Vote for Yorkshire’s Greatest... Creative People

David Hockney, and below, Alan Bennett and JB Priestley
David Hockney, and below, Alan Bennett and JB Priestley
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FROM those who have captivated millions on the big screen to those whose talent has shone on the cricket pitch and others whose ideas have changed the world, Yorkshire son’s and daughters, have a long tradition of excelling on the world stage, but who is the greatest of them all?

In the first of a new series, where you decide who wins the ultimate accolade, we are looking to crown the greatest creative Yorkshireman or woman to have ever lived,

Alan Bennett

Alan Bennett

MORE than 160 years after they put down their pens, Charlotte Bronte’s “Jane Eyre” and Emily’s “Wuthering Heights” are among the major film releases of the Autumn showing their enduring appeal for millions.

It makes it impossible to ignore the sisters’ claims for greatness but, before we settle for a two-way battle between them, let’s not overlook our other contenders.

The works of Marvell and Congreve, for instance have lasted far, far longer than even the Brontes and you’ve probably quite recently used a quote from the latter without even realising it.

Delius is one of the very few English-born classical composers to achieve an international reputation and I think film composer John Barry couldn’t be left out. But although Yorkshire has produced many successful pop musicians I couldn’t put hand on heart and declare any were truly great.

J. B. Priestley

J. B. Priestley

Putting aside the claims of York’s Dame Judi Dench was much harder, but it is difficult for actors to transcend the ages as a playwright like J. B. Priestley has done.

I think the works of Alan Bennett and David Hockney will stand the test of time, but you may think me wrong.

What’s certain is that Yorkshire has a host of creative greats to celebrate.

(Voting has now closed)


THE classic English garden, taking its inspiration from the natural landscape, owed much to Bridlington-born Kent.

Born in 1685, the son of a joiner, he showed artistic flair from an early age, trained as a coach painter and was fortunate to be sponsored by patrons to make the Grand Tour of Italy where he was fired by the architecture of Palladio.

Kent was a man of many talents. He wanted to make his gardens like landscape paintings, abolishing the strictly formal gardens that had been the fashion up to then. Temples, cascades and grottoes were his hallmark.

In architecture, backed by his patron Lord Burlington, he introduced the Palladian style to this country.

He also designed furniture, did the interior design of Kensington Palace and the royal barge he made is on show at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich.


SOME of the world’s most important buildings have his works outside them, from the Lincoln Center in New York to the Unesco building in Paris.

By the middle of the 20th century, Moore had established himself as the leading Modernist sculptor and his work was commissioned, bought and exhibited around the globe.

Born in Castleford in 1898, the son of a mining engineer, he studied at the Leeds and won a scholarship to the Royal College of Art. It was probably his drawings of Londoners sheltering in the Underground from the Blitz that won him popular attention.

His work, inspired the statues of the ancient South American cultures, was instantly recognisable. After the war his output reached new heights and he claimed to be paying £1m a year in tax.

A gallery in Ontario has the largest collection of his works, but they can also be seen at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park.


LEEDS School of Art is fortunate to count Henry Moore among its alumni. It is doubly blessed to have had Hepworth among its pupils at the same time.

This year saw her honoured by her home town of Wakefield with the opening a splendid gallery named after her and housing 44 of her works.

It put this remarkable woman back in the spotlight and reminds us of her world-wide reputation..

Probably her most famous work is “Single Form” outside the United Nations building in New York. Her winged figure on the John Lewis store in Oxford Street is also well known, while her work can also be seen at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park.

Hepworth’s studio at St Ives became a lively centre for the arts.

She was born in 1903, the daughter of a West Riding council civil engineer, and died in 1975.


MYTHOLMROYD in Calderdale is proud of its most famous son and signs proclaim his birth here as you enter the village.

After Cambridge and work as a zoo keeper and script reader for J.Arthur Rank he wrote poems in earnest. His first collection “The Hawk in the Rain” won great acclaim and he had success with works for children, particularly “The Iron Man”.

