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Arts View: Nick Ahad

Antony Gormley's Angel of the North shows how art can boost an area. (PA).
Antony Gormley's Angel of the North shows how art can boost an area. (PA).
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An appeal, this week. I want to appeal for all Yorkshiremen and women to realise and embrace how culturally vibrant and important and significant we are as a county and how, if we all get behind this renaissance, we can keep it going as long as possible and benefit as many people as possible.

When I was a little boy going to school at St Anne’s in Keighley, I was taken to the theatre by a teacher who understood the value of the arts. Mrs Goodridge was one of those rare creatures who understood that teaching a love of a subject might be more important than teaching the subject. I have her to thank for my love of theatre and the power of story. Today, as I look around Yorkshire, I see that there is greater opportunity than ever for the people like Mrs Goodridge to show the beauty of art to enquiring minds.

The Yorkshire Sculpture Triangle is a perfect way to inspire future visual artists, Dean Clough Mill in Halifax is providing space and opportunity for those artists. Live Art Bistro in Leeds is pushing boundaries and encouraging artists to do the same and Slung Low is soon going to open a college that will teach people with courses as varied as screenwriting to knitting. Sheffield Crucible is producing some fine work and the impact of Hull’s year of Culture cannot be underestimated.

Creativity and opportunities to engage with and celebrate it are bursting out across Yorkshire – and my appeal to you is to make sure we all engage with it.

’Twas not ever thus.

The Brick Man-of-Leeds-that-never-was is a story I have written about in these pages several times. It is a piece of Yorkshire history that should always be remembered and learnt from. Antony Gormley suggested the Brick Man as something that would become an iconic piece of sculpture.

He wanted to build it in Leeds, but in 1988 Leeds decided it didn’t want to spend the money, Gormley went and made the Angel of the North instead. Public opinion also stood against the Brick Man, with a Yorkshire Evening Post poll coming down 800 for to 2,000 against the sculpture. That was a huge mistake.

There’s a big change coming at one of our cultural institutions. The West Yorkshire Playhouse will, a week today, announce its plans for the future of its redevelopment.

You’ll be able to read about those plans in the Yorkshire Post next Friday and I hope, nay, plead with you to remember the Brick Man, realise how far culture has brought Yorkshire 
in recent years and what the future could look like for us if we are bold.

This county has a great and bright future. If we let culture lead the way, it will make a huge difference to all of our lives. Let’s get behind that notion together.