The recently renovated York Theatre Royal yesterday hosted Welcome to Yorkshire’s Y17 conference, providing a stage for stars such as Paralympian Dame Sarah Storey, the sister of late MP Jo Cox, Kim Leadbeater, and council chiefs to talk about how upcoming events will bolster the county’s prospects.
Since it was founded in 2009, Welcome to Yorkshire has boosted the value of the region’s tourism economy from £5.9bn to more than £7bn, creating 4,000 new jobs in the process.
But chief executive Sir Gary Verity yesterday told the audience: “I believe our best times are ahead of us, not behind us.”
David Horne, managing director of Virgin East Coast, announced that on St George’s Day next month four trains will travel side-by-side to symbolise progress on our railways.
Steam train the Flying Scotsman will be joined by Virgin’s HST, Class 91 and the brand new electric Azuma train, journeying for several miles north of York on April 23.
Mr Horne said: “It’s going to be a world first event.
“It’s not easy to close the east coast mainline to do this – this is why it’s been a year in the planning.”
The event will take place five days before this year’s major cycling race the Tour de Yorkshire – another event reaping huge rewards for the region’s tourism industry.
Sir Gary Verity said: “This is the European capital of cycling. The great Eddy Merckx said that to me over a week ago. We’ve made our mark and now we’re here to stay.”
For the first time there will be the same number of men’s and women’s teams – 36 between them – competing at the event, including Dame Sarah’s Storey Racing.
She that the parity between male and female competitors was “hugely important”.
“What’s great about the Tour de Yorkshire is that they listen to the feedback.
“With 18 teams there’s huge, huge talent coming in. I think it’s a testament to how far and how fast these people have developed their event.”
Kim Leadbeater, the older sister of late Batley and Spen MP Jo Cox, spoke about Birstall’s inclusion in the race’s third and final phase.
She said that her family and Welcome to Yorkshire have “a shared vision in trying to bring communities closer together.
“That’s what the community where we live desperately needs at the moment.”
After the Yorkshire Regiment’s band opened the conference with a glow-in-the-dark drum demonstration, Sir Gary presented troops with a Pride of Yorkshire award ahead of 450 service men and women from the 2nd battalion heading to Afghanistan in August to assist security forces in the country.
Lieutenant colonel Sam Humphris told the Yorkshire Evening Post: “It’s a real honour and privilege.”
The success of The Girls, a musical based on the story of Yorkshire WI members who produced a nude calendar to raise money for Leukaemia Research, was also discussed.
Speaking about Gary Barlow and Tim Firth’s musical, original ‘Calendar Girl’ Tricia Stewart said: “It portrays our story in a truer form than any other.”
The audience was also told of a number of anniversaries taking place across the region this year, including Leeds West Indian Carnival’s 50th year, Yorkshire Sculpture Park turning 40 and Halifax’s Eureka! museum turning 25.