Posted: 24.07.21 at 13:26 by Tim Lethaby
Wells Nub News aims to be supportive to every element of the community from business and shops to people and charities, clubs and sports organisations.
We are profiling some of these local businesses, people and groups regularly over coming weeks in a feature called UP CLOSE IN WELLS.
Today we talk to Richard Cussell, the managing partner of solicitors Chubb Bulleid in Wells, who are the principal sponsors of the 2021 Wells Festival of Literature.
Wells Nub News is delighted to announce that the festival is again being a partner for our site, and during the interview, Richard talks about why his firm backs the event, which this year will run from October 15 to 23.
Tell us what your role at Chubb Bulleid involves from day to day and what are the key elements of the job?
I am the managing partner at Chubb Bulleid and I spend quite a bit of my time dealing with administration.
I am surrounded by a very good operations team consisting of an HR manager, office manager, IT manager, and a risk and systems manager. I am, also, a private client lawyer.
My main specialisation would be wills, trusts and tax planning. Inheritance tax and capital gains tax are main elements of that.
I also manage our Probate Department and I do undertake some property work, both residential and commercial.
Tell us a bit about your personal business background Richard - do you live locally?
I was born and raised in North Devon. After obtaining a Law Degree at Nottingham, I became a trainee and then assistant solicitor at the then Toller, Oerton and Balsdon Solicitors in Barnstaple.
I joined Chubb Bulleid as an assistant solicitor in 1990 and became a partner in the old Chubb Beresford firm in 1992 and I have been finance director since the mid-1990s.
I am married with five children ranging between late 20s to 13 years of age. Family life is very important to me.
I have immensely enjoyed having five children at home and I am very proud of them all and more of the fact that they all interact together and wish to continue the Cussell family ethos. We still holiday together, meet at least once a week and our children see each other as friends as well as family.
Grandchildren are now starting to appear! The first being baby Rayne in April 2018.
My hobbies include golf, rugby, music, walking and cycling. I manage to play golf at least once a week socially with my friends.
We have membership with Bath Rugby and so I regularly attend the games. Walking has always been something I have been interested in, coming from North Devon and enjoying the beautiful North Devon coastline.
Indeed some years ago now in 2010 I spent a month in the Aumla District of Nepal helping to build a health centre on behalf of the Nepal Trust and raise funds through the local Rotary Club.
What do you like about Wells? How are you involved in the local community?
I think we all underestimate the place where we live. Perhaps we take it for granted a bit.
I try to remind myself every day how lucky we are to live in a place like Wells. The architecture, the culture and the countryside literally just a few hundred metres away in any direction.
I have been a member of Wells Rotary Club for 30 years and have been honoured to be its president on two occasions. That has meant I have been lucky enough to be involved in the heart of city activities - the annual boules tournament, the annual Reindeer Parade, and fundraising for many local groups and activities.
A year or two back I organised a sponsored cycle from Wells Cathedral to Notre Dame which raised funds to enable us to put defibrillators all over the city.
Prior to that I organised a Three Peaks Challenge where a bunch of middle-aged friends climbed the three peaks of the British Isles over a Bank Holiday weekend! It raised about £10,000 or so for local projects.
The coronavirus pandemic had a big impact on everyone - how did it effect you?
It certainly has been an interesting time! Right at the start we did wonder what on earth was going to happen to our business.
The conveyancing market was closed between March and June 2020. It was challenging to suddenly have to send our staff home and to furlough some of them.
We were very lucky that we had introduced home working technology just in time and it has proved to work very well. It may be very selfish but I actually enjoyed the first lockdown.
My colleague Bruce Scobie and his wife undertook the challenge of “running the office” while all our staff were at home. You will recall that March to June was a delightful time weather wise and spending time with my wife and youngest son was rather wonderful.
It was my turn to man the pumps during the second lockdown, my wife and I and one or two other key members of staff had to be in the office supporting 60 or so who were busily working at home.
I suppose the major impact was that I actually contracted the coronavirus in November of last year.
I was very lucky. For me it was like a dose of flu.
For my wife perhaps like a nasty cold. For my 16-year-old son the symptoms were very minor.
However, there has been a big impact on him because, of course, his two years of GCSE have been severely disrupted.
We have been very lucky business wise. We have remained busy.
The challenge has been to deliver the service we like to give our clients at a time when inevitably we were less efficient when most of our staff were working from home.
However, we have been very lucky indeed. Many of my friends in retail and hospitality have not had such an easy ride.
Chubb Bulleid have sponsored Wells Festival of Literature for many years - why is the event so important to you as a business?
We have been privileged to sponsor the Wells Festival of Literature more or less from the outset.
When it was at its original venue at the Bishop's Palace we were the sponsors of the marquee. Now we are the sponsors of the venue.
We have always been interested in sponsoring and helping cultural projects within our community and it seems to me that this is one of the jewels of the crown. We are very fortunate to have many such jewels, the food festival and the arts festival to name but two.
We have always felt it important to be at the centre of cultural projects. I remember getting on board at an early stage with the Swans Project probably 10 years ago – do you remember all of the large swans dotted around the city? I think that raised more than £65,000 for local projects.
The festival is not a fundraiser but is a very important cultural event and culture is surely part of the the glue keeping communities together.
Who are you most looking forward to seeing at this year's festival?
I must admit I have not yet seen the full line up. I am not even sure it is yet in the public domain.
I do know that Giles Brandreth will be in attendance and I would think he would be very entertaining.
What is the most exciting part of being involved in the festival?
I always look forward to the Literature Festival. I attend as many of the events as I reasonably can.
It is also nice to be able to offer my staff the opportunity to represent us and see so many interesting speakers. I think there is a real buzz about the city and the event when it is on.
What has been your favourite book you have ever read?
That is a really difficult one. I confess I do not find as much time to read as I would like.
My job entails reading long and lengthy documents which are not always riveting! I tend to read non-fiction and in particular British history.
When on holiday I always enjoy a Bill Bryson. I reckon the books that touched me most were in my youth when I read The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings Trilogy in quick succession.
I remember taking my children to the films when they came out 20 years ago and I was moved to tears by the ability to introduce them to that magical world.
Who has been your favourite speaker you have seen at the festival over the years, and who would be the person you would most like to see in the future?
There have been many speakers that I have enjoyed. Scientists introducing me to algorithms, English language and the intricacies of genetics. Who knew before Adam Rutherford that we are all actually related to Edward III?
Recently I did enjoy the talk by John Preston about his Jeremy Thorpe book A Very English Scandal. I come from North Devon and Jeremy Thorpe was our Constituency MP. Actually a very charismatic figure (though clearly dysfunctional) who I met on a couple of occasions.
A few years ago I enjoyed Mike Brearley’s talk. He was actually talking about the psychology of sport as was the theme of his book although during the questions, quite naturally, the audience was asking him about the 1981 Ashes Test Match when Ian Botham and Bob Willis brought us back from the brink of defeat to victory.
See our other UP CLOSE profiles:
Would you like to be the subject of an UP CLOSE profile or do you know someone who we should feature? Contact [email protected]
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