Flannels for Heroes was conceived as a means to support Britain’s Heroes charities, whilst simultaneously celebrating one of its treasured traditions: Cricket flannels.
The idea was hatched after a friendly cricket match in Sussex, June 2010. The concept materialised with the third bottle of wine on the terrace of a country house where 4 people discussed it enthusiastically until it made tangible sense. With buoyed enthusiasm, no doubt exaggerated by the exuberance of the occasion, it was immediately agreed that a cricket event should be staged to benefit Heroes charities. Exactly one year later the first Flannels for Heroes event was held. All four at the table – Tim Brocklehurst, Mowbray Jackson, Hugh Grant and Tim Dobson – made it happen on a wing and a prayer. This founding committee was especially grateful to Eliza Cockerell, who finally glued the organisation together with a lavish dose of admin skills just in time for the first event.
Following Walking with the Wounded’s famous trek to the North Pole, several heroic figures took the limelight. Among them was Jaco van Gass, the wounded paratrooper who managed the adventure with one arm, and then came to play at Flannels following a net with Hugh Grant at Burton Court a few weeks previously.
Flannels will always be grateful to the first team who signed up for participation. Under John Hine, The Carlton Club CC took a leap of faith and provided the necessary funding to book Burton Court. This gave valuable momentum to the event as a whole, and without it Flannels might not have happened at all. Others worthy of thanks are Olly Brinkley, who’s young catering company provided exquisite food at a favourable rate in the first year, and Summaridge Wine for their liquid support.
On the pitch a hard-fought final between The WHEB Wanderers and the Herrick Warriors, was won by WHEB and the first Flannels for Heroes trophy was awarded to a jubilant Ben Goldsmith.
The pulling power of Hugh Grant, and the auctioneering skills of Jeffrey Archer combined to help raise more than £55,000 in its first year. It was billed as a great success. It could no longer be a one-off event and people wanted more.
A short time afterwards, Flannels was approached by heritage brand, Kent & Curwen. They offered a long-term sponsorship contract including the supply of fifty pairs of tailor-made English cricket flannels for each of the players. As the last suppliers of traditional sporting flannel, Kent & Curwen were a good match. So it was settled. Flannels for Heroes would happen again… and again, only this time with backing and with more purpose than it could muster before.
Not everyone from the committee of 2011 could schedule the time necessary to get behind Flannels 2012, but the organisation was boosted by the participation of newcomer, Wonkie Hills. Wonkie had founded Zest Events 14 years previously, and her devotion to the Flannels cause led her to bring valuable experience, expertise, and calm seas in a storm just when it was needed most. She was nobly assisted by Sarah Ducker, and together they helped to embroider Flannels for Heroes into the London social calendar.
Meanwhile Milbank Malaprops, under the leadership of Sean Keaton, made their debut at Flannels and won the trophy in a close-fought final with the Cadbury Cavaliers. Mark Cadbury, graceful in defeat yet generous to the cause, had come to the rescue as sponsor of the team which had been Hugh Grant’s in 2011.
The third Flannels for Heroes saw Sarah Ducker step up as the event’s Hospitality Manager. Her experience from the previous year showed as she seamlessly organised the hospitality and catering. And in the meantime, a group of valuable partnerships were established which boosted the atmosphere and excitement of the day yet further. Most notably these were with:
- Charlie Gilkes, who provided a Bunga Bunga Bar serving bellinis and fun to cricketers and supporters towards the end of the day
- Sophie Michell, celebrity chef, whose insight and skill, combined with her choice of Randall & Aubin to provide the food, made the entire cricket lunch and tea experience magnificent and unforgettable in 2013
- Ali Murdoch, whose company Gourmet Burger Kitchen (GBK), gave out gourmet burgers from the famous GBK burger van
- Guy Butterwick, whose company Claret-e, delivered just enough of the delicious provencal wine to serve 350 guests at a Hero’s price
- Mark Slatter, who’s company Olympian Homes, took the fourth team slot made available by Ben Goldsmith’s withdrawal. The Bootneck Belters, assembled serving and ex Royal Marines and, under the captaincy of Col. Cliff Dare made it to the final but in a narrow finish were dislodged by Milbank Malaprops
- Andrew Quinlan, who provided complimentary welcome refreshment to cricketers and others with his Orchard Pig Cider
- Mark Beaver, who’s company Event Concept, delivered exquisite AV facilities at a generous price for the day
- Jody Scheckter, of Laverstoke Park Farm, who very kindly provided a generous selection of the farm’s finest Buffalo milk ice cream for players and guests.
A classic display of clean hard hitting by Will Stebbings (his 50 coming off just 27 balls) added to the climax, as this year’s newcomers Leconfield Lotharios beat Cadbury Cavaliers in the final. Hugh Grant made a return to Flannels too, for the first time since 2011, with a donation to support, and play for, the Herrick Warriors.
Rhubarb Food Design, with consultation from Lucy Gemmell herself, excelled themselves in providing an amazing array of delights for lunch and tea, including a large chocolate cricket ball in the sponsor’s colours for dessert, and Claret-E once again made sure no one went thirsty. GBK provided the now infamous barbecue van, giving away prime beef burgers to anyone still hungry in the closing hour of play, and Arkells Brewery quenched the thirst of players in the pavilion.
The auction, conducted by TV Bargain Hunt’s James Braxton, raised over £25,000. Other pledges and donations took the total raised this year to £33,000 – the second-highest amount in the history of Flannels – and it was warmly received by Combat Stress and Walking with the Wounded.