An Interview With Cumbria's High Sheriff




Back in September, we had the privilege of sitting down with Cumbria's newest High Sheriff, David Beeby, at Rosehill Theatre in Whitehaven.


But what is a High Sheriff you ask? What do they do and what do they bring to their local communities?


During our interview, we found out all you need to know, including all aspects of the role and what future plans David has for helping to better our community here in Cumbria...

Photographs by Tom Kay.


First of all, could you tell us a little bit about what the role entails?

So, the role today is very different if you put it in context. In historical times, the High Sheriff was responsible for law and order in the country or region, and was also responsible for collecting the taxes. Effectively, he was responsible for everything that was the responsibility of the king, so he became the delegated authority.


Originally, the position was referred to as the Reeve in the shire, which became the Shire Reeve and finally became Sheriff. So the role actually dates back to Anglo-Saxon times, before the year of 1000, meaning it’s the second oldest constitution in the country, second only to the monarchy.


If you go back to the Magna Carta, you’ll see that the Shire Reeves are actually mentioned in a lot of the clauses. Over the centuries, particularly the last few, those things have been taken over, as judges and police are now responsible for law and order, and the revenues are collecting all the taxes. There's no particularly exciting responsibilities existing today, meaning it’s more of an honorary position.


You are appointed by the queen, which is a great honour, and your term spans for a year.


What you aim to do is something during the course of the year that highlights great things in the county and ultimately benefits the place in which you live.

So what made you want to take on this role?

Well it’s not actually a role that you apply for, so you have no idea that you’re even being considered. Then one day there’s a knock on the door from the High Sheriff at the time, which for me was around 5 years ago, who requests a chat with you. So, we met up and had a chat and he talked to me about his role as High Sheriff, which at the time was very confusing.


He then told me that there had actually been a nomination committee put together consisting of people around the county, and that they’d all like me to consider becoming High Sheriff. Of course, this was a great honour, so I thought on it for a little while and talked to my wife and we came to the conclusion that I’d do it.


I'm extremely pleased to have the opportunity to try and highlight lots of good things in the community.


What made you decide on ‘better tomorrows’ as your area of focus for your time spent in office?


There were two reasons for that, the first being that we’re coming out of the worst of Covid, and a lot of people have had a rough time. I come from a business background where we do a lot on continuous approval, and that’s about how you can make tomorrow's better than today's.


For a lot of people the thought of tomorrow being better than it has been, certainly resonated, so we came up with Better Tomorrows.


This has a particular focus on the young, mostly because I've always been very supportive of the young. Every business I've been involved in has always had young apprentices because young people are the future, it’s as simple as that.


I also feel that the young have paid a particular price during the height of Covid to protect my generation, so it seemed fair and reasonable to do Better Tomorrows for everyone, but with that particular focus on the young.


Could you tell us about the emphasis you are placing on opportunities for young people?

First of all, I’m going around lots of charities who are involved with young people, first and foremost to say thank you for everything they do. Whether it be youth clubs or the people here at Rosehill Theatre, there are so many wonderful people who are doing amazing things to try and help young people to have a positive future.


I think it’s very important to say thank you for that, so we’ve been all over the county to visit charities that have amazing people running them and amazing volunteers.


Second of all, there are many occasions when you’re having a conversation with one of these wonderful charities and you’re able to offer them suggestions, so by going around and saying thank you and making connections we can help those charities to be more successful or just feel appreciated.


"I went down to one charity and at the end of our conversation, the lady was in tears, simply because somebody was saying thank you. So it’s a great privilege to be able to do that."

I’ve actually started using a lot of my connections and I'm creating a Better Tomorrows program, which will run for 3 years to provide training for more people to enter into youth work, and also provide some salaries for youth workers.


It’s one of those funny things, because there is compelling evidence that youth work makes a real difference, whether it be antisocial behaviour or outcomes for young people, and yet that funding has been cut dramatically over the last 10 years. With this program, I want to try and turn that tide.

What other plans do you have for your time spent as high sheriff?

I think I've probably covered a lot of it, but we’re certainly continuing the effort. We spent a day in Newcastle visiting charities, we were in Whitehaven this afternoon, visited Millom and Barrow, and we’re in Egremont and Cleator Moor next week.


I’m still in the process of learning about the county, and I’m hoping as we go along that other things will come in that journey; I'm learning all the time. I’m nearly halfway through my term which is why I went flat out, to begin with, because the term is only a year-long and who knows what Covid is going to do, so I thought you better get on with it now in case something changes.




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