He married American poet Sylvia Plath, taught for as time at the University of Massachusetts and began building a reputation for himself.

Plath’s suicide made Hughes the target of much venom, especially from feminists. Years later he brought out the hugely successful “Birthday Letters”, a collection of her work.

“Crow” is possibly his most famous poem, but Yorkshire folk have always enjoyed “Remains of Elmet, his poems and the photographs of Fay Godwin on a local theme.

He became Poet Laureate in 1984 until his death in 1998 aged 68.


IT TAKES some doing to become a national treasure, but Bennett has achieved it. He’s now part of the A-level syllabus.

His gentle and often melancholy humour have brought him international acclaim, whether it is his TV monologues “Talking Heads” or the drama “An Englishman Abroad”, the film “The Madness of King George” or stage plays like “The History Boys”, “Forty Years On” and “The Lady in the Van”.

An Oscar and its theatre equivalent a Tony show his place in American hearts, yet much of his work is defiantly Yorkshire.

Bennett was born in Leeds in 1934 and his observations of everyday life as he grew up suffuse his writing.

At Cambridge he created, with Peter Cook, Dudley Moore and Jonathan Miller, the satirical show “Beyond the Fringe” and changed the direction of comedy at the same time.


ALMOST seven decades after he penned it, Priestley’s most famous play “An Inspector Calls” is currently on tour after a spectacular staging by the National Theatre and a successful run on Broadway.

It shows the enduring power of his work.

John Boynton Priestley was born in Bradford in 1894 and began work as a clerk in a local wool firm.

At night he wrote articles and had them accepted by local and then national newspapers.

He was injured in World War One and after it went up to Cambridge.

In 1929 his novel “The Good Companions” was an immediate hit. Follow-ups such as “Angel Pavement” also did well.

Turning his hand to play-writing ,he enjoyed success with “Dangerous Corner” and “Time and the Conways”.

In 1954 “Inspector” was made into a film starring Alastair Sim. In 1982 the BBC made its own version.

Priestley died in 1984.


FIVE years ago a Hockney painting “The Splash” sold for £2.6m. Next year will see a major exhibition at the Royal Academy.

He’s known success ever since he was a student, but now he is one of the leading artists in the world.

Born in Bradford in 1937, he attended the local grammar school and was a prize-winning student at the Royal College of Art.

He became one of the leading pop artists, then showed he could paint in a more traditional style with pictures like “Mr and Mrs Clark and Percy” which is in the Tate.

Moving to Los Angeles his colourful swimming pool scenes brought international acclaim, but a few years ago he changed course again and returned to Yorkshire, painting the landscapes of the Wolds. These are the works which will figure at the Royal Academy.

Nearer to home the 1853 Gallery at Salts Mill displays many of his pieces.


IT’S not just a gripping storyline that has won Charlotte’s “Jane Eyre” so many millions of admirers.

There’s also the fact that Jane was a heroine ahead of her time – a self-sufficient young woman not that traditional damsel in distress.

The times meant that the author was named as Currer Bell - for a woman to write was not seen as respectable.

Charlotte had also produced “The Professor” in 1847, but it was rejected and only appeared after her death.

“Shirley” came out in 1849 while “Villette” appeared in 1853.

Born in 1816 at Thornton, near Bradford, she outlived her sisters, but died of pneumonia in 1853.

The three women’s tragic lives make a story almost as gripping as anything they came up with in their books and have lent them an extra appeal to fans from around the world.


HAWORTH is the only place I’ve seen footpath signs in Japanese, directing walkers to the Bronte Waterfall and Top Withens.

It’s down to “Wuthering Heights”, the only book written by Bronte sister Emily and loved by millions around the world.

Merle Oberon and Laurence Olivier in 1939 and Juliette Binoche and Ralph Fiennes in 1992 are the stars who have already played Cathy and Heathcliff and who can forget the Kate Bush song of the title.

