What’s your first memory of being outdoors? I was born in Sheffield, at the city’s Jessop Hospital, and lived in Stocksbridge with my grandparents until I was five years old because my dad was in the RAF and mum was in the ATS. My granddad had hens and one of my earliest memories is of helping to feed them with him. It’s funny, I can still smell the mash we fed them.
What’s your favourite part of the county and why? Ooh, that’s hard. I love Linton, where I live, and that will always be special, but the truth is that I love all the Dales. I’ve also lived in Harrogate, Northallerton and Cracoe and each of them has a very special character.
What’s your idea of a perfect weekend/day out in Yorkshire? I’d drive to Hawes, travelling from Wharfedale to Wensleydale; it’s lovely at any time of year but it is especially lovely when the fields are full of wild flowers. I’d visit the Dales Countryside Museum at Hawes – John was working on a project there when he became ill. There’s a room dedicated to him there, the John Richard Baker Room, and it’s always nice to pop in.
Do you have a favourite walk, or view? Hebden Gill. When John first got the job as assistant national parks officer we moved to Hebden Gill – it’s beautiful. We’d watch dippers in the river; it’s so peaceful and magical there. I always go to look at the old lead mines at Yarnbury.
Which Yorkshire stage or screen star (past or present) would you like to take for lunch, and why? Alan Bennett. I’ve never met him, but we had a postcard from him which said ‘I love your Calendar Girls but don’t get seduced by showbiz; Victoria sponges and pickles are much more worthwhile.’ I think he was probably right.
If you had to name your Yorkshire ‘hidden gem’, what would it be? Coniston Dib; there’s a gorge in the rocks which you can climb through, and the view from the top is fantastic. When the children were little we used to pretend that only we knew about it – it was our secret!
What do you think gives Yorkshire its unique identity? Well we’re a special kind of people, aren’t we? Very welcoming and friendly.
How do you immerse yourself in Yorkshire’s cultural life? I like the theatre – we’ve just been to see the musical Wicked at the Alhambra in Bradford and it was fantastic. I go to Black Dyke Mills concerts too – the one in Halifax Minster recently was marvellous. Even all these years on, I’m still busy with Calendar Girl talks. We really did think it would be a one-night wonder, but here we are, 17 years later. It’s just amazing.
Do you have a favourite food shop? I like Lewis & Cooper, the lovely grocers in Northallerton. It was the first deli-style shop I’d ever been in and it’s hard to resist popping in. The Keelham Farm Shop in Skipton is fabulous too. Everything in there is made or grown in Yorkshire and it all tastes wonderful.
Do you ever find yourself ‘selling’ Yorkshire to others? I don’t need to really. We’re so lucky, aren’t we? The film showed Yorkshire off, all the best bits!
Who is the Yorkshire man or woman you most admire, and why? Jane Tomlinson. Such an extraordinary, brave women who raised a huge amount of money when she was really ill. Her husband and family are carrying on her good work, which is just lovely to see.
How has Yorkshire influenced your work? I was a registrar of marriages and deaths for 27 years so a lot of Yorkshire folk went through my hands, so to speak! It was a privilege to go to so many wonderful locations in the country.
Name your favourite Yorkshire author/artist/performer (just one of them!) and tell us why? That’s easy. It would have to be Terry Logan, the man who photographed us for the original calendar. His wife Linda was Miss July. He had a very good eye for which bits of us looked best – who had good legs etc! He’s an artist too; I love his paintings of Yorkshire. You might not know his name, but you’ll have seen one of his pictures.
What are you working on at the moment? The Girls, which is the musical based on the Calendar Girls created by Tim Firth and Gary Barlow. It came to Leeds Grand Theatre last November and played to packed houses, then it went to the Lowry in Manchester with the same success. In January it’ll be in London at the Phoenix Theatre. I’m also still raising money for Bloodwise, the charity dedicated to beating blood cancer.