Delma Tomlin: My Yorkshire

Castle Howard is one of Demla Tomlin's favourite places in Yorkshire.
Castle Howard is one of Demla Tomlin's favourite places in Yorkshire.
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What’s your first Yorkshire memory?

There was a school trip to York, when I was seven years old. In an essay on what we had done on the day – which surprisingly survives and which I read again many years later – the thing that really impressed me was being given a bag of crisps. Those crisps were, apparently, the highlight of the day.

Demla Tomlin would like to take Huddersfield-born Greg Doran, who is artistic director of the Royal Shakespeare Company, to dinner.

Demla Tomlin would like to take Huddersfield-born Greg Doran, who is artistic director of the Royal Shakespeare Company, to dinner.

What’s your favourite part of the county – and why?

The Howardian Hills, which just roll gently away into the distance around Castle Howard, and which look beautiful at any time of the year – and York itself, which is an amazing city, which still continues to charm and amaze. I love all the little tucked-away medieval churches, all with their own character and distinct individuality.

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

Heading off to either Harewood House or Castle Howard, and just relaxing with a long walk. I lived for some time on the Harewood estate, and there was nothing better than a stroll down by the lake, and then stopping to marvel at the red kites whirling gracefully in the sky.

Do you have a favourite walk – or view?

It’s the one up from Airton, in North Yorkshire, along by the river Aire, which is easily doable, a walk that isn’t strenuous at all, and which has two bonuses. The first is that you end up at Malham, and the second is that there are some rather nice pubs along the way.

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

Greg Doran, who was born in Huddersfield, and who acted before becoming one of our leading directors. He came up to direct the York Mystery Plays of 2000, and I got to know him very well. Sadly, I haven’t seen him at all in the intervening years, and it would give me terrific pleasure to catch up with him.

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

High up in the tower of Beverley Minster there is an incredible piece of engineering – think of a sort of hamster wheel, powered by a human being – that operates machinery which literally “raises the roof”, or at least, part of it, so that you can peer down into the nave below. To see it working is quite incredible.

If you could choose somewhere, or some object, from or in Yorkshire to own for a day, what would it be?

Like so many others, I suspect, I would love to be the keeper and custodian of the Middleham Jewel, just to be able to look at it closely, and to be able to wonder at its intricacy.

What do you think gives Yorkshire its unique identity? The landscape, which has been shaped, over the millennia by farmers, landowners, industrialists, and the ordinary people alongside the great at the good.

Do you have a favourite restaurant, or pub?

The Angel Inn at Hetton. Wonderfully well run, lovely staff, great food, and a place where I love to be with friends.

Do you have a favourite food shop? I’m a great fan of the farm shop at Castle Howard, and in particular the butcher’s shop. What the staff don’t know about the provenance of their produce could be written on the head of a pin.

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

Well, it is far more cosmopolitan and diverse, that’s for sure, and that is much to be welcomed. But I really do worry about some of the buildings that are going up, and which seem to have little thought for the relevance of the landscape around them.

If you had to change one thing in, or about Yorkshire, what would that be?

I am in horror of the litter that is left behind when people move on. I go out for a drive in the country, and I often find myself filling a bag full of old wrappers and cartons, in an effort to clean it all up again.

Who is the Yorkshire person that you most admire?

My grandmother, Florence, who lived to be 82. She was Sheffield-born, into a working-class family, and she had a pretty tough life. But she was full of joie-de-vivre, and adored her family. She never managed to travel very far, but she was fascinated by the idea of making journeys to places. I’ve been lucky enough to travel quite a bit, and whenever I’m somewhere new, I always think “How Florrie would have loved this”.

Has Yorkshire influenced your work?

You can safely say that yes, it very definitely has, and will continue to do so – retirement for me is not on the cards.

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

The award-winning and York-born Kate Atkinson, and specifically, her last book, A God in Ruins. It was a little bit difficult to get into, for it is a story explored and explained on many levels and perspectives.

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

The always-vibrant, always stimulating, often surprising, city of York. I am always discovering something new about it, some interesting little snicket or “hidden” something. It’s full of life and has a buzz that you don’t find anywhere else.

The Beverley Early Music Festival runs from May 26 to 29, and the York Early Music Festival from July 7 to 15. Box office for both events on 01904 658 338.

Delma Tomlin is the founding director for the National Centre of Early Music, in York. Trained as a singer, she was made an MBE for her services to the arts in Yorkshire and Humberside.