Unlike most of its rivals and fellow travellers across the British press, this column feels no shame whatsoever in plugging the work of charities that need all the help they can get – including those with which your humble correspondent is tangentially associated. It is a brutally difficult time for our charitable sector, whose work is more noble and necessary now than it has ever been. So read on and do your bit.
On Sunday, I will be playing for the Authors XI Cricket Club against the Lords & Commons Cricket Club at Wormsley, one of the most beautiful grounds in England. The Authors XI is playing a season of cricket from Hackney to Hambledon. The Lords & Commons side is captained by Matthew Hancock MP, who is allegedly a decent bat, and includes Jo Johnson MP. The latter played for my club in Wandsworth, Sinjuns, on September 1 2001, and was notable for the incongruity between his very long run-up and very slow medium pace delivery. I hear he’s quicker these days.
We’re raising money for two of the most inspirational charities I’ve come across. The first is www.firststory.co.uk, led by the heroic Katie Waldegrave and non-fiction writer William Fiennes. Their team take authors into tough secondary schools and run creative-writing workshops, after which they publish anthologies in which young writers take tremendous pride. They have done extraordinary work to spread literacy and unlock creative potential, with all the personal and social benefits that brings.
Everybody who cares for words – and not just those of us who are paid to – remembers the teacher who first inculcated a love of language and concern for good prose. First Story spread that love and concern to those who might otherwise not receive it.
The second is www.chancetoshine.org. Just like the remarkable www.greenhousecharity.org, Chance to Shine uses the discipline and pursuit of excellence in sport to instil important values – leadership, teamwork, determination, and so on – in school children. They have had extraordinary successes, both inside and outside the classroom, in improving the lives of children that are not fulfilling their potential.
If you can get yourself to Wormsley for a 14.00 start this Sunday, with gates open from 11.30, you won’t regret a splendid day in a glorious setting. It’s £10 for adults and £5 with concessions. Among other attractions, you’ll see novelist Sebastian Faulks battling against his brother Edward, the Tory peer and QC. And if you make a donation of any size to either of these magnificent causes, I’ll throw in a one-to-one coaching session on spin bowling too.