My Yorkshire: Senior curator at Yorkshire Sculpture Park Helen Pheby on her favourite people and places

Helen Pheby is senior curator at Yorkshire Sculpture Park, which she first visited as a child growing up in Wakefield. She lives in Horbury with her partner Matthew and their dog Carlton.

Helen Pheby, senior curator at Yorkshire Sculpture Park.
Helen Pheby, senior curator at Yorkshire Sculpture Park.

What’s your first memory of being outdoors? Playing out with our neighbours and exploring the countryside around us. I grew up in the heart of the rhubarb triangle and remember being fascinated by the sheds that were off limits – especially when someone told me that the rhubarb grew by candlelight and so quickly that you could hear it cracking.

What’s your favourite part of the county and why? Like Henry Moore and Barbara Hepworth, I am especially drawn to the contrasts of the West Riding which boasts awe-inspiring industrial heritage set against the backdrop of stunning landscapes. We are incredibly fortunate to have great cities, towns and countryside all in easy reach.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

What’s your idea of a perfect weekend/day out in Yorkshire? There’s so much to choose from you really need never leave! My ideal weekend would definitely include yoga, shopping on my local high street, visiting any of the brilliant art venues such as the Barnsley Civic, The Hepworth Wakefield, The Henry Moore Institute or the recently reopened Leeds Art Gallery, to name just a few. A gig, dinner at The Reliance in Leeds. Sunday would be a walk around Hebden Bridge and pint at the Cricketers Arms in Horbury.

Surprise View, might just be over the border into Derbyshire, but it reminds Helen Pheby of her very Yorkshire dad.

Do you have a favourite walk, or view? Am I allowed Surprise View, which might be just over the border into Derbyshire? It was one of my Dad’s favourite road trips but, admittedly, it was never a surprise as he would excitedly tell us what was in store most of the way there. And you do get a cracking view back over Yorkshire.

Which Yorkshire stage or screen star (past or present) would you like to take to lunch? I saw Patrick Stewart years ago do a one-man show about Shylock at the West Yorkshire Playhouse and was amazed at his ability to seemingly transform into a different person through posture and language. I imagine he’d be brilliant company with a fair few tales to tell.

If you had to name your Yorkshire hidden gem, what would it be? I’d like to make the case for all the hidden gems, every village with its particular dialects, independent traders and ways of life that we’re in danger of losing.

If you could choose somewhere or some object from Yorkshire to own for a day what would it be? The sculpture library at the Henry Moore Institute is an absolute treasure trove and I don’t know of another anywhere in the world. It is yet another thing we can be really proud of and it’s completely free.

Helen Pheby is a fan of Arctic Monkeys.

Do you find yourself ‘selling’ Yorkshire to non-believers? I’m really lucky to be invited around the world to talk about YSP, and of course promote how brilliant Yorkshire is, as well as welcome people from as far afield as Bangladesh, Iraq and Japan to the region – they never fail to be impressed.

Do you have a favourite restaurant or pub? The Station at Crigglestone is the YSP local and I’ve many precious memories of evenings with colleagues and artists, including Andy Goldsworthy who chose to be interviewed there for the BBC during his 2007 exhibition.

Do you have a favourite food shop? We’re so lucky to have Blacker Hall farm shop on our doorstep, selling outdoor reared meat, local produce, a brilliant range of wines and far-too tempting cakes.

Who is the Yorkshire man or woman you most admire? William Wilberforce might have had some curious ideas, but his commitment to the abolition of slavery forever changed the world for the better.

Surprise View, might just be over the border into Derbyshire, but it reminds Helen Pheby of her very Yorkshire dad.

How has living in Yorkshire influenced your work? It is absolutely fundamental and is not just the privilege of being a part of YSP, but a way of thinking about the difference art can make to people and places that is the legacy of people such as Alec Clegg and Herbert Read.

What do you think gives Yorkshire its unique identity? The close proximity of urban and rural that maintains a healthy perspective as well as a non-conformist spirit.

If a stranger to Yorkshire had time to visit only one place, where would you send them? YSP of course!

Who is your favourite Yorkshire book/author/artist/CD/performer? Arctic Monkeys were like a breath of fresh air when I first heard them. They gave me and many others a confidence that a Yorkshire voice could be heard in the world.

Helen Pheby is a fan of Arctic Monkeys.

What are you working on at the moment? I’m really excited to be working with the Japanese artist Chiharu Shiota on a major installation in the YSP Chapel involving 2,000 balls of wool – you will have to experience it to believe it!

Work by acclaimed installation and performance artist Chiharu Shiota has just opened at at Yorkshire Sculpture Park. Beyond Time will be at the park until September 2.