Wormsley Cricket Ground, Stokenchurch
Of all sports, cricket has arguably the greatest literary tradition. It has attracted an incredible variety of writers, from PG Wodehouse and Arthur Conan Doyle to Samuel Beckett and Harold Pinter. Two of the most talked-about novels of the last decade involved cricket – Joseph O’Neill’s Netherland and Shenan Karunatilaka’s Chinaman.
Even the players can write. Ed Cowan currently opens the batting for Australia while being a genuine author. Mike Atherton, Peter Roebuck and Mike Brearley all wrote fine books without a ghost in sight. While literary festivals are springing up all over the country and thriving, it is slightly surprising that no one has sought to combine these two passions of writing and cricket.
Our plan is to celebrate this splendid relationship with a cricket and literature festival on 7 September 2013 at the spectacular Wormsley ground, built by John Paul Getty. It would be difficult to imagine a better venue: Wormsley is among the most beautiful pitches in the world and many great players have graced it. The library there is home to an amazing collection of books, including a Shakespeare First Folio, Caxton’s first edition of The Canterbury Tales and Anne Boleyn’s Psalter.
The festival will begin with a match between the Authors and the Actors, which will then form the backdrop to the day’s events. This clash is one of the older cricketing traditions and used to take place every year at Lord’s, with Wodehouse and Conan Doyle on one side and C Aubrey Smith leading the other.
One hundred years on Charlie Campbell will lead out the Authors XI; their team now boasts William Fiennes and Sebastian Faulks among its players. Damian Lewis, star of Homeland, will lead out the Actors XI; Michael Hoffman, director of The Last Station and One Fine Day, will manage.
This game will then form the backdrop to the day’s other entertainment. In a large marquee just beyond the boundary, festival goers will be treated to a mix of lively debate and performance.
At a time when celebrity opinion seems to hog the strike, Words and Wickets will showcase the finest cricket writers and opinion makers, irrespective of whether they played for country or pub XI. There will be panel discussions about cricket literature and this summer’s Ashes featuring Tom Holland, Jonathan Wilson, George Dobell, Greg Matthews and Isabelle Duncan.
David Papineau, Professor of the Philosphy of Science at King’s College London will discuss ‘Choking and the Yips’ with Professor John Sutton (Dept of Cognitive Science, Macquarie University, Sydney).
Comedians and cricket obsessives Mark Steel and Andy Zaltzman will look at the funny side of the game. There’ll be recitals by WordTheatre from the best of cricket writing – fact and fiction. And finally, at close of play, theatre critic Michael Billington, used to appraising the actors on stage, will give the festival his thoughts on their cricketing skills and pick a Man of the Match.
The Gettys have kindly opened their family library for the occasion which houses Shakespeare first folios, Caxton’s first edition of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales and Anne Boleyn’s psalter.
There’ll be plenty of fun for children too – nets and a marquee for drawing and painting.
JOFF (Jamie Oliver”s Fabulous Feasts) will run pop-up food stalls all day long.
Car parking free. Helicopter pad available (situated behind the bowler’s arm, so we ask that arrivals and departures be organized before, after or during breaks in play).
The festival is run by Katie Walker (Test Match Sofa), Matt Thacker (editor of Wisden’s Cricket Quarterly The Nightwatchman), Charlie Campbell (captain Authors XI), Kirsty Peart (WordTheatre).
EFG Private Bank have kindly sponsored the event.
Profit goes to First Story and Chance to Shine
Tickets available here
Date: 7th September 2013
Gates open: 11am and close approx 7pm
Marquee entertainment begins at 11.45am and runs through till close of play
Man of the Match award: approx 6.45pm
Address: Wormsley Cricket Ground, Stokenchurch, Nr. High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, HP14 3YG