My Yorkshire: Lord Bob Kerslake

Lord Bob Kerslake.
Lord Bob Kerslake.
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Lord Bob Kerslake spent 11 years leading Sheffield City Council. Recently appointed as the chair of the board of Sheffield Theatres, the 60-year-old is married to Anne, and they have a son and a daughter, Michael and Eleanor.

What’s your first Yorkshire memory? This goes back 18 years or so, when my family and I first moved to Sheffield from London. For my son and daughter it was a complete and utter culture shock. If I recall rightly, Michael actually stumbled as he got out of the car, he was so surprised at everything around him. All the hills, for a start – for me, it was the start of a love affair with the place that has continued all that time.

Sheffield singer-songwriter Richard Hawley would be one of Lord Kerslake's dinner party guests.

Sheffield singer-songwriter Richard Hawley would be one of Lord Kerslake's dinner party guests.

What’s your favourite part of the county – and why? Sheffield, and it would be very odd if I said anything else, wouldn’t it? For me, it’s a perfect combination of business and pleasure, open spaces and fascinating buildings. A vibrant cultural scene – the reputation of the Crucible Theatre is world-class these days – and the fact that it is so compact, and easy to get out into some amazing countryside that is still within the city’s borders.

What’s your idea of a perfect day, or a perfect weekend, out in Yorkshire? Anne and I would get out the car and drive up to Pickering, stop off at the Devil’s Punchbowl, have a look around Staithes and Robin Hood’s Bay, maybe get some fish and chips in Whitby. We’d drink in some glorious scenery, and also get out for a walk – we’ve got two Labradors, both with a boundless energy that never seems to let up.

Do you have a favourite walk – or view? Nearly every weekend I close the front door behind me, and walk along the Mayfield Valley here in Sheffield, and it is the most effective way I know of blowing away the cobwebs, and having a bit of a think about things. And there’s the bonus of the Norfolk Arms in the village of Ringinglow at the end of the ramble.

Which Yorkshire sportsman, past or present, would you like to take for lunch? I am a great admirer of Seb Coe, and now that I am a member of the House of Lords, maybe we could meet up for lunch there. He’s got a huge amount on his plate at the moment, with all the revelations about international athletics, but he’ll get that sorted, I am convinced of it.

Mayfield Valley in Sheffield is one of Lord Kerslake's favourite spots to go walking.

Mayfield Valley in Sheffield is one of Lord Kerslake's favourite spots to go walking.

Which Yorkshire stage or screen star, past or present, would you like to take for dinner? You are going to have to humour me here, because I’m going to turn this into a bit of a party, rather than an intimate dinner. Could I invite Michael Palin for his sense of mischievous fun, Dominic West, who is a very fine actor, Sean Bean because he is passionate about Sheffield, Jarvis Cocker and Richard Hawley. The last three, I think, would probably be happier in a pub.

If you had to name your Yorkshire ‘hidden gem’, what would it be? They are hardly hidden, but I suspect that outside Yorkshire they are not as well-known as they should be. And the two places are the Yorkshire Sculpture Park and the Hepworth Gallery, both in Wakefield, and both in the first rank.

What do you think gives Yorkshire its unique identity? Here comes that horrible cliché, but it is very definitely the people. They have pride, a certain bullishness, humanity and down-to-earth decency, and I don’t think that you’ll find those qualities combined anywhere else.

Do you follow sport in the county, and if so, what? I follow both of Sheffield’s football teams, which is an act of penance at the moment. I just wish that things would improve.

Do you have a favourite restaurant, or pub? The aforementioned Norfolk Arms, at the end of my weekend walk! Nice people, excellent beers good food, and very friendly toward dogs, which is very important. And the Crucible café, just across for the theatre and the Lyceum, is also worth a visit.

Do you have a favourite food shop? We are blessed to live very near to Sharrow Vale Road, which has a good selection of independent shops along it, a fine butchers, a nice deli, Mann’s fish place and many others besides. They all believe in variety and in service.

How do you think that Yorkshire has changed, for better or for worse, in the time that you’ve known it? The town and city centres all seem to have become a lot more vibrant, and we appear to have got beyond the divisiveness of the past, but we haven’t seen half enough re-balancing of the economy, which is still London-centric.

If you had to change one thing in, or about Yorkshire, what would that be? Far better educational provision for some of the truly disadvantaged communities. Education is the way to get on – and I don’t mean just ‘book-learning’, but education in vocations and skills.

Who is the Yorkshire person that you most admire? David Blunkett. My admiration for what he has achieved after his initial setbacks in life, knows no bounds.

Has Yorkshire influenced your work? Somewhat! I had my formative years in government and administration right here, and I am so very grateful for that.

Name your favourite Yorkshire book/author/artist/CD/performer? I was lucky enough to be able to get down to the Sheffield Arena to the Richard Hawley gig. I loved every second of it. A genuine one-off.

If a stranger to Yorkshire only had time to visit one place, it would be? Again, would you indulge me with two places? The first would be a visit to Malham Tarn, which is breathtakingly beautiful and after a day out there, I’d take them to a performance at the Crucible. It wouldn’t matter what the show was, because it would always be done to the very highest standards.