My Yorkshire: Lee Hanson

Lee Hanson is the chairman of the JB Priestley Society, a teacher at Bradford Grammar School and a writer.

What's your first Yorkshire memory?

When I was very young, we had a dog, a black standard poodle called Smokie, so my earliest memories are of long walks up, over and around the moors above Haworth and Oxenhope.

I believe I was a lucky child; the moors were my playground and my friends and I spent hours and days roaming them. There is nothing quite like being up in the middle of nowhere with the wind on your face, surrounded by miles and miles of countryside that hasn't changed in centuries.

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

West Yorkshire, all of it, from Castleford and Pontefract at one end, to Keighley and the Aire Valley at the other. I love its ruggedness, its variety and its earthiness. It has it all: beautiful countryside, vibrant towns and cities, picturesque villages, great architecture, museums, theatres, art galleries, shopping, sport and a proud heritage.

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

I'd begin with home-cooked Yorkshire eggs and ham, followed by a long walk over the moors or in the Dales. If the Dales, I'd go up to the summit of Ingleborough from Horton in Ribblesdale. If the moors, then from Oxenhope over the tops down through Grimshaw Dean to Hardcastle Crags – a great way for my two boys, George, eight, and Joshua, five, to expend energy. Afterwards, a log fire or beer garden and several pints of hand-pulled ale.

Later on, a curry. My boys love curry, either cooked in the house or eaten at any of the Aagrah restaurants. I'd end the day sitting on the sofa with the children, watching a film with a huge delicious bowl of treacle sponge and custard.

Do you have a favourite walk – or view?

There is a cairn high above Oxenhope right on the top of what's known as Nab Hill. The view from there is spectacular. You're not that high really but it feels like you're on top of the world. The county seems to spread itself out before you. On a clear day you can see Whernside and Ingleborough and the North Pennine fells.

Which Yorkshire sportsman, past or present, would you like to take for lunch?

Geoff Boycott. He was a bit of a hero when I first played cricket as a boy. I bet he'd annoy the hell out of me, but I'd enjoy his candour and honesty. He's the kind of no-nonsense Yorkshireman you still hear about, but don't often meet these days. I'd ask him to pay the bill, just to see his reaction.

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

I love Powell and Pressburger films, especially A Canterbury Tale, so a conversation with Halifax-born Eric Portman would be fascinating.

He also played Jess Oakroyd in the 1957 version of Priestley's The Good Companions. He's not so well known now, but he was a huge name in his day.

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

Not hidden but definitely a gem: Bradford's Alhambra Theatre. My grandmother often took my sister and me to the pantomime and it always felt like we were entering another world.

It closed for a time in the 1980s and was almost knocked down – too much of Bradford has been knocked down – but, thankfully, it was saved. It has to be one of the finest theatre interiors in the North of England.

What do you think gives Yorkshire its unique identity?

Its inhabitants. There is a characteristic warmth and honesty about most Yorkshire people that those born and brought up elsewhere in the country are unlucky to have missed. Most people I know who have moved here from elsewhere love it and tend to stay. I think that says it all. I think we should consider charging admission.

Do you follow sport in the county, and if so, what?

I always look for Bradford City's results, but rarely go to watch them these days. I used to follow Yorkshire cricket a lot, especially when friends of mine were playing for the county. These days, I mainly follow my George, who plays football for Rothwell Juniors and has started playing cricket for Methley.

What about Yorkshire's cultural life?

I think it's extremely healthy and diverse. West End shows and great local productions grace the county's theatres; every type of music is performed here; you can buy and eat food from all over the world; see renowned art; and take part in just about every possible indoor and outdoor activity. You can even go skiing in Castleford these days.

Do you have a favourite restaurant, or pub?

The food at the Blue Bicycle, in York, is fairly special. The cellar area was once a brothel. The curtained booths and pictures of former employees on the walls create a singular atmosphere. As for pubs, then the best is usually the nearest so mine would be The New Masons Arms, in Oulton – excellent ale, food and company. You can never spend enough time in a good pub.

Do you have a favourite food shop?

The food hall at Leeds Market is a great place to wander around. The Cheese Shop, in Howden, is worth a visit, and if it's a farm shop, then Keelham Hall, between Thornton and Queensbury, is full of quality home-made products.

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

Places, like people, change and lose things as they go along; they also gain. I think we've gained more than we've lost.

A lot of the dinginess has gone through redevelopment and our towns and cities appear more colourful and vibrant than they were in the 1980s, though I'm not a fan of the uniformity that seems to dominate town planning.

We've gained so many tourist attractions. The West Yorkshire Sculpture Park is brilliant and Bradford's Media Museum is the most visited museum outside London. Bradford even has a respected film festival – how's that for progress?

Who is the Yorkshire person that you most admire?

If we're talking deceased, then probably JB Priestley, a boy from humble origins who went on to be listened to and read by millions – a person who made a difference. If we're talking alive, then my own children – because they are the future and can make a difference, too.

Has Yorkshire influenced your work?

Yes. A novel I've written is set mainly in West Yorkshire, and I often add a local slant to my teaching.

When editing the Re-discovering Priestley Series, I'm always looking for Yorkshire angles to develop the books and give them added appeal. For the new Bright Day, I created a literary tour of Bradford and the Dales.

I'm also planning a book about literary Yorkshire. The Priestley Society is based mainly in Yorkshire, although we do make forays to London and the Midlands.

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

Favourite Yorkshire books would be Bright Day by Priestley, a superb novel all set in a thinly disguised pre-1914 Bradford; Remains of Elmet which has the poems of Ted Hughes alongside photographs by Fay Godwin.

Margaret Drabble is a wonderful writer. Her 1977 novel, The Ice Age, could have easily been written for the financially insecure times we're in today.

Song of Summer by Delius is perfect music for relaxing, and the Kaiser

Chiefs belt out the perfect music to wake you up.

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

The West Yorkshire moors. Just park the car or get off a bus, and go for a wander. Find a rock, sit down against it, let the sun warm your face and watch cloud shadows drift over the landscape.

Lee Hanson is editor of the Re-discovering Priestley Series published

by Great Northern Books.

www.jbpriestley-society.com