Jonnie Turpie MBE, High Sheriff of the West Midlands
Friday, 23rd October 2015
A Scotsman from Galashiels may not seem the obvious choice for this ancient office but Jonnie Turpie, now midway through his year as High Sheriff is passionate about his adopted city of Birmingham. He has lived in Moseley for 32 years with his wife Marian Davies, former head of Moor Green Primary School.
Jonnie is one of 55 High Sheriffs serving the counties of England and Wales on a voluntary basis. The Office goes back to Saxon times when the ‘Shire Reeve’ was responsible to the king for the maintenance of law and order and the collection of taxes. Supporting the Crown and the judiciary remain central elements of today’s role. It is an independent non-political Royal appointment made annually by the Queen in a meeting of the Privy Council.
All this sounds light years away from Jonnie Turpie’s reputation as a pioneer at the cutting edge of new digital technology, and founder of award winning TV and Media production company Maverick. A clue lies in his theme for his ‘Shrieval’ year – young people in the arts, culture and the creative industries.
Jonnie gained an MA at the Royal College of Art and worked as an artist before moving to the West Midlands as Research Fellow in Fine Art at the University of Wolverhampton. During the 80s he became involved in the early days of the Birmingham Film and Video Workshop, a joint venture between the BFI, Channel 4 and West Midlands Arts. He made programmes for the new Channel 4 on social issues, youth culture and Black and Asian community arts, and was one of the first to use video rather than film.
Jonnie believes that broadcasting needs to reflect the country’s diversity and when the new independent production sector emerged during the 90s he felt that it should have a strong presence outside London.
In1994 he set up Maverick Television, based in Digbeth, Birmingham – the centre of a diverse region and home to people from all over the world.
Always an innovator, Jonnie has produced and directed public service drama, documentary and digital media applying new video, technology and digital techniques; he pioneered the use of small-format cameras and high-end post-production graphics. Early successes included Trade Secrets, DV Dramas Blazed and Nightshift followed by digital media achievements with Ideas Factory, Teachers Tv and digital health service NHS Local. Recent TV hits include 10 Years Younger, Embarrassing Bodies and How to Look Good Naked.
Maverick now has additional production offices in London and Los Angeles and produces content for the BBC, ITV, Channel 4, Sky, Discovery, MTV and the USA Network; its digital products include apps, websites and YouTube channels. Maverick has been showered with Awards including 4 BAFTA’s, an Emmy, and five Royal Television Society Awards. In 2010 he was awarded an MBE for services to international trade.
Throughout his career Jonnie has been involved in public life and contributed to the development of the creative arts. He is a Director of Creative England, Deputy Chair of the Birmingham Creative City Partnership, and a Trustee of the Birmingham Ormiston Academy in Eastside.
Since his installation at the Queen Elizabeth II Crown Court in March, Jonnie with the invaluable support of partner Marian in her role as his consort has been busy visiting numerous creative hot spots in the county. The aim is to champion and support the cultural achievements of the wealth of young and diverse talent in our region from Walsall to Solihull, West Bromwich to Coventry.
One highlight was the High Sheriff’s presentation of the Inspiring Young People Awards to winners nominated by the West Midlands Mayors at a Garden Party at the Library of Birmingham in July. Guests from the judiciary, business and the public sector were able to network as they admired the special exhibition curated by Marian and Graham Peet featuring art installations and displays from the BFI, Stan’s Café, universities, and the launch of ‘Creative Future’ Birmingham’s pledges for young people’s access to the arts.