The day when I had Laurence Olivier bowling to Robert Redford ...
Ialways loved cricket. In 1987, I started my own team called the Bunburys and the idea was to raise as much money for worthwhile causes while having fun.
As my day job, I used to manage the Bee Gees and Eric Clapton when I worked at RSO Records – they were our first signings. So once I started Bunbury, I went down to Clapton’s house in Surrey and said: “You’re the famous one, you can lead us out!”
The first game was at Ripley Court School, where Clapton used to go. Phil Collins was keeper, then we had Clapton, Bill Wyman and Ringo Starr in the slips, all looking the wrong way, drinking red wine and smoking cigars. David Essex played, as did Dennis Waterman and boxer Gary Mason.
About 5,000 watched this group of nutters prance about, and we raised £25,000 for The Royal Marsden Charity.
Since then, we’ve played 20 games a year for various charities and raised over £17m. It’s quite surreal to say:“Eric Clapton, please put the glass of wine down and move over to extra cover.”
One thing I’ll always remember is when I was in Bridge Too Far, which starred the likes Dirk Bogarde, Anthony Hopkins, Robert Redford, Michael Caine, Laurence Olivier, James Caan, Sean Connery and Gene Hackman.
I went for an audition with director Richard Attenborough, and he was looking for a grenade thrower.
He said:“I know all about your cricket, you can hurl a cricket ball, so would like to be the main thrower and lead the charge?”
It was 1976, an incredibly hot summer in Holland and at the end of every take, I used to organise cricket games. Laurence Olivier said: “Give me that ball, my father used to take me to Hove, I’ll bowl off-breaks.”
So we had the greatest actor in the world bowling off-breaks to Robert Redford!
AAs a teenager, I had a trial to be on the Lord’s ground staff, and was employed there in 1963 by Len Muncer, who was head coach of the MCC.
I got paid three shillings and sixpence an hour and it was an honour and a privilege to go through the North Gate every morning.
To this day, Lord’s is my favourite place in the world – I even go there when there’s no cricket on, such is its magic.
My other passion was schools cricket. For 31 years, I’ve done the Bunbury Schools Cricket Association festival, and 77 Bunburys have played for England – Liam Dawson being the latest.
A total of 725 Bunburys have played first-class cricket. That is the thing that’s closest to my heart.
To watch youngsters, such as Joe Root, Jos Buttler and Ben Stokes when they’re 14 or 15 , and to see the excellence of their play, well, I’ve got so much pleasure out of that.
Paul Farbrace phoned me when they were playing Bangladesh and said: “David, I’m looking at the team now and they’re playing exactly as they did at the Bunbury Festival, with a smile, enjoying each others’ success.”
At the Bunbury Festival a few years ago, Root was a small lad, but chipper. Buttler played exactly as he does now, innovative and with all the ramp shots, and Stokesy was quite feisty – mini-versions of what they are today.
The Bunbury Festival is a festival and I try to make it festive. The boys come on the Sunday with their parents, and I say:“You’ve done so well to get here, enjoy your week.”
You play for your school, region, county and then Bunbury Festival – so they are the 56 best lads at U15 level in the country. There is always a 50/50 split between state and public schools, too.
They think I’m the loon, and I’m proud of being the loon.