David English, fundraiser, cricketer, writer, and actor, died on November 12, 2022, aged 76. He was remembered in the 2023 Wisden Almanack.

David English was, among other things, the force behind the Bunbury Festival.

ENGLISH, DAVID STUART, CBE, who died on November 12, aged 76, was the unstoppable force behind the annual Bunbury Festival, a cricket week that brings together the best Under-15 players in England, and whose distinguished alumni include Test captains Andrew Flintoff, Alastair Cook, Joe Root and Ben Stokes. “It’s an extraordinary week in your life as a young cricketer, the first time you see every player in your age group in the same spot,” said Cook. The festival, run by the English Schools Cricket Association, was struggling financially when English was asked to come to its aid in 1987. He had written a series of children’s books about the cricket-playing Bunbury rabbits, later turned into a successful animated TV series by Channel 4, and his only condition was that the festival be rebranded to match the name. He also launched a Bunbury celebrity XI for charity matches, which drew big crowds and raised bigger sums. He was a madcap character, dubbed “the Loon” by his close friend, Ian Botham. The Daily Telegraph called him an “enthusiastic curator of his own mythology”.

English went to the same Hendon school as Denis Compton, and harboured ambitions to follow his hero into the Middlesex team. Although he was a useful left-hander who later played for Finchley, he got no further than two games for the Second XI. After a spell of travelling in Europe – during which he claimed to have danced with Brigitte Bardot – he joined the Daily Mail as a showbiz reporter, and began to fill his contacts book with names which would one day help sustain his charitable efforts. He signed up with Decca Records, undertaking PR duties for artists such as Tom Jones and the Rolling Stones, and still found time to play for MCC and Cross Arrows.

In 1973, he was invited by the impresario Robert Stigwood to run his new RSO label, whose roster included the Bee Gees and Eric Clapton. The company enjoyed significant success in the mid-1970s. English remembered standing in Times Square gazing up at a neon sign displaying the US top ten: five were by RSO artists. But he left to try his hand at acting, appearing – briefly – in the star-studded 1977 Second World War epic A Bridge Too Far. English helped relieve boredom on set by organising cricket matches, introducing Robert Redford to the game. One of his favourite yarns was about the film’s most expensive scene having to be reshot, after producer Joe Levine watched it back: as Allied paratroopers landed on Dutch soil, a game of cricket was visible in a corner of the screen.

English had more success in an advert for Head & Shoulders shampoo, and was well off enough to concentrate on his charity cricket work. His contacts ensured the Bunbury charity matches were well supported and, as well as cricketers, often featured Clapton and a chain-smoking Rolling Stone, Bill Wyman, fielding in the slips. He published an autobiography, Mad Dogs and Englishmen: Confessions of a Loon, in 2003. But the Under-15 festival, often staged at a private school and featuring four regional teams, was his legacy. Although the cricket was competitive, English ensured the week was fun. For him, the highlight was the trip to Nando’s, and he recalled the year Stokes poured peri-peri sauce into Root’s Coca-Cola. “Cricket is the most wonderful bonding sport of all,” said English. “It teaches you that the team is more important than the individual.”

Around 100 Bunbury graduates have played Test cricket, including ten of the 2005 Ashes winners and nine of England’s 2019 World Cup-winning team. The ECB took over the running of the competition in 2018, renaming it the ECB David English Bunbury Festival. He died the day before England played Pakistan in the T20 World Cup final in Melbourne, where the team wore black armbands. Captain Jos Buttler paid tribute: “One of life’s great characters, so fun to spend time with, and producer of some of the best English cricketers through his wonderful Bunbury Festivals.” In the 1980s, English had been a key member of Ian Botham’s entourage, and the pair remained unshakable friends. “Good luck to those already up in Heaven, the Loon is on his way!” Botham tweeted.