A trust in Sheffield

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After more than a decade in high-profile roles including chief executive at Whirlow Hall Farm Trust and director of fundraising at Freeman College, David Heugh will officially retire at the end of this month – and start his fundraising consultancy the next day, on August 1.

A businessman, entrepreneur and fundraiser, under David’s chairmanship South Yorkshire Opera became the biggest amateur opera company in the UK. He won the Sheffield Business Person of The Year Award in 2008 but says his greatest legacy is his ‘David and Goliath’ battle to buy and save the Lyceum Theatre.

As well as chairing the Lyceum Trust, David was recently made chairman of Sheffield United’s charitable division, The United Initiative, which works with more than 30,000 children across the city a year. David and wife Alison gave up their house and garden a year ago and now live in an apartment in Ecclesall.

The Lyceum

Well, I would say that, wouldn’t I! After all the publicity of the royal visit by the Prince and Princess of Wales in 1984, my pal Norman White and I were approached by the receivers in a bid to save the Lyceum. There was water in the cellar and the roof was leaking but equally there was also a very real chance it could have been destroyed and the space turned into an NCP car park! We had an 18-month battle involving lots of newspaper headlines, disappointments and false dawns but eventually Sheffield City Council gave us a grant of £70,000.

It was not enough to secure a deal but – literally hours before the receivers’ deadline – Norman and I persuaded RBS on Church Street to lend us £31,000 against the security of our houses and our bid of £101,000 bought and saved the Lyceum!

I actually produced the opening night show on December 10, 1990, and as the lights dimmed and the curtain went up I thought my heart would burst. Since then, the council and some great theatre administrators have funded the Lyceum and helped it become a real gem and a proud part of the theatre complex that the city boasts today.

Number 65 bus to Buxton

It’s great having a bus pass and lots of buses more or less stop outside our door. I often feel as if I have spent my life in a car and the world looks a totally different place from the top of a double decker! It takes about an hour from Ecclesall to Buxton and, as you wind your way through Grindleford, Eyam, Foolow and Tideswell, you realise that the bus is a lifeline for residents both young and old who live in these little villages.

Buxton is touristy but has a charm and we love wandering through the Pavilion and past the Opera House – another successful theatre restoration.

My wife Alison and I also caught the bus to Castleton recently for a visit which involved more great scenery plus a hearty lunch and bottle of wine – but I’m afraid I fell asleep on the bus home!

Butcher Works

Part of my job at Freeman College entailed raising £1m from the Heritage Lottery Fund and Objective One to restore and refurbish the 7,000 sq ft ground floor of the Butcher Works in Arundel Street.

The building is probably the oldest grade II*-listed building in the city centre and it’s where the two Butcher brothers started out in 1820. The duo became well-known both here and in America for files, scissors, edge tools and even the famous Bowie Knife. In recent years the building had declined into a state of disrepair – even being used as a backdrop for TV dramas such as Silent Witness and Charles Dickens adaptations.

The restoration has been stunning and created the award-winning Fusion Cafe, an Arts and Crafts Gallery, the Academy of Makers workshops as well as a soon-to-open arts shop. In each area, autistic students from Freeman College receive work experience opportunities. It’s well worth a visit.

Ecclesall Road

Food, drink and entertaining seem to loom large in my social and private life and I suppose many an hour has been spent over the years at some winery or eatery along ‘Eccy Road’. I love the choice and contrasts but feel really sorry for the little firms that start brightly and then sometimes close down because it’s someone’s dream, as well as savings or bank loan, that’s gone down the tube.

I sometimes walk the three miles into town to work but the ‘blingy’ and glitzy road it becomes in the evening is a very different place in the cold light of morning when Ecclesall Road begins to wake. Wonderful and tempting smells of coffee and bacon, though!

The Whirlow Walk

After many years’ involvement with Whirlow Hall Farm Trust, I think I had begun to perhaps take its location and views for granted. But now Alison and I sometimes walk the trail several nights in a row. From what was Ringinglow fire station and past the playing fields, you are nearly 1,000ft high and on the ancient pack horse trail of Coit Lane. Whirlow verges on Limb Brook, which – along with the Sheaf and Meers Brook – formed the boundary of the ancient kingdoms of Northumbria and Mercia. The views are stunning and the wind will blow away the cobwebs of any stressful day.

Sheffield charities

Even though I work in the sector, I am amazed at the sheer number and diversity of Sheffield’s charities. They cover every conceivable aspect from cradle to grave – children, crime prevention, medical, musical, hospices – far, far too many to list them all. The incredible voluntary contribution of all these people adds so much to the quality and fabric of the city.

I think this ‘caring factor’ is one of the many reasons why people stay here after leaving university. To paraphrase President Kennedy: “Think not what Sheffield can do for you – but instead, think what you can do for Sheffield”. And, thank goodness, thousands do.