BROADCASTER and long-time Yorkshire-holic Janet Street-Porter has been awarded a CBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours for services to Journalism and Broadcasting.
Ms Street-Porter, in her 70th year, has a house in Nidderdale and is a noted long-distance walker and former President of the Ramblers’ Association.
Over a career stretching back to the 1960s, she’s been a producer, newspaper editor, presenter and, in 2004, became a reality TV star courtesy of I’m A Celebrity...Get Me Out of Here!, the latter she doesn’t hesitate to credit for her recent renaissance.
“I don’t think that show alone raised my profile,” she said in an interview at the Ilkley Literature Festival.
“I think it just connected me with the wider public because I had spent my entire life up to that point working within the media world.
“I’ve always been a bit of a chameleon, really, but I’d never quite been seen by a mass audience up until I’m A Celebrity – and after that things got a lot busier, that’s for sure.”
She is happy to talk about her simple life in the Yorkshire Dales, which she pronounces as “Yawksha Dales”. The contrast with her home city of London is one she loves. There she may lead a more sophisticated existence, but in Nidderdale she revels in the kind of untroubled lifestyle that frequently sees her wearing the slumber clothes all week.
“I change me underwear though!” she’s at pains to point out. “I just love it in Yorkshire, though, when you drive up onto the Moors there’s no better place in the world.
“I don’t really feel like I come from anywhere now. I certainly don’t feel like a Londoner anymore, partly because I’m in Yorkshire every other week, I just feel like I’m a product of all the places I love.
“It’s funny, I wrote a column recently in which I talked about how sad it was that Harrogate was getting a Tesco and someone local remarked that because I’d only lived here for 30 years I wasn’t qualified to comment!”
Back in the 1970s she was visiting filmmaker Frank Cvitanovich, the third of her four husbands, who was producing a documentary in the area, and became addicted to North Yorkshire as she drove to Richmond using nothing but picturesque B-roads. But her starting point was Yorkshire’s unofficial capital city.
“I remember Leeds was very derelict in the late 1970s,” she says. “I remember going to jumble sales in the Queens Hall, which has gone now but interestingly that whole area has now been renovated.
“And lots of parts of Leeds have been fantastically renovated, so although there has been a lot of new building it has kept its character, which makes it a bit different to a lot of places.
“These days I catch the train up to Thirsk from Leeds and I’ll often go into the city to see Opera North – they’re very good.”
She is president of the Burley Bridge Association which is striving to secure a pedestrian bridge over the River Wharfe and a member of the Yorkshire Dales Green Lanes Alliance.
“They’re campaigning ruthlessly to have all green lanes banned for four-wheel-drive motorbikes,” Janet explains. “My life will be happy and complete if I never have to see another trail bike on a footpath.
“They are just vandalising the countryside and I can’t say what I’d really like to do to them because I’d probably be arrested if I did.”