Joe.

“So very sad that we’ve lost our old pal Ted Kelsey,” said the actor.

“His Joe Grundy was one of the great radio voices, utterly inimitable and instantly recognisable. Tough, gruff, irascible, but with a tender heart of gold for his beloved family, Bartleby the horse, and occasionally Bert.”

Bentinck went on: “Some shows have ‘comic characters’ and although Joe was often written to be funny, the humour that Ted brought to it came from reality, a commitment to the truth of the man.

“Trevor Harrison, who plays his son Eddie, reminded me of his Steptoe-like ‘pathetic’ voice when required, along with a convenient farmer’s lung cough, to get out of anything he considered too much work.

“It was a privilege and a huge pleasure to work with him when Joe and David had scenes together, and they share a birthday, which, with David’s 60th coming up, will be poignant as the first one David doesn’t share with Joe.

“He brought such life and subtlety to his performances, an object lesson in great radio acting.”

The actor recalled an episode where Kelsey said just one word.

“He holds the record, probably never to be beaten, for the fewest lines ever in an episode – one word,” he said.

“Joe had had an accident, and when found by Eddie, the last lines of the episode were ‘Dad! Dad! What’s happened? Are you alright?’ Joe said ‘Ugh.’

“He still got paid the full episode fee!”

Bentinck said he felt lucky to have visited Kelsey at his nursing home just days before his death.

“He was his usual happy, laughing, stoic and self-effacing self, with a lovely view of cows and horses,” he said.

“It’s a tired old phrase, but I really will miss him so much. RIP Ted,” said the actor.

Kelsey’s family said the actor “counted himself immensely lucky that he was able to enjoy a long and varied career doing the thing that he loved, entertaining an audience, and fortunate indeed to have met and worked with so many talented, generous, creative people along the way”.

“He embodied the principle that the show must always go on – his chief concern through increasing ill health the need to convince medical staff he was fit enough to record with his ‘extended family’ in Birmingham,” they said.

“He had an insatiably curious mind and never lost his appetite for lively conversation, good company and, of course, a great storyline.”

The Archers editor Jeremy Howe added: “Ted’s time in Ambridge gave us one of the great performances in the history of British radio – idiosyncratic, warm, cantankerous yet generous, dripping with the Grundy magic and wonderfully funny.

“Ted’s Joe Grundy was a brilliant creation because Ted was a brilliant actor – and a truly lovely man and great company member.

“A cherished part of our team, I am sure all of us will agree that working with Ted was a rare privilege and he will be very much missed.”

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