Nick Ahad: Final curtain: thank you and goodbye, it’s been a huge privilege

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Well, here’s a column I never thought I’d write.

My last as Arts Editor of the Yorkshire Post.

Over the decade I have covered the arts in Yorkshire I cannot tell you the privilege I have felt at meeting people who make us one of the best regions in the world when it comes to culture.

It was a privilege to spend time with Sir Alan Ayckbourn and ask him how pleased he was when The New York Times said his Stephen Joseph Theatre should be anointed a “Mecca for admirers of first-rate, frill-free acting”. It was a privilege to have Alan Bennett tell me a story featuring a very rude word which he prefaced by saying “You’ll never be able to print this in the Yorkshire Post” (he was right). It was a privilege to be there the day The Hepworth opened to the press and Sir David Chipperfield told me how he designed the solid, ugly-beautiful art gallery that has been taken into the hearts of people in the city. It was a huge privilege to sit in the front room of Sir Jonathan Miller’s grand Camden house and experience a two-hour long personal lecture. It was a massive privilege to watch Sir Ian McKellen rehearse a one-man show on the stage of the Sheffield Crucible and listen to him toss out passages of Shakespeare while waiting for the lighting designer. It was a privilege to have Kathy Burke, Alan Plater and Ronald Harwood all force me to step outside for a cigarette with them if I didn’t want to have a pause in our interview (on separate occasions).

These are just some of the famous names I have interviewed over the decade I have been Arts Editor of a newspaper I – honestly – always dreamed I would write for. I’m just a lad from Keighley who was lucky enough to have an inspiring teacher set alight in me a passion for the arts. Getting to interview these people shouldn’t have happened to someone like me.

While meeting and interviewing these people has been a privilege, what has warmed my heart most about my job over the past ten years has been the sheer energy, passion, resilience and fortitude shown by the arts community of Yorkshire who make work, who write, paint, sculpt, dance, act, whatever, for the love of their craft. Their only purpose is not to seek fame, but to create art that tells us what it means to be human. They know that when we understand that, we can strive to be better. To all those people, thank you. Thank you for sharing and for allowing me to share the insights into your art with the readers of one of the greatest newspapers in the country. It really is.

I’ve seen this region go from being one that would turn down Anthony Gormley and let him go off to make the Angel of the North, to one that can’t wait to embrace the cultural festivals around the Tour de France.

Me? I’ll be staying round to report on the world-class theatre we have in Yorkshire for the Post and, for a time at least, I’ll be writing scripts for another Yorkshire institution (this time a television show). Thank you. It’s been a privilege.