Doncaster-born Thomas Howes, 24, is a stage and television actor
What's your first Yorkshire memory?
I have so many happy childhood memories of growing up in Doncaster, going to the cinema, to The Dome on birthdays, trips to Cleethorpes, Cusworth Hall, Lyceum pantos in Sheffield, and buying music scores from The Music Box in Meadowhall.
What's your favourite part of the county and why?
Donny, of course. I still go back there at least three times a year and I often make time in my professional schedule to slip in an amdram show at the Doncaster Little Theatre with our company, 2Act.
What's your perfect day, or perfect weekend, out in Yorkshire?
A trip to Sheffield Theatres. My friend and fellow actor, Daniel Evans, is now the artistic director and he has revitalised
the place, re-instating the in-house Christmas musical, starting with Me and my Girl this year – can't wait. I've also recently visited the Yorkshire Wildlife Centre, in Doncaster, which has come on a long way since I knew it as Brockholes Farm. It provides quite a day out and the children there seemed to be loving it.
What's your favourite Yorkshire walk or view?
Potteric Carr nature reserve, or any woodland walks – I like rambling and I love any country hikes, with stiles and boulders to clamber over. Cusworth Hall is a fabulous place to visit for both the house and the museum, and the surrounding area to walk in. I also like walking along the beach at Cleethorpes – a real treat for me as a child, as I knew that Pleasure Island was at the end of it.
Which Yorkshire sportsman would you like to take for lunch?
I don't follow sport although I'm fascinated by Doncaster being famous for holding the St Leger – I really want to go one day.
Which Yorkshire stage or screen star would you like to take for dinner?
Sir Ian McKellen. I know he was born in Lancashire, but he's still from "up North". He's probably my idol – we both come from the North and have that twang in our voices. Sir Ian does everything so brilliantly – he's not afraid to try every aspect of our craft – he's famous for Shakespeare and films, but is also willing to try his hand at Coronation Street and panto and doing a great deal to make the latter cool again. I'd love to invite Lesley Garrett and Mark Addy as well.
What's your Yorkshire "hidden gem"?
The Doncaster Little Theatre. I'm biased as I still do various shows there myself, but I also watch a lot there, too, and the standard is so very high – I saw them do one of the Farndale Avenue comedies, and it had me in stitches. They now have Lottery funding, which will help them to make both the theatre and the shows even better. It still gives
me a thrill going through their doors, as with the Civic Theatre where I've also done a lot of shows – I just wish they'd open the Grand so I can play there too.
What do you think gives Yorkshire its unique identity?
Yorkshire has a spirit and a character all of its own. It has a strong yet warm-hearted nature which is instilled in the people. Of course, it is many other things – for example, the peace and calm that you get on country walks. Some of the best poetry I'm reading at the moment, (Alan Bennett and Ted Hughes) comes from Yorkshire. But I think the answer to this question is mainly the people, who go out into various industries such as my own, and put our own unique stamp on them. There's a Yorkshire attitude, particularly useful in the current climate, to
keep marching bravely on despite obstacles.
What's your favourite restaurant, or pub?
Wood's Tea Rooms – one of the nicest places in Doncaster. Amid endless clubs, it provides an extraordinary olde-worlde atmosphere – and proper customer service. I always have the Christmas Rosti every year – and always find it a struggle to finish. I go with my friend, Simon, (who is a director ) between shows every time I'm back, and my dear friend, Georgina, used to work there.
Do you have a favourite food shop?
Coopland's the bakers, hands down. A white jumbo ham salad from there, a pasty and a cake put me right in no time.
How do you think that Yorkshire has changed, for better or worse, in the time you've known it?
For me, it's like watching my nephew grow up – you don't notice things so much when you're around them all the time, but I do because I'm away for a long time and then come back. It saddens me to watch things that I've loved for years, like the Odeon, torn down and left in a heap of rubble. If you let things go too far, the Frenchgate Centre becomes indistinguishable from Meadowhall, and areas start looking like a tin toybox. You can't just turn your back on the beautiful traditional parts of a place, and turn everything into clubs. On the plus side, a lot of the innovation and construction that's taken place between my visits is quite beautiful and probably brings more people to the town.
Who is the Yorkshire person that you most admire?
My parents, and then Kevin and Jan at the Doncaster Little Theatre, Judy Bowman my piano teacher extraordinaire – and Simon Carr, who works tirelessly with his own money to give young people a chance to shine and broaden their theatrical experience at 2Act Theatre Company – a real legend.
Has Yorkshire influenced your work?
I think where you come from influences everything you do at all times. Especially if you're passionate about your roots, as I am. I'm always grateful to the people and places who've helped put me where I am – it's their hard work as well as mine that's given me confidence and support. People should go for their dreams.
What's your favourite Yorkshire book/author/artist/CD/performer?
One would be the playscript of Spring and Port Wine; Ted Hughes is my favourite poet, then there's my dad's folk group's CD, Trip to Harrogate, and, of course, Mr Alan Bennett.
If a stranger to Yorkshire only had time to visit one place, it would be?
Doncaster Little Theatre – go and see a wide selection of theatre for all tastes – and now films, too, ones which you wouldn't normally get a chance to see in large cinemas.
Thomas Howes plays William, the second footman, in ITV's Downton Abbey on Sunday nights.
YP MAG 16/10/10