Lord Patel of Bradford, recently appointed chair of Social Work England, was made a Life Peer in 2006. He was previously a social worker and is the first British Asian to serve as a director of the England and Wales Cricket Board.
What is your first Yorkshire memory? A bit of background first. I was born in Nairobi in 1960 but we had to leave when I was one. My father had a sister in Bradford, so we landed there. We had nothing and lived in a one-bedroom back to back in Cobden Street in Queensbury. We had no bathroom and had an outside toilet. You knew you were different because everyone else was white. I didn’t go to school until I was seven and didn’t read or write ‘till I was eight or nine. My first memories are of playing cricket with a bat made from a wooden milk crate.
Which is your favourite part of Yorkshire? I’ve lived in Bradford all my life and have spent the last 16 years in Thornton, which I love. We’ve renovated a barn which looks towards Headley Golf Club and the viaduct. The Brontës once lived in Thornton and after the hustle and bustle of London, coming back here to the countryside is wonderful. I also love Ilkley because my brother lives near the Cow and Calf Rocks.
What is it about Yorkshire that gives it its unique identity? Yorkshire has a warm and welcoming culture, so it’s the people here. Within 20 minutes, you are into God’s Own Country and you can’t beat that. Yorkshire people are straightforward and humorous. I wouldn’t swap it for the world. I go to London a lot, but this is always home. I’ve had the opportunity to move, but I’ve always wanted to come back to Yorkshire.
Which Yorkshire sportsman, or woman, would you like to take out for lunch? It would be Geoffrey Boycott. He’s forthright, says what’s on his mind and I love to listen to his commentary. Geoff would be a fascinating person to talk to. I’d like to delve into the mind of someone who is so passionate about cricket and has given his whole life to it.Mind you, if I could play 365 days a year, I would. I love cricket.
Who is the Yorkshire person you admire the most? Someone I’d like to spend time with is Ian McMillan, the Bard of Barnsley. I’ve heard him speak a few times. I love his wit, his humour, the accent. Yorkshire has produced some great people. For example, JB Priestley, Judi Dench, Patrick Stewart and Denis Healey, but it’s the people, like Ian, who are rooted in Yorkshire and still living here, who have a passion about the place.
Do you have a favourite Yorkshire stage or screen star whom you would like to take out for dinner? Sir Ben Kingsley. I bumped into him once at the House of Lords and said we should meet for a cup of tea. You have got to take your hat off to him for the way he portrayed Mahatma Gandhi. What an actor. How could Ben have played Gandhi without any dissent from anyone around the world?
Do you have a favourite Yorkshire restaurant or pub? In my early days, although the kids hated it, every Sunday I’d drive to Harry Ramsden’s in Guiseley for fish and chips. We’d queue and I loved it. I’m so sad it’s gone. Bradford has great food and is the curry capital of the world. There are some excellent curry houses to choose from. International is the place I’ve been going to for years. Two lovely pubs for a drink are the Ring O’ Bells and the White Horse in Thornton. Both pubs are very friendly.
How has Yorkshire changed since you’ve known it? I’ve seen Bradford on a roller-coaster ride. In the early 1980s, it was a happening place. Bradford was thriving and even before that. But it has suffered with the loss of the textile trade and bad political leadership. Leeds, though, has taken off and is a city that everyone thinks about. However, Bradford is now on an upward trend and we are seeing businesses coming here. I think Yorkshire will be the real Northern Powerhouse if we can get our act together. It’s the biggest county, our cities offer different things and I think the future is really bright. As a youngster, I went to the Yorkshire schools cricket trials for seniors. Where are you from? I said Asia. See you later, I was told. Years later, I became Yorkshireman of the Year. That just shows how much the world has changed for the better.
If you had a hidden Yorkshire gem, what would it be? It has to be Burniston near Scarborough. I used to go regularly because I had a dear friend there. Burniston’s a gem of a village, has a post office and an excellent pub, The Three Jolly Sailors.
If a stranger came to Yorkshire and you had time to take that person to one place only, where would that be? I would provide a trip that would give someone a real taste of Yorkshire. I’d take him or her to the Cow and Calf Rocks and climb right to the top. Then, I’d let them look out to Ilkley Moor. That would be followed by tea and cakes at Betty’s in Ilkley.In the evening, we’d round off a great day by having a curry in Bradford. Such a trip would join up all the dots because it sums up Yorkshire for me.