Rachel Massey is the arts and wellbeing coordinator at Yorkshire Sculpture Park. She curates a programme of activities ranging from barefoot walking to yoga. She lives in Holmfirth with her partner and two children.
What’s your first memory of being outdoors? Hunting for toads, making mud pies and daisy chains and listening to blackbirds in the back garden. I was maybe five or six.
What’s your favourite part of the county and why? It’s so hard to choose and it depends on my mood whether I prefer the stunning Yorkshire coastline, the North York Moors, the buzz of a day in the city in Leeds, York or Sheffield or cultural experiences in our amazing galleries and theatres. If I have to choose one I think it has to be the Dales. It is home to such an incredible range of landscapes with such poetic names: Gaping Gill, Hardraw Force and Malham Tarn are favourites.
What’s your idea of a perfect weekend/day out in Yorkshire? A leisurely walk and picnic with friends and family, ending with a pint and a bag of crisps in a pub garden. As an artist, I love slowing down and taking time on a walk to notice small details, so I have to walk with people who enjoying dilly dallying – something I got into trouble for as a kid.
Do you have a favourite walk, or view? I never tire of the walk from my house along footpaths and bridleways through my local woods. The woods change day-to-day – at the moment the frenzied spring birdsong is being replaced by buzzing whining insects feasting on bramble flowers.
If you had to name your Yorkshire hidden gem, what would it be? Forbidden Corner in Tupgill Park in the Yorkshire Dales. It was built as a folly and now opens to the public. There are labyrinths, chambers and surprises – it’s really good fun.
Which Yorkshire stage or screen star (past or present) would you like to take to lunch? Patrick Stewart. He seems like a thoroughly decent human being, speaking up for civil liberties and vulnerable people in our society. He spoke very candidly about his experiences as a child living with domestic violence and having worked in women’s refuges. Every week, two women are killed by a current of former partner in England and Wales. Patrick Stewart has helped shine a light on this terrible crime and I admire him for that.
If you could choose somewhere or some object from Yorkshire to own for a day what would it be? I’d have Honley Woods all to myself for 24 hours. I’d spend the day drawing and daydreaming, uninterrupted by anyone. Then I’d sleep under the stars and test out my fieldcraft skills to spot badgers and foxes, safe in the knowledge that I’m not going to be rudely awakened by a landowner or a dog walker.
Do you have a favourite food shop? Taylors Foodstore in Honley is Tardis-like and stocked with artisan breads, local farm pies and pastries, unusual pickles and spices – plus all the standard stuff you’d expect to find in your corner shop.
Do you find yourself ‘selling’ Yorkshire to non-believers? If so, how? I meet people from all over the world at Yorkshire Sculpture Park, and it’s easy to make recommendations of other places to visit – there’s every type of entertainment available in Yorkshire. I think it sells itself.
What do you think gives Yorkshire its unique identity? There are lots of Yorkshires – dialects, landscapes, industries – but they all share a character of directness that I love.
Who is the Yorkshire man or woman you most admire? Dora Thewlis, born in Honley in 1890, destined for the mills when she left school aged 12. She became a suffragette at the age of 16 and made the front page of the Daily Mirror when she was arrested for her part in the plan to break into the Houses of Parliament. Without women like her we would have waited a lot longer for any kind of democracy.
Do you have a favourite restaurant or pub? Bar Maroc in Huddersfield is a regular haunt. You wait a long time for your pizza, but it is worth the wait and it’s not difficult to pass the time. It’s friendly enough to chat with a stranger or you can tuck into a little booth and mind your own business and enjoy a cocktail or Moroccan mint tea.
How has living in Yorkshire influenced your work? All the knowledge and skills I use now are influenced by living here – the landscape has influenced my understanding of nature connectedness, the galleries and museums have influenced my creative development, and the people have helped me understand how these things contribute to wellbeing.
If a stranger to Yorkshire had time to visit only one place, where would you send them? Yorkshire Sculpture Park! I visited there from the Midlands when I was a teenager and it was those visits which drew me to Yorkshire. It’s still one of our favourite places for a day out, even though I spend all week there.
Name your favourite Yorkshire book/author/artist/CD/performer? Nightmares on Wax – I saw them live at The Big Chill years ago and I’ve never forgotten that gig, or the sassy female vocalists from Leeds. Dancing to live music is one of the best ways I know to exercise and enjoy it.
What are you working on at the moment? I’m very excited to be trying out some new events to celebrate Yorkshire Sculpture Park’s 40th anniversary, as part of YSP’s Weekend of Wonderful Things from July 14 to 16 I’m introducing a new strand of work encouraging people to develop the art of relaxing in Rest is Radical (hammocks and sketchbooks provided). For the more active, I’m leading Other Ways to Walk at YSP, where we will discover and create the route and the activities together as we walk.