From QI to Hawk-Eye: Stephen Fry to umpire all-star cricket match at Hay Festival

Annual literary festival will nod to the forthcoming 2024 Olympics with its very first Sports Day

Nicole Vassell
Friday 03 May 2024 15:37 BST
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Stephen Fry is set to go from QI to Hawk-Eye after being announced as umpire of an all-star cricket match at this year’s Hay Festival.

The 2024 edition of the literary festival, in partnership with The Independent, will take place across 11 days in May and June.

Wednesday 29 May marks the festival’s very first Sports Day, organised in celebration of this summer’s forthcoming Summer Olympic season in Paris, and is set to unite leading thinkers and sports stars for a showcase of their creative and physical talents.

The cricket match will see Hay Town take on an all-star cricket team, featuring broadcaster Adam Rutherford; writers Robert Macfarlane and Charlie Campbell; comedians Marcus Brigstocke and Carrie Quinlan; musician and actor Johnny Flynn; and professional cricketers Claire Taylor and Azeem Rafiq.

Cricket and literature have come hand in hand for many years, with several of the players coming from the Authors Cricket Team – a 100-year-old organisation that has included the likes of PG Wodehouse, AA Milne and Arthur Conan Doyle in its ranks.

More recently, the team has played against Indian Premier League (IPL) players, the Vatican and the national teams of Japan and Iceland.

Stephen Fry will umpire the cricket match at Hay Festival’s inaugural Sports Day
Stephen Fry will umpire the cricket match at Hay Festival’s inaugural Sports Day (Getty Images)

Ahead of the exciting match, writer and batsman Adam Rutherford said: “On Wednesday 29 May, the cricketers of Hay-on-Wye will feel the full force of *checks team sheet* seven middle-aged writers and a couple of comedians. And two ex-professionals. Our sledging will be eloquent.”

Meanwhile, Hay Festival president and longtime cricket fan Stephen Fry will watch over proceedings as the game’s umpire.

In a statement, Hay Festival Global CEO Julie Finch said: “Worlds collide at Hay Festival Hay-on-Wye with events that offer a detour from the day-to-day. In this thrilling year of international sport, our first-ever Sports Day seeks to explore its interconnections with the arts and their dual roles in promoting wellbeing.

“We are delighted to welcome this all-star cricket team and Hay Town onto our programme, and grateful to Festival president Stephen Fry for ensuring a fair game. Do join us for a special session to remember. And may the best team win!”

Gary Lineker will be at the Hay Festival Sports Day on 29 May
Gary Lineker will be at the Hay Festival Sports Day on 29 May (PA Archive)

Across the festival site on Sports Day, there will also be conversations and interactive free activities with appearances from footballer and broadcaster Gary Lineker, tennis coach Judy Murray, ecologist Madeleine Orr and former athlete and politician Lord Sebastian Coe.

The programme for the festival was revealed on Tuesday 12 March and promises to provide a wide selection of events and activities for all, balancing the launch of the most exciting non-fiction and fiction works with debate over current world issues.

Outside of the Sports Day, cricket fan Stephen Fry will share a preview of his next set of Greek retellings in the literary segment, along with My Sister’s Keeper author Jodi Picoult.

Dame Judi Dench will headline the drama and performance offerings as she shares extracts from her book, Shakespeare: The Man Who Pays the Rent, alongside actor and director Brendan O’Hea.

Tickets for the Hay Festival – and the Sports Day – can be purchased here.

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