Yorkshire’s Top 100: The Arts

Today we unveil the first 25 names in Yorkshire Top 100. Shining a spotlight on the captains of industry, sporting icons and public servants who make the county great, our list is a glimpse into just what a rich and diverse county we live in.

Today it is the turn of the arts, where we focus on the directors, authors, poets and performers who use Yorkshire as a base to consistently deliver work which can truly be described as world class.

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Simon Armitage: Poet, playwright and novelist

Earlier this year, the poet, playwright and novelist from Marsden was elected Oxford Professor of Poetry, succeeding Geoffrey Hill. In 2000, he was the UK’s official Millennium Poet and Armitage has left a permanent mark on his home county with the Stanza Stones Trail, which runs through 47 miles of the Pennine region and which feature his verses carved in stone by the artist Pip Hall.

Iain Bloomfield: Artistic director, Theatre in the Mill.

Bradford’s Theatre in the Mill might not be Yorkshire’s biggest venue, but thanks to Bloomfield it’s not short on ambition. He moved to Bradford in 1997 where he developed and ran the Alhambra Studio. Appointed Fellow in Theatre at the University of Bradford in 2003, Bloomfield has been Head of Arts for the last seven years and is a great believer in the power of the arts to transform individuals and communities.

James Brining: Artistic director, West Yorkshire Playhouse.

It is three years since James Brining was appointed artistic director at the West Yorkshire Playhouse. It marked a return home for the 46-year-old, who was born in Leeds and who had spent almost nine years with the Dundee Rep.Having staged a number of critically-acclaimed productions at the theatre, Brining is also now overseeing a £14m redevelopment of the venue and his vision is a bold one.

Damian Cruden: Artistic dirctor, York Theatre Royal.

The theatre is currently closed for a major £4.1m redevelopment, but when it does reopen next spring it should give Cruden a platform for more of what he does so well. He took up the post in York in 1997 and his standout production to date is an adaptation of The Railway Children. Featuring a real steam locomotive, it was staged for two consecutive years at the National Railway Museum and transferring to London’s Waterloo and the John Street Roundhouse in Toronto.

Name Reece Dinsdale: Actor.

Dinsdale has come a long way since he starred in the sitcom Home to Roost opposite John Thaw. His acting muscles have been clearly evident ever since his disturbing portrayal of an undercover cop turned football hooligan in I.D. back in 1994. However, it’s on the Yorkshire stage that the Normanton-actor has shone recently. Last year at the West Yorkshire Playhouse, he was mesmerising as Alan Bennett in Untold Stories and this month he will take on Shakespeare’s Richard III. Modest, unassuming and hugely talented, the 56-year-old Dinsdale just seems to get better with age.

David Edmunds: Artistic director, Dep Arts.

Edmunds founded Dep Arts in 2005 to work with theatre, dance and performance companies to stage world class events. He was a key player in the Imove cultural Olympiad project, as well as Liverpool Capital of Culture in 2008. The company has also been a driving force behind Try, which has seen it join forces with Leeds City Council to celebrate the arrival of the Rugby World Cup.

Daniel Evans: Artistic director, Sheffield Theatres.

An award-winning actor and director, the 42-year-old was appointed artistic director at Sheffield Theatres in 2009, and took up his role following the refurbishment of the Crucible Theatre. Two years ago he directed the Simon Beaufoy play The Full Monty and has staged a number of successful seasons at the Crucible celebrating some of the country’s most influential playwrights

John Godber: Director, playwright and screenwriter.

After many years at Hull Truck Theatre, Godber moved to Wakefield Theatre Royal in 2011. He is a member of the Directors Guild and one of the most performed writers in the English language. A visiting professor of drama at Hull University and a fellow of the Royal Society of Arts. His best-known work includes Bouncers, Up ‘n’ Under and Teechers. His screenplay My Kingdom for a Horse was nominated for an Alternative BAFTA award.

Martin Green: Chief executive, Hull UK City of Culture 2017.

Green was the man behind the impressive London 2012 Olympic ceremonies, which successfully extinguished any remaining cynicism surrounding the Games, by injecting an early note of optimism into proceedings. Come 2017 he will lift the curtain on a year-long programme of artistic events which could bring more than £60m into the local economy and help generate 7,500 new jobs.

Philippa Gregory: Author.

Regularly described as the Queen of Historical fiction, Gregory is a master in the art of a page turner. Based in North Yorkshire, her 2001 novel The Other Boleyn Girl was adapted for both film and television. Nothing short of prolific, her novels breathe life into women who previously were afforded little more than a footnote in the history books. Two years ago, her novel The White Queen was turned into a 10-part adaptation for the BBC.

Richard Hawley: Singer/songwriter.

The Sheffield-born 48-year-old recorded his first album in 2000. In 2012 his seventh album Standing at the Sky’s Edge was nominated for the 2012 Mercury Awards. Other work includes collaborations with the likes of Arctic Monkeys and Manic Street Preachers. Refreshingly left of mainstream, his new album Hollow Meadows was released earlier this month to impressive reviews.

Diane Howse: Artist and curator.

