GP Taylor: We need more big ideas like Tour de Yorkshire to keep our county on map

Does the region need more events like the Tour de Yorkshire?
Does the region need more events like the Tour de Yorkshire?
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I HAVE never been an armchair sportsman. Cup finals may come and go without me even knowing. Yet, there was something about a bike race a couple of weeks ago that had me gripped.

I am not a fan of cycling and, until recently, quite cynical about the cost of mending the roads for such an event as the Tour de Yorkshire, but the crowds of people that gathered, and the excitement of the race, converted me to the sport.

It was amazing to see so many people throughout the county being so enthusiastic. It was a four-day televised advert for the wonders of our county. There is no other place in Britain that looks as good as Yorkshire on a sunny day.

The legacy the Tour de Yorkshire leaves us with now has to be built on. Our county is now ever more firmly on the national map. Yorkshire is no longer a place of flat caps and whippets. It is an expanding cultural centre.

This work is being done by so many people across the county who have taken it upon themselves to organise events big and small to not only energise local communities, but also to attract people from the rest of the country. I am genuinely excited that the desire to see Yorkshire as the happening place of Britain is growing.

Every morning I dread opening my emails, but this week I got a letter telling me of an event that will put Yorkshire on the literary map.

A major new Children’s Literature Festival is to take place at Broughton Hall, near Skipton, in September.

More than 65 authors, poets, illustrators, storytellers and animators, including Clare Balding, Sir Chris Hoy, Lauren Child (the Children’s Laureate) and MG Leonard, will be taking part. Over 200 schools will be involved, reaching out to over 40,000 children across Yorkshire.

The festival, which runs from September 27-30, will bring some of the biggest names in children’s literature to the idyllic setting of Broughton Hall, home of the Tempest family since the 11th century.

The organiser, Trevor Wilson, explained: “I don’t just want to establish a new children’s literature festival in Yorkshire, exciting as that is. My ultimate aim is to make this the biggest festival of its kind in the UK. We are delighted with the authors we have attracted so far and are very confident of adding a couple more star names shortly.”

I find that totally amazing that someone should take it upon themselves to arrange an event that will be the biggest festival for children’s literature in the country.

Yorkshire will again hit the headlines in a positive way. Children throughout the county will be able to meet some of their favourite writers and over 200 schools will have an author visit them.

This event may not have a cavalcade of motorcycle outriders or an overhead helicopter, but it will enthral and excite thousands of young readers across the county.

It is not just events like this that are doing their bit to bring Yorkshire to national attention. On the coast we have Goth festivals, vintage markets, steampunk conventions and wartime weekends.

Many of these events are put on with a tiny budget, sometimes coming out of the organisers’ own pocket. Surely, Yorkshire needs a sponsoring authority for the arts with the foresight to see how even a village fete can bring people to the county. Organisers also have to think big and not be content with just reach a few people. We need events that bring in thousands.

There needs to be a public strategy for the promotion of the arts in the county and increased funding should be made available. Research clearly states that the Tour de Yorkshire in four days brings in £60m to the county. Imagine what other events could bring in tourist money?

From music festivals such as Deer Shed and Willowman, the northern Glastonbury at Thirsk, Yorkshire has a lot going on, but this isn’t enough. We need to have major national events taking place in the county every month.

Local and regional government have to come to understand that arts, sport and cultural events have a national appeal and, in doing so, are financially important. Hands should be placed deeply in the pockets of county council bank accounts to help with funding.

Why can’t we have a Yorkshire motorcycle TT or even an on-road F1 Grand Prix? Could we not have our own version of Cowes’ yacht races off our coast?

Anything is possible. All we need are some big ideas and sponsors with deep pockets and Yorkshire can again be put right back in the middle of the national media map.

GP Taylor is a writer and broadcaster from North Yorkshire.