Hayley Del Harrison: How Anne Lister is still inspiring Yorkshire creatives

York-born Hayley Del Harrison is one of the UK’s most accomplished choreographers, movement tutors and dancers. She is founder and creative director of Del Dance Theatre. Among other places, she trained at Northern Ballet.

What’s your first Yorkshire memory?

I was born in York so I have grown up with the privilege of being able to enjoy this beautiful city. Otherwise, it’s got to be Scarborough. I love its quintessential British seaside feel and it has managed to retain much of its traditional charm. I used to visit often as a child with my Grandad Sandy.

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

Hide Ad
Hide Ad
Surfers in North Bay Scarborough Picture by Marisa CashillSurfers in North Bay Scarborough Picture by Marisa Cashill
Surfers in North Bay Scarborough Picture by Marisa Cashill

Re-living a few of those Scarborough memories. I’d take a descent on the cliff lift, have a quick paddle and then hit the amusements. We’d eat prawns from the shellfish stalls, share some fish and chips, indulge in a lemon top ice cream and finally a candy floss...on a stick. But not one of those weird ones you can get now in a bag or bucket. Part of the fun is watching it being made. We thought we were very cosmopolitan in Scarbados. As an adult I tend to navigate towards the North Bay though. If you prefer a different kind of atmosphere and experience and something less comercialised, then it is perfection. It’s away from the hustle and bustle of the main strip. A ‘Blue Flag’ award winning sandy beach, rock pools, colourful beach huts, limestone cliffs, castle ruins and a stunning park.

Do you have a favourite walk or view?

I don’t drive, and therefore I walk everywhere so I’m finding fresh ones all the time. I love a walk along New Walk, which is a tree lined avenue between the Millennium Bridge and the city centre, and the medieval city walls of course are always an enjoyable way of getting into town. Outside the city centre our family enjoys walks and picnics in Levisham in the North Yorkshire Moors. There are lovely trails from the village to the bottom of the valley, through woodland and along sparkling streams. If you’re lucky you might catch a glimpse of a steam train puffing along on the tracks of the North Yorkshire Moors Railway.

Which Yorkshire sportsman would you like to take for lunch, and why?

Hayley Del HarrisonHayley Del Harrison
Hayley Del Harrison

It would be a big party, because I’d love to get together with all the sports coaches, physiotherapists, and everyone “behind the scenes” who makes sport what it is, and who are so supportive to players right across the board of sporting endeavour. It’s been a great pleasure of mine to work, over the years, with both York City and Leeds footballers

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Which Yorkshire stage or screen star would you like to take to dinner and why?

Sheffield-born Sir Michael Palin. He’s had an extraordinary career as an actor, comedian, writer, presenter spanning five decades and he still continues to amuse and educate through his travel and art documentaries. I expect he would have a great many, funny and interesting stories.

Name your Yorkshire ‘hidden gem’.

Backstage, at any one of the county’s marvellous theatres – there’s a buzz, a vibe, and a sense of history. Even more so at the Theatre Royal in York, because where else in the world would you find a Roman well deep down under the very floorboards?

What do you think gives Yorkshire its unique identity?

The people. Yorkshire folk are open, friendly, funny, have a strong sense of regional identity and are always willing to help people out, when they need a hand.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

If you could own one thing in Yorkshire for a day, what would it be?

The early Victorian ballroom in the De Grey Rooms in York. As a child I used to stand with my mum at the bus stop on the opposite side of the street looking up at the round-headed windows. You could see people dancing around the ballroom and I’d think “I want to be in there!” I have been lucky enough to dance and rehearse in that stunning space a lot over the years. I’d love to inhabit it for a day, although the owners would probably have to fight me to give it back.

Do You have a favourite restaurant or pub?

The Winning Post on Bishopthorpe Road. It's a lovely neighbourhood place, family friendly, and dog friendly too, with great food and ambience. It’s a stone’s throw away from where I live, and therefore far too convenient.

How do you think Yorkshire has changed in the time you’ve known it?

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

It is certainly a more expensive place to live since it has jumped up the scale of trendiness. It wasn’t always that way, but it doesn’t surprise me that its become such a desirable place to live. The county is stunningly beautiful, and York itself has everything, with its many tourist attractions, museums, impressive architecture, good schools, great universities, independent shops and cafes and excellent rail connections to London and Scotland. It’s a fascinating blend of being a modern city in an ancient setting.

Has Yorkshire influenced your work?

I think I have become a bit of an ambassador for northern talent. There’s a general consensus that London isn’t just the capital of the UK, but that it’s also the capital of business, fashion and the arts. Undeniably, it is where a lot of the action happens, but the world still turns beyond the Watford Gap, and incredibly talented people can be found all over the country. When I’m looking to hire actors or dancers I, very deliberately pay close attention to the talent from Yorkshire and the north of England. Our region has a wealth of creative talent and impressive cultural assets to showcase, as well as having interesting stories which need to be told. I feel very passionate about supporting the next generation of talent in the north and championing the region.

Name your favourite Yorkshire author/artist/performer.

Not an author as such, but I’m rather fascinated by Anne Lister at the moment. I’ve just read the Lister Diaries. A landowner, business woman, writer, mountaineer and traveller. Passionate, irrepressible and spirited. Achieving so much in a man’s world and challenging the gender expectations of women in the 1800s. That kind of thing is all very interesting and inspiring.

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

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

York, the big beating heart of the county, hustle, bustle, great independent shops, and remarkable architecture that spans many centuries, but don’t just look in the windows at ground level, look up! You’’ be astonished at what you’ll see above your heads.

Hayley is part of the team presenting Jack and the Beanstalk at the Theatre Royal, York, until January 7. Box office on 01904 623568.

Comment Guidelines

National World encourages reader discussion on our stories. User feedback, insights and back-and-forth exchanges add a rich layer of context to reporting. Please review our Community Guidelines before commenting.