What is your first Yorkshire memory? When I was a kid and at school in London, we’d come up to Yorkshire for holidays. We would drive up the A1 or come on the train. This was the 1950s when Leeds still had two stations. Harewood House was a great place to be as a kid, a fantastic playground inside and outside. My brothers and I were a bit unruly, though we had to behave better when we were around my grandmother, the Princess Royal, especially in the smart rooms upstairs. We were fond of her and she was fond of us, though undemonstrative as that generation so often were
What is your favourite part of Yorkshire and why? I love Harewood of course, but I also love the Dales and the coast – it’s always a thrill driving over the moors to Whitby.
Do you have a favourite walk? There’s a short walk I take most mornings to the Himalayan Garden at the head of Harewood Lake. My favourite long walk is in the Dales: The Monk’s Trail from Malham Tarn to Arncliffe and back.
And your favourite view? If you turn off the A61 in Harewood Village and drive or walk along Church Lane, there’s a moment when you come out of the woods and suddenly there’s a spectacular view right up Wharfedale, with Almscliff to the north and Ilkley Moor in the distance.
Which Yorkshire sportsman or woman, past or present, would you like to take out for lunch? My two sporting loves are football and cricket. I was brought up in the Don Revie days when Leeds United had a good team. Not so true now, sadly. As a kid my Yorkshire cricket hero was Fred Trueman, but the person I would like to meet now is an athlete, Jessica Ennis-Hill. I am a huge fan. She has a wonderful calmness and charisma about her.
Which Yorkshire screen or stage star, past or present, would you like to take out to dinner? A bit of a cheat, but it would be my dear friend Geraldine Connor who died in 2011. She was the creator of the extraordinary theatrical show Carnival Messiah, which we put on at Harewood in 2007. She was a wonderful person, warm, funny, as well as being an inspirational teacher and creator. My wife Diane and I set up a foundation in her name to continue her work with young people.
If you had to name your hidden Yorkshire gem, what would it be? There are so many. Not exactly hidden, but I love going to the Yorkshire Sculpture Park at West Bretton, near Wakefield. What they are showing is absolutely the best of contemporary and modern sculpture but in a way that is accessible to anybody. I’ve been with people of all ages and backgrounds. My grandchildren love it.
What do you think it is that gives Yorkshire its unique identity? The Yorkshire character is very special. You have real warmth and hospitality here. Take the classic Yorkshire greeting: ”Now then”. At a first meeting, it’s a bit sceptical: “Who are you exactly?” But when you’ve got to know someone, it’s said in a different tone, conspiratorial almost: ”What are we going to get up to together?” The other thing that’s unique is how the countryside and the cities rub up together. We are just eight miles from the centre of Leeds here, deep in the countryside, but from the top of Harewood House, you can see the top of a high rise building on Scott Hall Road. It’s the same around all Yorkshire’s big cities.
Do you follow sport in Yorkshire and if so what? I’m a season ticket holder at Leeds United and have been for some time. I’ve been going to Elland Road since I was a boy. I even saw John Charles play when I was young, second time round, after he’d come back from Italy. I go to most of the home games even now. I’m also a patron of Yorkshire County Cricket Club and always go to the Tests, and while it’s hard to get away from Harewood, I sometimes sneak off to Headingley for half a day to watch a county game.
Do you have a favourite restaurant or pub? In Yorkshire now, there are so many fantastic restaurants. You’ve got three or four top notch ones in Harrogate alone. We went recently to Horto, a new restaurant in Rudding Park, as good a meal as I’ve eaten for a very long time.
Who is the Yorkshire person you admire the most? I’m Chair of the Yorkshire Festival and a big admirer of the people who run Yorkshire’s amazing range of visual and performing arts venues… Simon Wallis at the Hepworth in Wakefield, Peter Murray at the Sculpture Park, the West Yorkshire Playhouse under James Brining is buzzing, Sharon Watson does a wonderful job at Phoenix Dance, Richard Mantle at Opera North is making opera accessible – to name but a few.
How do you think Yorkshire has changed, for the better or worse, since you’ve known it? I think Yorkshire has changed for the better, but without losing its identity. The landscape and the people are as full of character as ever but the cities have changed a lot. Leeds is really vibrant and culturally varied nowadays and certainly cleaner and better provided for than when I was young. Both cultural venues and food have improved beyond recognition in the last 20 years especially.
If a stranger came to Yorkshire and had time to visit one place only, where would it be? I’ve got to say Harewood, haven’t I? Living and working here, it’s sometimes easy to lose sight of what an amazing place this is. Bringing someone here from the outside and hearing their gasps of wonder at the house and the collections and the countryside and the gardens makes you remember what it’s all about, what we’re here for. That’s immensely rewarding.