Khadijah Ibrahiim: My Yorkshire

Khadijah Ibrahiim.
Khadijah Ibrahiim.
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Leeds-born Khadijah Ibrahiim is artistic director of Sema Roots Theatre and executive director of Voices of a New Generation youth slam festival. She is also creative associate of Ode to Leeds at the West Yorkshire Playhouse.

What’s your first Yorkshire memory?

In the Seventies all the summers were (or seemed to be) hot – and long. The back door was never locked, people would just knock – and come straight in. I’m thinking of cobbled streets, old red brick houses, and a very happy growing-up. There were five of us kids, and I’m the second youngest.

What’s your favourite part of the county – and why?

Leeds is where I was born and raised and where I went to university, and it is still my home now. I love the city with a passion – but one of my favourite places just has to be Roundhay Park. We had some visitors up from London not so long ago, and they were completely blown away by it.

What’s your idea of a perfect day, or a perfect weekend, out in Yorkshire?

It would involve a wander around the city centre here in Leeds, ending up at our wonderful museum. I love architecture, and I’m always telling people to look up. Ground floors are so homogenised these days, but there’s some amazing stuff up there.

Do you have a favourite walk – or view?

It’s from my home in Chapeltown to Roundhay. Not only is there the warm anticipation of being in the middle of all that greenery, and the proximity of the lake, but it is also excellent exercise.

Which Yorkshire sportsman, past or present, would you like to take for lunch?

Nicola Adams, because I’d love to congratulate her for her efforts, for her ambition, and for her achievements. She has an amazing sense of commitment, and I’m sure that if I was having a bit of a “down” day, her smile would get me going again.

Which Yorkshire stage or screen star, past or present, would you like to take for dinner? Can I ask a gaggle of the Emmerdale cast around, so that I can get all the gossip about what is going on behind the scenes, and what the upcoming storylines will be?

If you had to name your Yorkshire ‘hidden gem’, what would it be? It would be lovely if more people used our parks and open spaces a lot more. They are there for our benefit and pleasure, and – unlike most things these days –they are free. Get out there and breathe in the fresh air.

If you could choose somewhere, or some object, from or in Yorkshire to own for a day, what would it be? I’ve been lucky enough to work with David Lascelles on various projects, and he and his wife Diane are two marvellous people. So I am going to beg that they let me have free run of their amazing home, Harewood House, for me to explore every nook and cranny.

Do you follow sport in the county, and if so, what?

It was football all the way when I was a child, and one of my brothers has been an avid Leeds United fan for as long as I can remember. I love watching athletics, and we used to have happy family outings to see the cricket at Headingley.

What do you think gives Yorkshire its unique identity?

Apart from it having the best fish and chips in the whole of Britain? It’s the way that people here want to go the extra mile. They are friendly and very welcoming, and the sort of folk who, when a stranger asks for directions, they’ll not only help out by pointing the person in the right direction, they’ll more than likely go out of their way and take them.

Do you have a favourite restaurant, or pub?

There’s Zapp, in Vicar Lane, Leeds, and Seven Arts in Chapel Allerton – both of them are good value and unpretentious, and they serve really great food. I go to the latter a lot because it’s a short walk from my front door, and therefore really convenient.

Do you have a favourite food shop?

I’m a huge fan of Leeds Market, because of the stall-owners, the variety of what they sell, and the lovely vibrancy of the place.

How do you think that Yorkshire has changed, for better or for worse, in the time that you’ve known it?

Mostly for the better, although, sadly, some truly marvellous old buildings have been wilfully demolished to make way for what I would describe as eyesores. There are now two world-class universities, an arts and music and entertainment scene that is second to none, and I think we live in a city of sanctuary and compassion.

If you had to change one thing in, or about Yorkshire, what would that be?

The public transport systems that we have – nothing seems to connect with anything else, and getting from A to B is sometimes horrendous and hugely frustrating.

Who is the Yorkshire person that you most admire?

Arthur France, who founded the Leeds West Indian Carnival. It is now the longest-running event of its kind in Europe. Arthur is now in his eighties, has always been a neighbour of mine, and is a larger-than-life person with a vision and inspiration.

Has Yorkshire influenced your work?

Completely. I am so enthused by working with the young people of the city, who unfailingly give me new ideas and perspectives.

Name your favourite Yorkshire book/author/artist/CD/performer.?

The music of Corinne Bailey Rae is beautiful. And I discovered the books of Arthur Ransome rather late in life, but now thoroughly enjoy them all. He was born in Leeds – there’s a blue plaque on his old home in Hyde Park.

If a stranger to Yorkshire only had time to visit one place, it would be?

Leeds Museum. That would mean that they had to walk through the city to get there, and I’d take them on a winding route that included Millennium Square, where I could tell them all about Nelson Mandela’s visit.

Ode to Leeds runs at the West Yorkshire Playhouse from June 10 until July 1. wyp.org.uk