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My Yorkshire: Panto director Joyce Branagh

Malham Cove.
Malham Cove.
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Performing runs in the Branagh blood. Born in Reading, Joyce Branagh left London for Yorkshire 10 years ago and is currently directing the panto at Lawrence Batley Theatre in Huddersfield.

hat’s your first Yorkshire memory?

Driving over the beautiful Humber Bridge, about to start my student life at the city’s university. I was both terrified and excited. Then I crashed my car. Thankfully things got better.

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

Calder Valley – I live there and it’s very beautiful.

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

I do like to get to the sea every now and again – and I love theatre, so a day trip to Scarborough and the Stephen Joseph Theatre there is always lovely.

Do you have a favourite walk – or view?

I recently went to Malham Cove – it was a gorgeous autumn day, and the cove is absolutely spectacular.

Which Yorkshire stage or screen star, past or present, would you like to take for dinner?

It would have to be Dame Judi Dench. She’s got a twinkle in her eye and a wicked giggle. I think she’d make me laugh.

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

I ran a literary festival in Castleford this year, and as part of my research I went to a talk by Daryl Powell, the coach for Castleford Tigers. The way he was speaking about motivating the players sounded very similar to how I like to work with a company of actors. I think we could swap top tips.

If you had to name your Yorkshire ‘hidden gem’, what would it be?

The work of a photographer called Jack Hulme, who was working in Fryston in the 1930s and 40s. There was an exhibition of his work at the Queen’s Mill in Castleford this summer. Beautiful candid shots of everyday working-class life – women sat on the doorstep chatting, miners having a break, kids playing in the street.

If you could choose somewhere, or some object, from or in Yorkshire to own for a day, what would it be?

Stoodley Pike – it’s a big tall spike of a monument on the hills between Todmorden and Hebden Bridge. I always say hello to it when I go past on the train.

What do you think gives Yorkshire its unique identity?

The people – frank and funny.

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

I’ve been keeping an eye on the success of Huddersfield Town. I met Terry the Terrier (their mascot) at the Huddersfield Christmas lights switch-on. I congratulated him on Huddersfield having got into the Premiership, whilst pointing out that by doing this they had beaten my hometown of Reading, who are now still in the Championship. Terry put his furry paw on my head and gave me a consoling pat.

Do you have a favourite restaurant, or pub?

In my hometown Todmorden, there is a fantastic pizza restaurant called ‘Site’. It’s small but lovely, great tasty food (proper Italian stone fired pizza) not too pricey, and all the staff are friendly. They also do a nice pint.

Do you have a favourite food shop?

I’m on the board at Harrogate Theatre, and if I come back from a meeting and I haven’t popped into Betty’s and bought a Fat Rascal for my husband, then I’m in trouble.

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

t feels like Yorkshire is getting a higher profile nationally– ever since the London Olympics really – I think that so many medallists coming from Yorkshire helped a huge amount.

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

People whinging about the weather. It’s the wind and the rain that make it green and rugged, so just wrap up warm!

Who is the Yorkshire person that you most admire?

Tracy Brabin the MP who took over from the late Jo Cox in Batley and Spen is doing a huge amount of work for the community there – she gets all over the place – keeping that same ethos of ‘there is more that unites us than divides us’. Important stuff.

Has Yorkshire influenced your work?

Yes. I’m much happier living in Yorkshire for the last 10 years than I was living in London, and I think being calm and content helps you to think and be imaginative. I’m very proud of the work I’m doing – and that makes me happy.

Who is your favourite Yorkshire book/author/artist/CD/performer?

I really like the poet Ian McMillan. He writes with the Yorkshire accent and dialect in mind, so his poetry has a great rhythm. And on Twitter he’s always writing terrible groan-worthy puns – and I love awful puns.

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

The Lawrence Batley Theatre to see our pantomime Jack and the Beanstalk. Obviously.

Jack & The Beanstalk, Lawrence Batley Theatre, to January 6. 01484 430528, thelbt.org