Selby, ON and Selby, UK – Not so far apart

Greater Napanee Council received a rather unique deputation on Tuesday, from over 5,300 kilometres away, with a request to bring the faraway places a little closer.

Tim FitzHigham joined Council’s virtual meeting from the UK, along with Canadian-born John Hastings, to speak to council regarding an idea to bring Selby, Yorkshire, UK and Selby, Ont., Canada, closer together.

“We are embarking on this project… to attempt to unite the two Selbys,” FitzHigham told council.

John Hastings (bottom left) and Tim FitzHigham (bottom right) meet with Napanee Council virtually on Tuesday, Apr. 13, 2021 to discuss uniting Selby, Ontario with Selby. Yorkshire, UK.

“The entire project came about because there was a mix up at the box office,” FitzHigham laughed. “Somebody tried to book a ticket for a show in the theatre for Selby, Yorkshire, [residing] in Canada, and the box office manager thought that was a very long way to come for a show. It then transpired that he was trying to book a ticket for a show in Selby, Ontario, Canada.

“We thought this was such a lovely event, a happening, a fluke – that we want to try to follow it up and see if the two Selby’s shared more than just a name,” said FitzHigham.

The project is being supported through The British Council, Canada Council for the Arts, The High Commission of Canada in the UK, and Farnham Maltings (UK) to produce a series of video/audio podcasts to open communication between Selby, Ontario, Canada and Selby, Yorkshire, England.

“What drew me to this project, especially in the time of Covid where no one can be connected, I… can be doing a project connecting people hundreds of thousands of miles away,” said Hastings, who was born in Ottawa and lived in England for a number of years.

To start, Selby in Yorkshire wants to get to know ‘who’ Selby in Ontario is.

“Selby in Yorkshire certainly doesn’t know how Selby in Canada came to be; so that’s one of the things we’re trying to find out: how you got Selby,” explained FitzHigham.

As for Selby in Yorkshire, it’s a small market town known as a “hidden gem” with a population of about 15,000. The municipality describes the town as:

“The historic town of Selby is one of Yorkshire’s hidden gems. Why not head off the beaten track and explore the huge and truly breathtaking medieval Abbey, discover a crumbling 15th century gatehouse, and then settle down for a memorable meal in one of the town’s many fine restaurants. Located in picturesque Yorkshire countryside, this town is an excellent base for a short break or holiday.”

A street view from Google shows downtown Selby, Yorkshire, UK.

More information can be found on the municipality’s website:

“We want to try to open a dialogue between the Selbys,” FitzHigham said. His vision is to connect the schools, the churches, the theatres, the councils, and any other similar groups of people found between the two locations.  

“We want to make it a really positive project to show off these two brilliant places. Selby in Yorkshire is a small market town with a very large abbey… built by the same stonework masons that built Durham Cathedral. It’s a huge structure in which King Henry I was born,” said FitzHigham.

An image from Google Street View shows the Abbey and the market in Selby, Yorkshire, UK.

Mayor Marg Isbester shared her enthusiasm for the project and said she and Council would very much like to support the endeavor.

“I thank you very much for bringing this forward,” said Isbester. “Now certainly Selby has churches, but they might not be quite up to the standards of what the size of yours is,” she laughed.

FitzHigham and Hastings asked council to help them get the project started by sharing contacts and resources from Selby, Ontario, Canada.

Ward 3 Councillor Dave Pinnell had been in touch with Hastings and FitzHigham prior to the deputation to council and therefore has already begun moving the project on this end.

“I have reached out to some residents in Selby… so the ball has started,” he said. Pinnell agreed to be the ‘go between’ to share resources and contact information with FitzHagham and Hastings.

Deputy Mayor Max Kaiser suggested reaching out to the Lennox and Addington Historical Society, as well as the Lennox and Addington County Archives.

“The Museum and Archives has a very deep, searchable archive and they have a dedicated staff who works there,” said Kaiser.

“I certainly hope, too, on behalf of Council, that there can be some interaction between the two councils,” added Isbester. She asked FitzHagham to share the Town Council of Selby in Yorkshire’s contact information with her so Greater Napanee Council can send a letter to the council in the UK.

“That’s pretty neat to have something like that happen all because somebody placed a request for a ticket in the wrong Selby,” concluded Isbester.

Selby, Yorkshire, UK, as shown on Google Maps.

About Tim FitzHigham and John Hastings:

FitzHigham is a British actor, author, adventurer and multi-award winning performer. He has appeared in Paddington two, films with Clint Eastwood and a many TV shows. He has his own BBC Radio 4 series and has toured on stage all over the world in one man theatre shows documenting his many innovative and unusual acts, including rowing the English Channel in a bathtub and paddling 160 miles down the Thames in a paper boat. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of the Arts, Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society and has the Freedom of the City of London. He is a Town Councillor of Framlingham and Commodore of Sudbury. Tim is the 17th Pittancer of Selby in Yorkshire, which means he gives out a pittance of eggs and cheese on Maunday Thursday, as well as one pound to the priest in charge of Selby Abbey. Selby Abbey is a Grade One listed heritage site in a small market town where King Henry I was born.

Hastings is a Canadian actor, writer and comedian who has appeared in major comedy festivals including Edinburgh, Melbourne and Just for Laughs Montreal. He has contributed on BBC Radio 4, BBC1, BBC3, Comedy Central, CTV Australian Comedy Channel and CBC The Comedy Network. He is the COCA Comedian of the Year, a Martin Sims Award Nominee and an Amused Moose Comedy Award winner. He was most recently a contestant on America’s Got Talent.

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