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July 14, 2014
Last year at Wormsley, the Getty family estate in Buckinghamshire, an intriguing collection of people assembled to play cricket, to debate, to listen to readings and, of course, to eat, drink and be merry. To those who attended, it felt like the start of something: an event built to rejoice in the connection between cricket and the arts.
That first EFG Words and Wickets festival - www.wordsandwickets.com - saw an Actors XI, led by Homeland star Damian Lewis, take on the more established Authors XI, who regularly boast Sebastian Faulks, Tom Holland and Will Fiennes in their number and play some 25 games a season, including fixtures against Japan, The Palaeontologist XI, The Royal Household, Eton Masters, and the Vatican. On the day, rain had the final say although the Authors took the spoils, based on some pretty clear Damian Lewis, rather than Duckworth-Lewis, calculations.
This coming together of cricket and literature, "cricklit" should you prefer, is part of a growing trend towards intelligent, engaging writing about all facets of the game. ESPNcricinfo's own editorial expansion has found allies in the emergence of The Nightwatchman and Wisden Cricket Quarterly. Another ESPNcricinfo regular, Mark Nicholas, will guest edit All Out Cricket next month.
At this year's festival, which includes a gala on Thursday July 24 and matches on the following two days, writers who regularly entertain readers on this site, such as Ed Smith, George Dobell, Andy Zaltzman, Jon Hotten, Vithushan Ehantharajah, Raf Nicholson and Nicholas Hogg will be amongst those taking part. Where else would you get debate, quizzes, stand-up, readings, and a little bit of cricket in the background…
The Thursday night gala sees a range of performers, including another ESPNcricinfo stalwart Mark Butcher, take to the stage at Garsington Opera - also quartered at Wormsley - to entertain the crowds with music, discussion and readings, all overlooking the Chiltern Hills. As part of the evening's fun, the winning entries in the EFG Words and Wickets children's writing competition will be read out. They have been scribbling away on the theme of cricket and the victors will hear their work read out by Hollywood stars.
On Friday the Authors take on the Musicians on the pitch while at the boundary edge there will be entertainment aplenty for the young and not so young. The theme of the day is a celebration of England and India, and Wisden India's editor-in-chief Dileep Premachandran will be on hand to share a thought or two, with the third Test between the two sides starting just two days later.
The Saturday is a celebration of the centenary of John Arlott's birth. His biographer David Rayvern Allen will be airing previously unheard footage, the Arlott family will be there in force, and the inevitable Arlott impersonation competition should sort the men from the boys.
Relaxed, relaxing, inspired and inspiring, the EFG Words and Wickets festival is becoming a part of our cricketing summers.
Phil Walker is editor of All Out Cricket
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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