When 1.1 million people tuned in to watch England’s women beat India by 9 runs in the Women’s World Cup Final this summer, it marked the beginning of a new era for women’s cricket. Despite this being England’s fourth World Cup victory, lifting the trophy at the Home of Cricket – Lord’s Cricket Ground – in front of a record crowd gave the occasion an extra sense of significance.
For years, nonetheless, women have played an active role in cricket and for many aspiring young girls, sport is an attractive, interesting and realistic career path to follow, as is the case with Swannack director Charley Surridge.
Daughter of legendary bat designer John Surridge – most famous for his Turbo cricket bat much loved by Graham Gooch – Charley and her father have ventured into business together. Following in the footsteps of her great uncle Stuart Surridge, Charley has brought bat making back into the family fold.
Why did you start Swannack?
I always thought it was a massive shame the Surridge’s sold the original Stuart Surridge company. To have so much knowledge handed down through the generations and for it to just stop was, to me, really tragic. I always said to dad, ‘why aren’t we making bats again?,’ ‘why aren’t we doing it now?’ And he would say, ‘it’s not the right time’.
I went on to him about it for years and then it was Easter, I think, three or four years ago, I bugged him about it one day and he turned round and said “okay, we’ll do it.” And it spiralled from there. Dad had said that he had a few ideas for some bats and he went about playing about with designs, I started working with a friend on branding and it grew organically.
Sadly we can’t use ‘Surridge’ in our branding because that was sold with the original brand years ago. Swannack is actually my father’s mother’s maiden name and also his middle name. So it is still very much a prominent Surridge family name. We also played around with a few different names, but they didn’t sit as well as Swannack and we felt it had a strong ring to it and its still within the family.
What is your first memory of cricket?
My mum used to take my brother and I down to Outwood Cricket Club, where my dad played on weekends. We would go and meet him just before tea. The pitch at Outwood is absolutely beautiful, surrounded by protected woodland, so it is very picturesque and I remember walking down and seeing everyone play. I remember having to stop while they were batting and then keep walking again when the ball was in play and then stop again when they batted. At tea everyone would sit on the grass and I remember dad lying on his elbow with his tea. I can’t remember how old I was, maybe five, and I really remember just being around the guys as they were all eating and laughing, then we’d go into the woodlands and play when the cricket started up again.
When did you realise your family was involved with cricket?
Actually, the first realisation something significant had happened was when I was in Nationwide bank. At the time I was not old enough for a debit card, so I had a paying in book and to get money out I had to take in my book. I was in the Nationwide in Reigate and I handed over my book and the guy behind the counter said to me, “oh! Is that Surridge as in Stuart Surridge cricket bats?”
And I said, ‘yes that was my family’ and he replied, “They were the Rolls Royce of cricket bats.”
I’ll never forget that. I think I went home to dad and talked to him about it and he told me about Graham Gooch, but at the time I didn’t know or understand the significance. As I got older I started to realise more, but that was my first memory of realising something big happened in my family.
What is it like working so closely with your father, Swannack bat designer John Surridge?
It’s good! We actually get on great working together and it definitely could have gone either way. Dad is 66 now, I think, and he has always been very entrepreneurial, innovative and open to modernization.
He is the one with the knowledge that has been passed to him through the family, and the knowledge behind the designing and making of cricket bats doesn’t really change, so having him on board was crucial. But he is also very open to new ideas, new ways of trying things and he understands we need to reach our prospective audience and customers in a different way to how he did it when he was running Surridge. So anything to do with social media or putting our accounting systems online he doesn’t necessarily understand how it works, but he is very open to learning and trying things out.
I am the one that forces him to think outside the box a bit, but then he’ll bring me back to earth with regards to how things will work! He’s been in the industry for his whole life and although retail has changed there are some parts of it that haven’t and he understands how that works and I don’t, so we complement each other. It is a pleasure having this time with him.
How are Swannack bats different to others on the market?
Swannack is all about the journey from tree to bat. There are not many brands that can say that they personally pick, manufacture, fell, grade as well as design and then make their cricket bats. Also, so many bat brands are not made in the U.K. anymore, which Swannack is.
Not only do you have five generations of the Surridge family’s know-how and bat making behind each bat, but you also get a completely British made and manufactured bat in your hand, with English willow that has been graded by us. So I think that personal touch makes it a little bit extra special. Not everyone has the ability to do that, so it puts us in a unique position.
What inspires you as Director of Swananck?
I find my father really inspiring, women taking more of a role in business inspiring and I hope that that in turn will help other girls coming up into business believe that they can do it to. I massively want to champion women in business. Women’s cricket is doing amazingly right now and more and more girls and women are playing cricket, so if I can build a successful brand and maybe inspire other women to get more involved in cricket or business in general then that would be awesome.
Also, what inspires me is following in my father’s footsteps and learning from him. Not everyone feels they can take the risk to follow their dreams; so all I can do in this fortunate position is try our best to move Swannack forward, because we are passionate about cricket bats.