Emily, who also wrote some poetry, published under the name Ellis Bell.

She, too, was born at Thornton. Only a year after the publication of her great book in 1847 (like Jane Eyre) she complained of breathing difficulties and died aged only 30.

She is believed to have been working on a second book, but if so it has never come to light.


“HAD we but world enough and time . . .” are the opening words of one of his poems“To His Coy Mistress”, one of the most famous verses of the 17th century.

Describing the wooing of a reluctant woman he continues:

The grave’s a fine and private place,

But none I think do there embrace.

Along with his poem “The Garden” it, placed him among the greatest of the metaphysical poets.

Born at Winestead Rectory in Holderness in 1621, he rose high with the Parliamentary side in the Civil War although retaining a belief in monarchy.

He was tutor to the daughter of Thomas Fairfax, the Parliamentary commander, and a great supporter of Oliver Cromwell.

He became MP for Hull and was an active politician and statesman, dying in 1678.


“KISS and tell”, “Married in haste we repent at leisure” , “Music has charms to soothe the savage breast”.

They are phrases we’ve heard dozens of times and we have Congreve to thank for them.

Equally well known, though usually in an adapted form, is “Heaven has no rage like love turned to hatred, nor hell a fury like a woman scorned.”

He certainly knew how to turn a phrase and his witty lines made plays like “Love for Love” and “The Way of the World” enormous and enduring hits in the bawdy Restoration days.

Congreve also built a fine reputation as a poet.

Born at Bardsey near Leeds in 1670, he was brought up in Ireland making a great friend in Jonathan Swift while he was there.

His star had waned before his death in 1729, but his plays are still performed today.


AS a teenager working as projectionist in his father’s cinema in York it is perhaps not too surprising that John Barry Prendergast – to give him his full name - would become a giant of the cinema.

But first he became a classical pianist and then a jazz musician, founding his own group the John Barry Seven which had several hits. They provided the theme to BBC’s “Juke Box Jury”.

Later he was asked arrange the famous James Bond theme and went on to write the soundtracks for 11 of the films , including the unforgettable “Diamonds are Forever”.

He produced the scores for countless films including “Born Free”, “Out of Africa”, “Midnight Cowboy”, “Dances with Wolves” and “Lion in Winter”.

His honours include five Oscars, Grammies and the OBE.

Barry, who died earlier this year, was born in York in 1933.


CHRISTENED Fritz, it was only when the composer was 40 that he changed his name to Frederick to make it sound more English.

He was born in Bradford in 1867, but resisted demands to enter the family wool business and instead went to Florida to grow oranges. Here he learned to play the piano and listened to the songs of the black workers.

He went to the famous Leipzig Conservatorium to polish his skills, then moved to Paris where he began to write the series of operas, orchestral works and chamber music that were to make him famous round the world.

He was always a somewhat controversial composer, but Sir Thomas Beecham was a great proponent of his work.

Among his most famous pieces are “Sea Drift”, “Brigg Fair” and “On Hearing the First Cuckoo of Spring”.

He died in 1934 and the Delius Society help to keep his name alive.


MORE than 80 years after he wrote it, the BBC is to make a film series ofs his “Swallows and Amazons” book, the story of youngsters having an adventurous holiday in the Lake District.

It shows the enduring appeal of his work.

Ransome wrote 12 children’s books that have remained in print and sold in huge quantities around the world – there are Ransome societies in Japan and the Czech Republic.

With their distinctive covers the books have become staples of children’s literature and won him the Carnegie Medal.

Swallows and Amazons has been featured before on television and was a 1974 film starring Virginia McKenna.

Ransome, born in Leeds in 1884, was also a war correspondent, produced a book of Russian folk tales, befriended Lenin and married Trotsky’s secretary.

An expert fisherman and sailor, he wrote works on both these subjects.