My Yorkshire: Martin Barrass

Hull-born Martin Barrass, 54, is celebrating 25 consecutive years of pantomime at the Theatre Royal in York in Jack and the Beanstalk.

What's your first Yorkshire memory?

Being taken by my Uncle John to Scarborough at the age of about eight or nine, to watch a cricket match. The sun was shining, it was a perfect day, and all I could wonder was why it took so incredibly long for anything to happen. As the years have rolled by, I've come to love the game very much but the setting was what made the impression.

What's your favourite part of the county – and why?

The top of Sutton Bank, where you can look out at the Vale of York. It's like having Yorkshire unrolled before you. It was James Herriott's favourite view as well.

What's your idea of a perfect day, or a perfect weekend, out in Yorkshire?

Roaming around on the limestone pavement at the top of Malham Cove. I've just seen the latest Harry Potter film where they've used it as a backdrop in a couple of scenes. I was about 16 when I first went up there, it was a stage on part of walking the Pennine Way.

My PE teacher was going to do the walk and persuaded 14 of us to go with him – seven made it and did the whole length and I was one of them. He trained us hard – we carried house bricks in rucksacks for miles to harden us up. I can vividly remember the fatigue and the blisters afterwards.

Do you have a favourite walk – or view?

Spurn Point, just as it is growing dusk on a sunny day and watching how the sea meets the sky. You are on a strip of land only a few yards wide and can see the Humber Bridge far in the distance. I find it thrilling, every time.

Which Yorkshire sportsman, past or present, would you like to take for lunch?

Roger Millward of Hull Kingston Rovers, who played at Number 6, and who for me is both a sporting legend and an absolute hero. He was, for a time, also their player coach and once completed a full match even though his jaw had been broken in the first half. He's only about five feet four tall, but he's a little guy with that "spitfire syndrome".

Which Yorkshire stage or screen star, past or present, would you like to take for dinner?

James Mason, who was the epitome of Hollywood smooth, a suave leading man who left a legacy of wonderful performances. He came from Huddersfield and made good in the best possible way. One of his last films was also one of his finest, I think – Spring and Port Wine – where he played a no-nonsense Yorkshire patriarch.

If you had to name your Yorkshire hidden gem, what would it be?

If you go up the York to Bridlington road, and through Stamford Bridge, there's a sign there which directs you up right to Millington Springs.

A bit of a way along there you'll come to the most beautiful valley, hidden away, that looks as if it could have been a prehistoric motorway. A glacier obviously scraped a lot of it away hundreds of thousands of years ago, and until recently the locals grew watercress there.

There's a beautiful little church as well, and at Millington Pastures there are two great pubs, The Gait Inn and the Ramblers Rest. The Wolds Way is nearby, and Pocklington is about two miles. If you haven't been – go.

What do you think gives Yorkshire its unique identity?

There's a great sense of fortitude in a Yorkshire person, as well as independence. We speak our minds, but we have a sense of humour, and a heart as well. There's also a sense of fair play which I admire. The way we speak, our accents, are a gift for a comedian, and they sit well with a punch line. I think that's particularly so with the Hull accent.

Do you follow sport in the county, and if so, what?

I have been a Yorkshire member and I love my cricket. I was saddened on the day that they took the decision to drop the rule about "Yorkshire-born only" for the county team.

Do you have a favourite restaurant, or pub?

Nellie's in Beverley, opposite St Mary's church. It used to be called The White Horse until two sisters took it over, one of whom was the redoubtable Nellie. Going into the pub, it's like going back a hundred years – it's still mostly gas-lit and it's full of little nooks and snugs.

Do you have a favourite food shop?

Rafi's in Goodramgate in York where they will build you your own curry. You take home the dry ingredients they have ground and mixed to make the dish yourself.

How do you think that Yorkshire has changed, for better or for worse, in the time that you've known it?

I used to have a hobby of drawing maps of the English counties and my favourite one was Yorkshire, when it was divided into Ridings. I wish that they'd bring those back, because they were natural divisions, not like some of the ones forced on us by Westminster. Certainly our big cities have all improved and I'm very proud of the way that Hull has reinvented itself – no longer do you walk out of Paragon Station and think that you've been dumped on a bombsite. I wish they'd do something more with the station building itself – it's a wonderful piece of architecture and it always seems so cold and neglected.

Who is the Yorkshire person that you most admire?

Geoff Boycott. I know the man has a lot of critics, but he also has style, and individuality and when you meet him he's rather endearing in his own bluff way.

Has Yorkshire influenced your work?

Hugely. I've done a lot of work around the UK, but every time that you come back to Yorkshire you can tell that it is a home-grown audience. They seem to tell you, across the footlights, that they like what you're doing. Or, sometimes, that they don't like it! Those people have shaped my career, and I thank them for it.

Name your favourite Yorkshire book/author/artist/CD/performer.

David Hockney. Apparently, you often see him up near Bridlington these days, working on his easel – the great man has returned from California, and hooray for that. Like all the best artists, you look at his work, and it appears to be so simple. Look a little harder and you realise how complex and striking it is.

If a stranger to Yorkshire only had time to visit one place, it would be?

Whitby, because it seems to me to be a microcosm of Yorkshire within one small(ish) space. You come down into the town from the Wolds and moors, and you find so many things – the memorial to Captain Cook, the Abbey (and the 99 steps up to it), the kipper sheds, the beautiful beach, the little boats bobbing on the water, and then you look up the hill, and you see all those tiled roofs stretching away on the slope. It never fails to give me a rather warm glow. And the other place to visit, of course, would be the York Theatre Royal, where there's a panto going on – you might enjoy that as well.

Jack and the Beanstalk, Theatre Royal York to January 29. Box office 01904 623568 or www.yorktheatreroyal.co.uk

YP MAG 22/1/11