Homegrown heroes... and the ones who got away

Famous Bradfordians, and incomers to the city, are celebrated in a new book. Frederic Manby talks to its author, Derek Lister.

What do ex-cricketers Bob Appleyard and David Bairstow, writers John Braine and Andrea Dunbar, actors Edward Petherbridge, Timothy West and Adrian Edmondson have in common. What links them to two men you may never have heard of: 1960s DJ and rock group leader Dal Stevens, and an ex Para called Derek Lister?

Answer: Dal Stevens was the stage name of Derek Lister who has written a book about significant people from Bradford, which include the other names above. Lister, whose own career would make a book (partly recorded in his 1991 big local seller Bradford's Rock 'n' Roll) doesn't use the word celebrity for the people in his second and apparently final book, Bradford's Own.

"I don't believe in the word celebrity," he says at his comfortable semi near Bingley. "All these are portraits of what I think are nice people. Anybody from nine to 90 could read it. They will not be insulted by it. There are no skeletons in the cupboard. They can read it occasionally, a few entries at a time," says Derek is fit from a regular workout at the gym and tanned from trips to Kwa Zulu Natal (another interest is African military campaigns).

Without developing this article into a list, you will find TV personalities (Richard Whiteley, Harry Gration), singers (Kiki Dee, Gareth Gates), business (Sir Ken Morrison) heroes (Bradford claims six Victoria Cross holders), Rodney Bewes, Frederic Delius, David Hockney, the Jowett brothers, Austin Mitchell, Adrian Moorhouse, Titus Salt, Harvey Smith, Billie Whitelaw, etc and etc.

Not all the entries were born in Bradford. The book, fittingly, opens with Mohammed Ajeeb, who in 1985 became Bradford's and Britain's first Asian Lord Mayor. He was born in Mirpur, Pakistan, and came to Nottingham an a graduate in 1957. In 1973 he was appointed deputy director of a housing and renewal scheme in Bradford.

Derek Lister can also sweep through the Bradford BD post code district for Bradfordians, hence the inclusion of Dougie Lampkin MBE, the outstanding motor cycle trials rider of his generation, who was born in Lothersdale, near Skipton, and David Jefferies, the Isle of Man TT champion, who was born in Baildon and died tragically at the circuit in 2003.

There are some names missing. Derek Lister was advised by his publishers to get permission for the entries. Four people turned him down; actor Bernard Hepton, local TV presenter Christa Ackroyd, Steve Huison (from the film The Full Monty), and the TV gardener Alan Titchmarsh (taking the view that Ilkley wasn't Bradford). Derek Lister gets round this with the postcode rule but Mr Titchmarsh has a point. Ilkley is nothing like Bradford.

"I wrote the book to give something back to Bradford," explains Derek, who as Dal Stevens once bopped his lula with Gene Vincent and dozens of other rock legends. Another life, his other book. Bradford was a hot scene then, with an integrated population, reasonable prosperity and a recognisable identity. The department stores of Busbys and Brown had a timbre and an air of classy tradition missing in dilapidated 21st century Bradford.

Its modern fame is based on cheap and often scruffy curry houses, TV dramas about its prostitutes, plus the draw of the wonderful National Museum of Photography, Film & Television.

Derek Lister is frank about the city, and is not one to gloss over what he sees. "I think Bradford lost a lot of respect in the last 10 years."

He cites the July 2001 riots, and the earlier loss of its dignified buildings. Derek adds: "Leeds is beautiful, so nice and clean. I go there and to Skipton to shop."

Still, his book celebrates his own birth city and is selling, and has just gone to reprint after three months. What with all the permission he had to get and research, it took two- and-a-half years to publish. Thus, he thinks, there will be no more books.


Bradford's Own by Derek A J Lister is published by Sutton at 12.99. To buy a copy from the Yorkshire Post Bookshop, call free on 0800 0153232. Postage and packing costs 1.50.