My Yorkshire: Actress Natalie Gavin on her favourite people and places

Actress Natalie Gavin in rehearsals for Pygmalion.
Actress Natalie Gavin in rehearsals for Pygmalion.
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Born near Huddersfield, actress Natalie Gavin made her professional debut in Shameless. She is currently appearing as Eliza Doolittle in George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion.

What’s your first Yorkshire memory? Growing up in a village called Little Houghton. We lived in a bungalow, and it seemed to us kids that we were surrounded by grass. There was a massive embankment behind the house, and in good weather we’d go out ‘grass-boarding’, sliding down the hill and tumbling over as we reached the bottom. How our poor mum used to get the grass stains out of our clothing, I shall never ever know.

Natalie Gavin enjoys walking around Ogden Water.

Natalie Gavin enjoys walking around Ogden Water.

What’s your favourite part of the county – and why? Haworth. I live in Denholme now, and it sits right in the middle of a circle, with Halifax, Keighley and Bradford all about 12 minutes’ drive away. But, better yet, Haworth is only eight minutes, and that’s where I take all my friends when they come to visit.

Do you have a favourite walk – or view? It would be around Ogden Water, near Halifax. We did that walk around the reservoir on Boxing Day, in an attempt to walk off Christmas lunch. It’s another place that I take visitors, just to show them how beautiful Yorkshire is. I hope that I’m a good ambassador for my county – I’m always talking about it when I’m away.

Which Yorkshire sportsman, past or present, would you like to take for lunch? When I was a lot younger, we used to live quite near a rugby ground, and, if we couldn’t get in we would sit in the street, and listen to the noise that the crowd was making. I was always impressed by Robbie Paul, who is now retired, and CEO of Bradford Bulls. He always seemed to be not only a great player, but also a gentleman. He’s not from our neck of the woods, but I think that we can claim him as an adopted son.

Which Yorkshire stage or screen star, past or present, would you like to take for dinner? Steve Waddington, who played my father in The Syndicate. He’s from Leeds and, well, just a lovely, lovely man – as well as being a very intuitive actor. He’s very generous with his time, and we understood each other from the moment we met.

Natalie Gavin admires writer Kay Mellor.

Natalie Gavin admires writer Kay Mellor.

If you had to name your Yorkshire ‘hidden gem’, what would it be? It’s called The Cake’ole, and it is in The Royal Arcade, in Keighley. It has a sort of Alice in Wonderland theme and their cakes and teas are first rate.

If you could choose somewhere, or some object, from or in Yorkshire to own for a day, what would it be? Not long after I was born, my mum planted a tiny sapling in the garden of the bungalow where we lived. It is now a full tree, with gorgeous blossoms that hang down almost to the ground. Of course, we moved on, and the house now belongs to someone else, and while I’ve seen the tree from the other side of the fence, I have never plucked up the courage to go and knock at the door and ask if I could sit under the branches for a few hours.

What do you think gives Yorkshire its unique identity? Greenery. Green, green, green Yorkshire. OK, we have our cities and big towns, but you can get out of all of them pretty quickly and you are in the middle of fifty shades of green.

Do you have a favourite restaurant, or pub? It’s the George Hotel, on Station Road, near Cullingworth. If nothing else, you have to attempt to finish the famous George Pie, which is massive, and delicious. There’s always a warm welcome, and it is frequently the place where we end our family and friends walks.

Do you have a favourite food shop? The Keelham Farm Shop near Bradford is epic. It started very small, but now it is amazing, with such a wide range of food and produce. The colours of the vegetables are wonderful, and the staff are so knowledgeable.

How do you think that Yorkshire has changed, for better or for worse, in the time that you’ve known it? I hope that we’ve become a lot more open-minded, and multicultural, and that we’ve learned from the mistakes of the Sixties and Seventies when so many wonderful old buildings were destroyed by short-sighted town councils in the name of ‘progress’. Now we seem to be embracing our past, while constructing a future. Bradford is at last looking good again, with a vision and a lot of imagination.

If you had to change one thing in, or about Yorkshire, what would that be? Nothing. I love the space, the clean air, the sound of the streams, the lakes and rivers. The only thing that really makes me mad is the amount of rubbish that people leave behind them. Put it in your pocket, or in a bin, or take it home with you. Don’t chuck it into the hedge.

Who is the Yorkshire person that you most admire? My mum, Susan. She’s a strong woman, with a heart of gold. She’s brought us all up, and taught us so many things – the main thing of which, I think is respect. She still works as a nurse. She is a powerhouse, and I love and admire her more dearly than she will ever know.

Has Yorkshire influenced your work? I believe that it has, yes, because I often get ‘northern’ roles, certain types of women with whom I can identify. Clearly the casting people want me, because they hope that I can bring something to a piece.

Name your favourite Yorkshire book/author/artist/CD/performer? It would be anything by, or starring, the incomparable Kay Mellor. A wonderful writer, a fine actress, and an inspirational woman. I was lucky enough to meet her and to talk to her when she wrote The Syndicate. She is a total professional, but also a warm and empathetic lady.

If a stranger to Yorkshire only had time to visit one place, it would be? Haworth. Always. I keep on talking about my personal crusade to promote Yorkshire to my friends, but I really do feel that I have messed up badly if I don’t take them over to “Brontë Country” when they come to visit.

Pygmalion is at the West Yorkshire Playhouse to February 25. 0113 213 7700, wyp.org.uk