The countess of Harewood (she rarely uses the title) is a contemporary artist in her own right and opened the Terrace Gallery at the stately home in the 1980s. Howse has curated hundreds of exhibitions, including one in a disused apartment block in Leeds and most recently took work to two of the county’s most iconic venues - Salts Mill in Saltaire and the Brontë Parsonage Museum in Haworth.ll.

Alan Lane: Artistic director, Slung Low.

Lane has earned a reputation for staging ambitious, original productions in unusual places. Recently he has pulled off Blood + Chocolate, a huge production in York based on the Rowntree factory sending chocolate tins to every soldier from York fighting at the front in World War One, The White Whale, inspired by Moby Dick, on the Leeds waterfront and to mark the Rugby World Cup in Leeds.

Richard Mantle: Director general, Opera North.

At THE helm of Opera North since 1994, Richard Mantle began his career in the world of commerce after studying business studies and psychology at Ealing College. He had a spell at English National Opera before joining Opera North as general director. Under his leadership the company has broadened its repertoire and is known for its innovative stagings of the classics - it is currently performing the Cole Porter favourite Kiss Me Kate.

Peter Murray: Director, Yorkshire Sculpture Park.

Peter Murray founded the YSP, at West Bretton, Wakefield, in 1977, and has overseen its growth to become one of the world’s leading sculpture parks. .Awarded a CBE in the 2010 Queen’s Birthday Honours list, last year he and the team saw the park named the Art Fund’s Museum of the Year.

Conrad Nelson: Actor, director, composer.

Apologies to Northern Broadsides’ Barrie Rutter, but when it came to compiling our list of influential individuals we went for one of the company’s other stalwarts. Nelson’s acting career spans over 20 years and one of his finest performances came a few years ago when he played Iago to Lenny Henry’s Othello. Versatile and quietly brilliant, Nelson is a real gem in Yorkshire’s cultural crown.

David Nixon: Artistic director, Northern Ballet.

He might be Canadian by birth, but having been artistic director of Northern Ballet since 2001, Nixon has been embraced and adopted by Leeds. It was under his leadership that the company moved into its impressive Quarry Hill headquarters and Nixon has added an array of new works to the repertoire, including the Gershwin extravaganza, A Midsummer Night’s Dream and The Three Musketeers.

Kate Rusby: Singer/songwriter,

The Barnsley Nightingale, is one of the folk scene’s most popular stars and one of the few folk singers to have been nominated for the Mercury Prize. Born into a family of musicians, she has worked alongside many famous names, including duetting with Ronan Keating. More recently still she and the rest of the Rusby clan launched their own festival - Underneath the Stars - at Cannon Hall in Barnsley.

Sunjeev Sahota: Author.

Originally a mathematician, when Sahota’s first novel Ours Are The Streets was published in 2011 it earned him a place on Granta’s list of 20 Best Young British Novelists. Earlier this month he was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2015 for his second novel The Year of the Runaways about migrant workers in Sheffield. Sahota is an outside bet, but the judging panel is notoriously difficult to second guess.

Kully Thiarai: Artistic director, Cast.

Heading up Doncaster’s newest and most ambitious venue, she has been committed to making Cast a part of the community. The £22m venue opened in 2013 and in just a few months 40,000 people had visited the space. It is also building a reputation for staging original work.

Kenneth Tindall: Choreographer

Tindall has become one of the country’s most exciting young choreographers. Born in Dundee, but now based inLeeds he trained at the Central School of Ballet, and was a principal dancer with Northern Ballet, before retiring from the company earlier this year to concentrate on freelance choreography. His swan song from Northern Ballet was appropriately a new piece for the company’s 40th anniversary celebrations.

Sally Wainwright: Screenwriter and director.

Born in Huddersfield, the Bafta winning screenwriter might not live in Yorkshire any more, but her ties to her home county remain strong. From Scott and Bailey to Last Tango in Halifax and Happy Valley, Wainwright has brought a distinctly northern voice to the small screen in recent years and with a knack for natural dialogue and sharp character observation she is one of television’s most in-demand writers.

Simon Wallis: Director, The Hepworth Wakefield.

This year Wallis was awarded an OBE for services to the arts in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List. The award recognised his contribution to the visual arts over the past seven years at The Hepworth Wakefield, developing an ambitious programme of exhibitions as well as promoting the permanent collections.

Jonathan Watkins: Choreographer.

Barnsley-born Watkins trained at the Royal Ballet School and has stage a number of impressive productions in Yorkshire. Last year he brought a dance adaptation of Kes to the Sheffield Crucible and this year turned his attention to another classic of literature. Working with Northern Ballet, 1984 opened earlier this month and again showed that Watkins is one of the dance world’s brightest talents.

Sharon Watson: Director, Phoenix.

Recently announced as chair of Leeds’ European Capital of Culture bid for 2023, Watson is determined to put the city on the map. A dancer by training, she first joined Phoenix Dance in the late 1980s and in 2009 was appointed its artistic director. She has been behind a number of major commissions, including Ghost Peloton for the Tour de France and a large scale performance for the RFL Challenge Cup Final at Wembley.