Sheffield visit for the ‘elves’ from popular TV show QI

Have you ever wondered what the QI elves - those clever people who come up with all the show’s amazing facts – are like? Well, now you can see them in person.

Tuesday, 19th March 2019, 10:38 am
Updated Wednesday, 20th March 2019, 3:57 pm

Elves is the popular TV show’s nickname for the team who research, write and produce QI and its associated Radio 4 show, The Museum of Curiosity.

Head elf James Harkin and colleague Dan Schreiber are currently taking part in a tour with their spin-off podcast, No Such Thing As A Fish, that calls into Sheffield City Hall on Thursday, March 28.

The podcast has become a hit in its own right and given them an international audience.

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Dan said: “There are people in the middle of Australia who are listening to you every single week.

“There are four towns in Europe where we have more listeners than the population. Some were where our mothers and grandmothers lived!” he joked.

Both are looking forward to visiting Sheffield – Dan’s wife studied in the city, but it’s mostly because it gives them a chance to come up with facts about places they visit.

At the bottom of this article are 10 facts on Sheffield that they came up with especially for The Star.

James said: “When we do the live show, one half is the same in every town, looking at the best things we’ve found over the year. The second half is pretty much stuff we’ve read about that week.”

The sheer amount of quirky facts that the team needs to generate for the TV, radio and online shows is mind-boggling but they are confident they will never run out.

James said: “There’s so much in the world. We talked recently about cuttlefish. We keep a separate spreadsheet of everything we’ve looked at. We realised that we’ve never mentioned this animal before!

“It’s the most fascinating animal – the male can flirt with a female with one side of his body and can look like a female with the other side to put other males off.

“If you put one on a chessboard, it can change colour to match it.

“We’ve been doing the podcast for five years and even longer on QI and not done anything about cuttlefish.”

James is head elf for QI and he said that the panellists are never tipped off about the questions in advance, it’s all their genuine live reactions.

“We’ll always pick on Alan (Davies) a bit, he’s a good sport and doesn’t mind it.”

Of course, Alan isn’t as daft as he makes out, said James: “He needs to know himself what the right answer is in order to get the wrong answer.”

The elves have been busily coming up with facts beginning with Q for the next series being filmed.

James said that the show is going from strength to strength with second host Sandi Toksvig, who has proved a very popular replacement for Stephen Fry.

“You wouldn’t believe how good she is. We have meetings with the scripts and she comes in and has done her own research and found things we didn’t know! She comes up with ways we can word questions.

“Stephen would come in and pick up his script on the day.

“His brain is the size of the planet and he memorises it.”

The QI elves’ 10 favourite facts about Sheffield (with links so you can check!)

1. As well as being the world’s oldest football club, Sheffield FC also won the only ever FA cup game decided by coin toss, in 1873. The team came from Sheffield, although they’re now based in Dronfield.

2. In 2009 NHS Sheffield produced a leaflet that advised, ‘an orgasm a day keeps the doctor away.’

3. An old Yorkshire word for a ladybird is ‘cushcow-lady’

4. You can study a course on Luxembourg at the University of Sheffield.

5. Somaliland is not recognised as an independent by anyone outside the territory, except Sheffield City Council

6. In 2015 a teenager took a flight from Sheffield to Essex via Berlin, including a visit to Berlin city centre, because it was cheaper than getting the train.

7. The Sheffield Attercliffe by-election of 1909 was won by the smallest winning percentage ever (27.5%). One of the losing candidates sued another for damage to his bowler hat.

8. In 2014 a huge poem was written on canvas on the side of a University of Sheffield building, which absorbed the nitrogen oxide of 20 cars every day for a year.

9. Sheffield contains a road with nothing on it but a police station. The road is called Letsby Avenue.

10. Sheffield has more trees per person than any other UK city.

(Yes, we told them about the trees protests…)