My Yorkshire: Yorkshire Sculpture Park’s Clare Lilley

Claire Lilley, director of programmes at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park.

Claire Lilley, director of programmes at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park.

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Clare Lilley is director of programmes at Yorkshire Sculpture Park. She is also a board member of Site Gallery in Sheffield and lives in Holmfirth with her husband Jonty and two daughters.

What’s your first memory of being outdoors? I suppose around age three, sitting with older kids on the pavement of Fairoak Close in Epsom, Surrey, rubbing acorns onto the concrete to make ‘fairy food’.

Claire Lilley would like a lunch date with Marco Pierre White - as long as he cooks.

Claire Lilley would like a lunch date with Marco Pierre White - as long as he cooks.

What’s your favourite part of the county and why? I have a special liking for Whitby and its coastline, but the hills and moors around my home in Holmfirth give me constant nourishment. My dad lives in Upperthong, where the rain and wind are harsh, but the changing light, colours and forms of the moors towards Marsden and Greenfield are breathtaking.

What’s your idea of a perfect weekend/day out in Yorkshire? It sounds really boring, but I’m away a lot and work most weekends so I relish time at home with my husband, daughters and our friends. A perfect weekend would involve eating poached eggs for breakfast with my girls, going to pilates, food shopping in Holmfirth which inevitably means bumping into and chatting with friends and neighbours, having friends over for dinner or seeing a band at the brilliant Holmfirth Picturedrome.

Do you have a favourite walk, or view? I love looking out of my sitting room window down into the valley where I can see most of Holmfirth. From our house we walk up the hill, down into Mark Bottoms (actually land owned by my brother, Mark, though not named after him!), across the stream and through the outstanding woodland he has planted over 20 years, up into Upperthong to see my dad. It’s a bit strenuous but always stunning.

Which Yorkshire stage or screen star (past or present) would you like to take to lunch? Well I’ve already had the pleasure of eating with Michael Palin which was a complete delight. It’s a hard choice, but I’m a huge admirer of Alan Bennett and imagine lunch would be fantastically stimulating – ditto Marco Pierre-White, and hopefully he’d be cooking!

The Reliance, Bar and Dining Room in Leeds is one of Clare Lilley's favourite places to eat. ''North Street, Leeds.'7 May 2013.  Picture Bruce Rollinson

The Reliance, Bar and Dining Room in Leeds is one of Clare Lilley's favourite places to eat. ''North Street, Leeds.'7 May 2013. Picture Bruce Rollinson

If you had to name your Yorkshire hidden gem, what would it be? Hardly a hidden gem, but the town of Helmsley in North Yorkshire is definitely a gem and given its size has an inordinate amount on offer, especially in terms of good eating.

What do you think gives Yorkshire its unique identity? The landscape – and I include the industrial landscape – that sees towns and villages sitting in the valley bottoms or cities clustered around major rivers, canals and railway systems, is one that is productive and down to earth. I feel it breeds people with the same characteristics. I’m an incomer and I’ve never felt anything other than welcome.

Do you find yourself ‘selling’ Yorkshire to non-believers? If so, how? Yes, and it’s dead easy. To city dwellers I say I live in the foothills of the Pennines, which conveys something quite dreamy; this isn’t really true, so I then go on to talk about the dark rugged stone, the hills, the communities this county holds, its rich culture. I’m writing this in New York, which of course is a terrific city, but anything wholesome or high quality here is rare a. In Yorkshire great quality is normal.

Do you have a favourite restaurant or pub? The Nook in Holmfirth has a great atmosphere, as well as live music, and is a pub everyone should experience at one time or another. I do a lot of international travel and am in London regularly, but the Reliance in Leeds is still one of my favourite restaurants. It’s always bustling and the robust, brilliantly cooked, carefully considered food is sublime, especially if like me you relish meat, offal and squid.

Do you have a favourite food shop? I try hard to shop locally. There are excellent local shops in Holmfirth and we’re lucky to have the Farmers’ Market where you can buy superb bread made by the Handmade Bakery community co-op in Slaithwaite, together with very good meats, cheeses, preserves and vegetables. Near to YSP is the fantastic Blacker Hall Farm Shop – their pork pies are the best ever and I defy anyone to produce better pastry.

Who is the Yorkshire man or woman you most admire? The aviator Amy Johnson – she was a true pioneer in terms of aviation and also in terms of women forging their way into public life. By the age of 35 she had set or broken a number of world aviation records, was President of the Women’s Engineering Society and had beenhonoured with a CBE. An outstanding human being and an inspirational woman.

How has living in Yorkshire influenced your work? I work long hours and I can’t imagine how I could have brought up two daughters without access to such good people and to the high quality of life that Yorkshire offers. Of course working at Yorkshire Sculpture Park means that being out of doors is essential, and this county provides huge variety to feed the soul.

If a stranger to Yorkshire had time to visit only one place, where would you send them? What can I say but Yorkshire Sculpture Park! Incredible landscape and walks, world class art, wonderful new and old architecture, great food and shopping, lovely people.

Name your favourite Yorkshire book/author/artist/CD/performer (just one of them!)? Please can I have more than one? Henry Moore and Barbara Hepworth were both exceptional artists and pioneers in their field, responding at to the Yorkshire landscape and its people to create bodies of work that I think are notably humanitarian, in part because they experienced two World Wars, but also because of their Yorkshire childhoods.

What are you working on at the moment? I’ve been in New York finalising details for our next big show by the young American artist, KAWS, whos started life in graffiti and street art and his work is collected by Justin Bieber, Pharell Williams and Jay-Z.

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