Charlotte Arrowsmith: 'I moved from London to Yorkshire as a child - I couldn't believe Scarborough had two beaches'

Yorkshire-raised and multi-talented, Charlotte (Charly) Arrowsmith is an actor, director and drama workshop leader as well as being a creative British Sign Language consultant and a deaf equality trainer.

What’s your first Yorkshire memory?

I’d have been about six years old when we moved to Scarborough from Croydon (my dad was a social worker for the deaf), and that was quite a surprise – to find a place with not one but two beaches, and I was seldom away from them. To me, as a child, the North Bay was vast, almost endless – today, of course, I see it more in proportion. I felt so small back then, compared to the waters of the North Sea. It was idyllic – so many happy memories.

What’s your favourite part of the county?

Scarborough's North BayScarborough's North Bay
Scarborough's North Bay

There’s not one specific place, there are in fact, several, for so many reasons. I enjoyed going to Doncaster College for the Deaf, that has a big place in my heart. Then there’s York for all the shop, Whitby and Ravenscar for the views, and Knaresborough for the viaduct and the River Nidd.

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What’s your idea of a perfect day, or a perfect weekend, out in Yorkshire?

Going over to the coast, to be with my family, and to catch up with everything that’s been going on. I’ll be sure to have a long walk along the beach, with my dog Oscar and I’ll have a long pause somewhere along the way, just to stand and stare up at the castle.

Do you have a favourite walk – or view?

Charly ArrowsmithCharly Arrowsmith
Charly Arrowsmith

My parents live not so far from Cayton Bay, and I love the beach there – but I always check to make sure that the sea isn’t so far in that I can’t get a stroll along the sands. And there’s the bonus of being able to see Scarborough Castle in the distance.

Which Yorkshire stage or screen star, or past or present, would you like to take for dinner?

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Would it be possible to have two? I’d love to be at table with Sir Alan Ayckbourn and Dame Judi Dench, and I’ll pester them to death trying to get them to collaborate on a new play, which would star Dame Judi but which – or course – would have a good role for me in it. One of the themes, naturally, would be deafness, and how the community as a whole reacts to the condition. I have so much respect for their achievements, and just to watch Dame Judi – doing anything – is just life affirmative, and heartwarming. Plus I’m told that she has a wicked sense of humour.

If you had to name your Yorkshire ‘hidden gem’, what would it be?

Not so hidden perhaps, but I love being on the River Nidd at Knaresborough, on a sunny late Spring or summer’s day, and on one of those little boats that you can hire – and the area has so many little unexpected twists and turns and terraces.

If you could own, or have access to, one thing in Yorkshire for a single day, what would that object or place be?

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Scarborough Castle, with my family, and a really good picnic. On a clear day, you can see for dozens of miles.

What do you think gives Yorkshire its unique identity?

The accent – or I should say accents, plural, because the sound of folk talking in Whitby is totally different to the way they do in Barnsley – the fact that we are pretty down to earth and “tell it like it is”, and there’s also a sort of integrity inborn into the people. Oh, let’s not forget and the best fish and chips in all of Britain.

Do you have a favourite restaurant, or pub?

The Farriers in Cayton has great food and a really lovely atmosphere, and we go there as often as we can. Laterna, in Scarborough is also a family favourite, and I love the way that they make a lot of effort to source local produce.

Do you have a favourite food shop?

It has to be Bettys, doesn’t it? I love the original one in York, but the one in Harrogate is also good, and the queue to get in isn’t quite as long. They have to be congratulated on not “selling out” and making themselves into a chain that straddles the country. They’ve concentrated on what they do best, and it works perfectly.

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How do you think that Yorkshire has changed, for better or for worse, in the time that you’ve known it?

A lot of people will say that new flats and apartments, and the conversion of houses in Scarborough is a bad thing, but if it brings I more cash, and helps the economy, it’s fine by me. I’m pleased that the town is now building a new entertainment complex, because that means we won’t have to go all the way to Bridlington to watch a movie!

Who is the Yorkshire person that you most admire?

Kate, my younger sister. She’s a born and bread Scarborough lass, and she’s a great mum to her two youngsters (Amellia and Jago) – and has another one on the way.

Has Yorkshire influenced your work?

Definitely. I’ve used the accent whenever I’ve been required to play a down-to-earth character. It clearly comes through in my deaf voice. Enriches them somehow – that was true of the up-coming Entitled, where I play a Miss Whitby.

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Name your favourite Yorkshire book/author/artist/CD/performer.

The Huddersfield-born director Greg Doran, who was kind enough to cast me in a production of Troilus and Cressida, and I was the first BSL actor to grace the RSC stage. I’ll always be grateful for his trust in my work, and if I helped open a few doors for other deaf/disable actors, that is a wonderful reward. I love the work of the late Kay Mellor, and of Sally Wainwright. Sally is such a force to be reckoned with, in an industry that is top-heavy with men, and she’s given me the courage and inspiration to keep on pushing through. I wish she’d create a role for me – I wouldn’t let her down, I promise.

If a stranger to Yorkshire only had time to visit one place, it would be?

I can think of nothing better that getting into the car with Oscar, or on to the Coastliner bus in York, and just bowling along through the countryside, admiring the views, to end up in Whitby. It’s a little town with bags of character and an identity all its own. Some nice fish and chips, as well!

Charlotte is appearing in the Leeds Playhouse production of Macbeth on until March 23.

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