What’s your first Yorkshire memory? The daffodils at York in springtime. There’s definitely a “wow factor” when they are in full bloom, and you come out of the station and see them banked up beneath the city walls. But my father was (and still is) a huge fan of Leeds United, and, when I must have been about eight years old, he took me to Elland Road. I can clearly recall climbing up those steps behind the terraces, cresting them, and seeing the pitch for the very first time.
What’s your favourite part of the county – and why? The Dales. They do it for me every time. Partly it’s the wonderful limestone scenery, and the ever-changing skies, but there’s also a nostalgic element to the area because as a geography teacher I used to bring a lot of school trips up here, and I have a lot of happy memories of those visits.
What’s your idea of a perfect day, or a perfect weekend, out in Yorkshire? We’d drive a little bit south, and spend some time wandering around the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, which never ceases to give me a lot of pleasure in both its scope and the quality of the exhibitions. And then it would be over to Leeds. It is one of those cities which has managed, to achieve a very successful blend of its past and its contemporary present. After that, we’d have tickets for a show at the West Yorkshire Playhouse.
Do you have a favourite walk – or view? This would definitely be the Lyke Wake Walk. Along all 40 miles over the North York Moors, it offers spectacular views just about every step of the way. I vividly remember bringing a coach of youngsters up from Sevenoaks in Kent, where I was teaching, and looking at their faces when they had completed the challenge. They loved it – and so did I.
Which Yorkshire sportsman, past or present, would you like to take for lunch? Sir Ian McGeechan, of Yorkshire Carnegie, who has shown both vision and leadership in the re-branding and the restructuring of the club. He was a teacher for many years, made his mark on the pitch, and is, above all, a thoroughly nice man. A lunch with him would be a joy.
Which Yorkshire stage or screen star, past or present, would you like to take for dinner? One of our alumni, the late Richard Whiteley, who died, well before his time. He was witty, generous, and also down-to-earth. One of the major legacies in his will was to the school, a handsome endowment to the arts, which we used to create the Richard Whiteley Theatre.
If you had to name your Yorkshire ‘hidden gem’, what would it be? The Ilkley Cinema, which has recently been restored. It only seats about 150 or so, but it is so relaxed, so comfortable, and it has waitress service to your sofa. Not a double seat, a genuine sofa. No advertisements to bother you, and no noisy popcorn.
If you could choose somewhere, or some object, from or in Yorkshire to own for a day, what would it be? Like a lot of Leeds United fans, I’d love to get together with other supporters, and to try and sort out what is going on there – but I suspect that might well take more than a day. So I am going to say Saltaire. You’d honestly be able to say, just for the 24 hours, “I own some very good Hockney paintings.”
What do you think gives Yorkshire its unique identity? The landscape, and the contrasts within the landscape. Yorkshire isn’t just the Dales, there are other beautiful areas, and there’s the fascinating industrial part. Don’t forget the coast – Spurn Point is about as different from Staithes as it is possible to get.
Do you follow sport in the county, and if so, what? Our two sons play rugby, and they love the sport as much as I do. I frequently go up to Wharfedale to watch them play, and a day out at Headingley is a wonderful escape for me.
Do you have a favourite restaurant, or pub? The Fountaine Inn at Linton is my choice. Great food, lovely people, nice atmosphere, a really welcoming place. And, when the weather allows, you can sit outside and take in the scenery.
Do you have a favourite food shop? The Courtyard Dairy, just outside Settle, which is a five star cheese shop where the owners and the staff are passionate, and also hugely knowledgeable, about what they sell. Can’t be beaten.
How do you think that Yorkshire has changed, for better or for worse? I think that it is largely for the better. We’re now looking outward. We are also a county of rich diversity, and long may that continue. There are no airs and graces, and there’s a healthy respect for other people. That’s remarkable – and to be applauded.
If you had to change one thing in, or about Yorkshire, what would that be? It’s not in my power, but maybe a little less snow and a lot less rain? Seriously however, I am hugely in favour of the concept of the Northern Powerhouse, and the lessening of controls imposed from London.
Who is the Yorkshire person that you most admire? Sir Gary Verity, who has done more to raise Yorkshire credibility in the perception of the world than anyone else I know. I am delighted that he is now one of our governors (how he finds the time is beyond me.
Has Yorkshire influenced your work? Very much so, and I am so proud and pleased to be back here, working in a place with an enviable academic record, and putting, I hope, so much back into the community.
Name your favourite Yorkshire book/author/artist/CD/performer? I love the work of David Hockney, and I admire the way that, when he has satisfied himself in one area, he moves on to new challenges in his paintings, drawings and photographs.
If a stranger to Yorkshire only had time to visit one place, it would be? They’d have to come and see Malham Cove and Gordale Scar. Our little strip limestone tucked away in the corner of the county.