My Yorkshire: Yorkshire Sculpture Park curator Sarah Coulson on her favourite people and places

Sarah Coulson, curator at Yorkshire Sculpture Park. Picture by Jonty Wilde.
Sarah Coulson, curator at Yorkshire Sculpture Park. Picture by Jonty Wilde.
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Sarah Coulson has worked at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, near Wakefield, since 2000, where she now holds the position of curator. Born in Halifax, she lives in Highburton with her two children, aged 14 and 11.

What’s your favourite part of the county and why? I love the East Coast. I spent a couple of days there with my children at Easter. In Whitby we went out on a boat and climbed the 199 steps, in Filey we walked along the beach looking for fossils and ate fish and chips from the paper, and then we spent the early evening in Staithes watching seabirds on the cliffs before sunset. It’s a perfect antidote to busy everyday life.

Sarah Coulson admires the work of Simon Armitage who is back at Yorkshire Sculpture Park as poet in residence.

Sarah Coulson admires the work of Simon Armitage who is back at Yorkshire Sculpture Park as poet in residence.

What’s your idea of a perfect weekend/day out in Yorkshire? It would probably be a walk at either Hardcastle Crags or Brimham Rocks. Then a trip to Salts Mill, followed by a nice dinner, drinks and conversation. Leeds has so many good restaurants and bars now, but I still love a good local pub. One of my favourite days recently involved playing Scrabble by an open fire at the Riverside pub in Kelham Island in Sheffield.

Do you have a favourite walk, or view? Beyond the mast at Emley, heading towards Highburton, where I live. As you turn the corner, suddenly the most beautiful view opens up – almost a full 360 degrees – you can see over towards Holme Moss in one direction and Huddersfield in the other. I take that road almost every day but it never fails to take my breath away.

Which Yorkshire stage or screen star (past or present) would you like to take to lunch? I would have to say Dame Judi Dench. As well as her being an incredible talent, I am always delighted to see a woman who has sustained a hugely successful career as she has got older. It is something that is very difficult to achieve in a society obsessed by youth.

If you had to name your Yorkshire hidden gem, what would it be? Appletreewick in the Dales, near to the much more famous Bolton Abbey. It has a fantastic campsite called Masons next to the River Wharfe. Opposite there is a steep hill that the children like to climb and see who can get to the top first, and once you do get there the view is amazing.

One of Sarah Coulson's favoruite views is beyond the iconic television mast at Emley Moor in Kirklees.

One of Sarah Coulson's favoruite views is beyond the iconic television mast at Emley Moor in Kirklees.

If you could choose somewhere or some object from Yorkshire to own for a day what would it be? The Bedale Hoard of Viking silver and gold from the collection of the Yorkshire Museum. It comprises jewellery and ingots that were unearthed in a field by someone using a metal detector only around five years ago and it dates back to the 9th or 10th century.

What do you think gives Yorkshire its unique identity? Its mixture of industry and rolling countryside (something that both Barbara Hepworth and Henry Moore were inspired by), warm Yorkshire stone buildings, creativity, open and friendly people, and certainly the distinctive accent.

Do you find yourself ‘selling’ Yorkshire to non-believers, if so, how? I think there are ever more believers these days. It was really special when the Grand Départ of the Tour de France came to Yorkshire in 2014: the aerial footage on television was an opportunity for the wider world to see just how beautiful this part of the world is.

Do you have a favourite restaurant or pub? Magic Rock Tap in Huddersfield, which I’ve only recently discovered. It’s a fantastic place and definitely my current favourite. Attached to the brewery, it’s tucked away just outside the city centre and is off the beaten track but worth seeking out.

Do you have a favourite food shop? The Handmade Bakery in Slaithwaite, which was founded a few years ago by some friends as a not-for-profit co-operative. It makes delicious, often quite unusual cakes and really excellent artisan bread.

Who is the Yorkshire man or woman you most admire? David Hockney. I recently saw and loved his exhibition at Tate Britain, which features some of his most iconic works from a 60-year career. At almost 80, he is also still pushing his practice and embracing new media and technology. His recent iPad and iPhone works are extraordinary.

How has living in Yorkshire influenced your work? It has definitely given me an appreciation for and sensitivity to the landscape. Being down to earth, not in a cliched way, but being rooted and grounded and realising the world doesn’t revolve around us.

If a stranger to Yorkshire had time to visit only one place, where would you send them? This may be biased: the Yorkshire Sculpture Park. It epitomises how amazing things can be done away from the capital and big cities, and that with belief, determination and the right ethos anything is possible. It tells a story of ambition, vision, belief and inclusivity.

Name your favourite Yorkshire book/author/artist/CD/performer? The poet Simon Armitage. Ten years ago he had a residency with YSP, which culminated in a week-long series called the Twilight Readings. He said at that time that these special, intimate events would live on like a perfume in the memory of those present. He was right. A decade on, he is our poet in residence once again, in celebration of the park’s 40th anniversary, and I can’t wait to read his latest work.

What are you working on at the moment? I am curating an exhibition from the Arts Council Collection called Tread Softly, which opens today. It is about childhood and family life, but tells a realistic and honest story about how difficult it can be finding your identity and voice. I invited the poet Jackie Kay to write a new series of poems to accompany the exhibition. These collaborations with wonderfully creative people are one of the reasons I count myself lucky every day.

Tread Softly, Bothy Gallery, Yorkshire Sculpture Park, to September 3. 01924 832631, ysp.org.uk