What’s your first Yorkshire memory? My very first memory of arriving here was of Sheffield in the rain, and under cloudy skies. That didn’t matter to me – and it still doesn’t, because I think that the city looks prettier in the rain.
What’s your favourite part of the county – and why? Sheffield, of course, it’s home, and I live here. I lived in Burngreave when we arrived here. It’s changed beyond belief in the last couple of decades, but it’s a very vibrant, accepting and hugely diverse community, in which students play a huge part.
What’s your idea of a perfect day, or a perfect weekend, out in Yorkshire? It would definitely start out with breakfast at the Forge Bakehouse on Abbeydale Road and then a trip over to the Botanical Gardens for a stroll around there. Then I’d have a quick visit over to Bakewell to pick up a few pastries (that’s cheating, I know!) and then it’s back to the Picture House Social.
Do you have a favourite walk, or view? This sounds a bit bizarre, but unless you’ve walked up and around the Cholera Monument in Sheffield, you won’t know how beautiful the area is, and what amazing views you get from up there. It’s on the high hill behind the main station, and it is stunning at dusk, with views all over the city and beyond.
Which Yorkshire sportsman, past or present, would you like to take for lunch? Prince Naseem, the boxer, who was an outstanding performer in the ring over several years. I want to get him talking about his glory days, the people he fought, and get the truth about that sport.
Which Yorkshire stage or screen star, past or present, would you like to take for dinner? Dame Judi Dench, but instead of dinner, could I invite this great lady to the Lord Mayor’s Parlour in the City Hall, and ply her with tea and plenty of scones? I want to find out about what motivates her, what books she reads, what forms her research into all the roles she plays.
If you had to name your Yorkshire ‘hidden gem’, what would it be? The Lynwood Gardens inner city nature reserve, which is a haven of peace and quiet and so close to the city centre – yet people still don’t know about it. It’s great for a little stroll around, or you can just sit down and ponder things over in your mind.
If you could choose somewhere, or some object, from or in Yorkshire to own for a day, what would it be? Parkhill Flats, which is such a great space. I’d spend the day trying to work out how we could use the area better, how it could be opened up and made completely accessible.
What do you think gives Yorkshire its unique identity? It’s such a friendly county. There’s no pretentiousness, there’s incredible honesty seared into the people and I don’t know anywhere else which has such a strong “What you see is what you get” attitude.
Do you follow sport in the county, and if so, what? Sheffield United are my team and I also love boxing and MMA – mixed martial arts.
Do you have a favourite restaurant, or pub? It’s called Diyafa in Sheffield. They serve the best Arabic food and it’s so inexpensive you can’t believe it. They are really in the heart of their community, and there’s a warm welcome for everyone.
Do you have a favourite food shop? The city has so many wonderful little independent stores and shops which seem to be thriving and pop up all over the place.
How do you think that Yorkshire has changed, for better or for worse, in the time that you’ve known it? In certain aspects, it has got a lot better. There’s certainly a thriving arts and creative scene, not just in Sheffield but right across the county.
If you had to change one thing in, or about Yorkshire, what would that be? There’s something about a rainy day that is rather special, but maybe we could do with fewer of them? I would like to see more attention given to our environment – if people made a vow to pick up at least three pieces of litter every day, and to put them in a bin, how much cleaner our environment would be. Do a good deed – go on, try it. Better yet, don’t throw it into the street in the first place!
Who is the Yorkshire person that you most admire? My Year Three school teacher, Miss Simpson, who was always caring, considerate and supportive of everything that I wanted to achieve. We still keep in touch. She is still a remarkable lady and yes, she came to my inauguration as Lord Mayor, and I was proud to have her there.
Has Yorkshire influenced your work? It’s my home, I live here, and I am trying to make a difference in my own small way. I don’t think that I have any ambition to take up politics in a wider sense – no one with true political ambition ever joined the Green Party!
Name your favourite Yorkshire book/author/artist/CD/performer.? There’s a wonderful book that I love, called Sheffield Troublemakers: Rebels and Radicals in Sheffield History, written by David Price, which looks at the way that this city led the way in questioning the politics of centuries ago, and tried to do positive things for the poor and the socially disadvantaged. George III said that Sheffield was “a damned bad place”, so you can deduce from that how much it was getting up the royal nose.
If a stranger to Yorkshire only had time to visit one place, it would be? What on earth do you expect me to say? Where else but Sheffield? They’d get the warmest of welcomes, I’d take them for a walk around the city, they could admire all our treasures, such as the Winter Gardens and Cutlers’ Hall, and then I’d treat them to some ice cream in my official parlour.