A theatre director and former producer of The Archers has been handed the top job on the long-running Radio 4 rural soap.

Sean O'Connor, who worked on the show in the late 1990s, will take over as editor next month, replacing Vanessa Whitburn who stepped down from the role earlier this year after 22 years in charge.

The BBC advertised for a new editor and specified it was seeking someone who was brave, resilient and able to say "sorry when you got it wrong".

Sean went on to work on shows such as EastEnders and Hollyoaks following his stint in Ambridge, and produced a film version of Terence Rattigan's The Deep Blue Sea starring Rachel Weisz. He has also published a book about the murderer Neville Heath.

Sean said: "I'm honoured to take the reins of our national epic drama and to build on the extraordinary achievements of Vanessa Whitburn who dedicated much of her career to this unique cultural institution."

Gwyneth Williams, controller of Radio 4 said: "The Archers is our most loved and longstanding daily drama and the job of editor carries great responsibility and trust.

"Sean is steeped in story-telling and will be working with the immensely talented Archers team in Birmingham so I am extremely pleased to be welcoming him back to Ambridge."

Whitburn occasionally drew criticism for attempting to "sex up" the show and some fans called for a return to more farming-based stories when her departure was announced in March.

A programme source welcomed his return and said he was noted for his "sensitivity of understanding" both the characters and story lines.