My Yorkshire: Richard Stead

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Richard Stead is the host of the Breakfast Show on BBC Radio Leeds, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this month. Richard, 41, lives in the ‘Rhubarb Triangle’ with his wife Laura, and their two children, Eli, four, and Riley, two.

What’s your first Yorkshire memory?

They are all about growing up in and around Norton – I was born in Scarborough, but we moved when I was very small. Norton, if you don’t know, is on the other side of the River Derwent from Malton, which takes over the town’s identity, in that Malton rail and bus stations are actually in Norton, which is a source of annoyance for everyone in our town. I had a nice little circle of friends, and we’d all head off on our bikes to explore the countryside – trips to places like Pickering, Dalby Forest and Kirkham Abbey. It was a very happy childhood.

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

The “Rhubarb Triangle”, which also happens to be where I live. From my house, I can see all of Yorkshire’s great power stations, and, if that sounds a bit grim, then let me assure you that it has a beauty of its own, the industrial landscape in the rolling greenery that surrounds it.

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

Taking in somewhere on the coast, probably Whitby (which I always think is seen best when it is out of season, and when the weather is foul, as it gets an added atmosphere with the narrow streets and the overlooking Abbey) and then a trip back across the moors, through Grosmont and Goathland.

Do you have a favourite walk, or view?

Just about anywhere on the Yorkshire coastline is good for me, although I do have a soft spot for Filey Brigg, which is pretty spectacular.

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

I’m a big rugby league fan, and I commentate on both the Hull teams – I’m always being asked which one is my favourite, but I have to remain impartial at all costs. The late Clive Sullivan (who played for Hull Kingston Rovers and also Doncaster) was an inspiration to many, and it would have been wonderful to talk to him about his life and career.

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

I started off my DJ career in a pub in Scarborough called Laughton’s, but it wasn’t until many years later that my ignorance was lifted, and I realised that it had been named after one of the great men to emerge from the town, the film star, producer and writer Charles Laughton, who was born and raised there.

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

It’s hardly 'hidden', since it dominates the local landscape, but I wonder how many people can claim to have been to the top of the Wainhouse Tower, the folly that looks over Halifax. It’s open for only a few days every year, and I was lucky enough to get access when I was making a series of programmes called The A to Z of West Yorkshire.

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

May I be allowed to have and to hold the walls of the City of York, and the keys to all of its gates? Technically, that would mean that I’d be in charge of the area within the walls, and I’d be overlord of the citizens for a full 24 hours.

What do you think gives Yorkshire its unique identity?

Everyone says “the people”, but I’m going to define one of the reasons why – it’s because they put their hands to, when the pressure is on.

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

Rugby league, obviously, and I’m very privileged to be paid to commentate on the game – although on a winter’s day, when I’m stuck in a tailback on the M62 in pouring rain, my spirits are not always as high as they should be, and the commentary boxes are emphatically not glamorous places.

Do you have a favourite restaurant, or pub?

Anywhere where there’s an offer! My own favourite places tend to offer Mexican food.

Do you have a favourite food shop?

We have a lot of really good farm shops around us – places like Blacker Hall – and we go to those nine times out of ten. The staff are always knowledgeable and friendly, the food is locally sourced and sensibly-priced.

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

I do think that we’ve rebranded ourselves pretty well. For example, the fact that we are always shouting (rightly) about the great food and drink that is made and sold here, and the eyes of the world have been on all the cycling that we do.

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

The weather. We really don’t seem to get as much of the nice stuff as we should.

Who is the Yorkshire person that you most admire?

Mike Tomlinson was on the show the other week, and it was a pleasure to talk to him, and also very humbling. He never wanted to be in the public eye, and always in the spotlight, but he is carrying on the amazing work done by his late wife Jane in raising funds for causes that he believes in.

Has Yorkshire influenced your work?

I have never worked anywhere else, and I love the place, and the people. It is the latter who make the show what it is.

Name your favourite Yorkshire book/author/artist/CD/performer?

Shed Seven from York were (and are) a great band, and hugely underrated. Elsewhere, it has to be Michael Palin for me – not because of Monty Python, but for those amazing travel documentaries that he does.

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

We’d get them permission to get to the very top of the Emley Moor transmission mast, on a bright, clear day, and not just show them one bit of the county, but all of it.