Broadcaster and businessman Ben Fry is also the City of York’s very own Town Crier. Ben is married to Jessica, and they have a young son, Nicholas. The couple are expecting a daughter to join the family in October. Ben shares his Yorkshire favourites.
What’s your first Yorkshire memory?
I was actually born in the south-west of England, but my family had pretty strong Yorkshire roots, so we moved back to the county when I was about five or six years old. I can vividly recall being taken, on many occasions, to Homestead Park in York, and having a whale of a time.
What’s your favourite part of the county – and why?
The North York Moors, and in particular, the wonderful railway from Pickering to Whitby. Nick loves it, because he’s a huge Harry Potter fan, and he always believes that he’ll meet up with one of the characters from the books and films. I love sitting up on the hillside on the edge of the Hole of Horcum, and watching the trains puffing their way along in the valley below.
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What’s your idea of a perfect day, or a perfect weekend, out in Yorkshire?
I am an absolute and complete theme park junkie, so a few days at Flamingoland would be my ideal. I’ve been on the Velocity ride countless numbers of times, and it’s like being on a supercharged motorbike that goes from 0 to 60 in three seconds.
Do you have a favourite walk, or view?
It’s central York. I love the place, and being the Town Crier is the cherry on the cake, because it takes me to locations all over the city.
Which Yorkshire sportsman, past or present, would you like to take for lunch?
The Bradford-born batsman Jonny Bairstow. He was the lion of the world after that match against New Zealand, and rightly so. I’ve met him a few times, and I have to tell you that what you see is what you get – a very charming, very talented and completely grounded guy. The kids admire him and look up to him as their hero, and rightly so.
Which Yorkshire stage or screen star, past or present, would you like to take for dinner?
The incomparable King of Pantomime, the unique Berwick Kaler. He’s a lovely man, and wonderful company. I wonder if he knows about the “wall of love” that surrounds him?
If you had to name your Yorkshire ‘hidden gem’, what would it be?
This may sound daft, but it’ll be the Shambles, in the heart of York, and I’ve picked it because I really don’t think that the locals go there all that much. They think “it’s always full of tourists” and of course there is a truth to that. But it really is a lovely little street, full of independent, quirky shops, and I really would urge everyone to go and check it out again, and to rediscover it. They might be pleasantly surprised.
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If you could choose somewhere, or some object, from or in Yorkshire to own for a day, what would it be?
Castle Howard, at Christmas, and for their truly magnificent tree, which is always well over 20ft high. We’d go as a family and open our presents underneath it. Just us. Now that would be magical.
What do you think gives Yorkshire its unique identity?
The infinite variety of the place. From the big legal and financial firms in Leeds, and the bustling town and city centres, to the peace and quiet of the Wolds, moors and dales. The wonderful coastline, the marvellous little events that places hold – like the Malton Food Festival, plus the history and the friendliness of the people.
Do you follow sport in the county, and if so, what?
Indeed I do, and I’m lucky enough to do on-pitch commentaries for all sorts of events and matches. I’m over the moon at the resurgence and renaissance of York City Knights.
Do you have a favourite restaurant, or pub?
It’s Roots, in Marygate in York, which was opened by Tommy Banks. I am very much a meat and veg man, and the world’s worst picky eater, but this is a superb place for me.
Do you have a favourite food shop?
There’s that amazing pork and Yorkshire pudding shop just off Kings Square in the centre of the city. Wonderful, very tasty basic grub.
How do you think that Yorkshire has changed, for better or for worse, in the time that you’ve known it?
We’ve made incredible strides in recent years, I think, and there’s been a terrific reinvention for city centres like Sheffield and Leeds. There’s the imminent arrival of Channel 4, and I think that the county as a whole is cherishing its heritage while at the same time embracing the heat of the now, and the future.
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If you had to change one thing in, or about Yorkshire, what would that be?
The A64. It is a dreadful road. That it should be, for much of its length, only a single carriageway on either side, is a scandal. It has a stranglehold on getting to the coast – improvements are long overdue.
Who is the Yorkshire person that you most admire?
Dame Judi Dench, because while she is an international stage and screen star. She’s one of our very best actresses.
Has Yorkshire influenced your work?
Very much so and now I also have this (voluntary) job to shout about the place as well.
Name your favourite Yorkshire book/author/artist/CD/performer?
It will be two bands – Kaiser Chiefs, and York’s own Shed 7.
If a stranger to Yorkshire only had time to visit one place, it would be?
The Jorvik Viking Centre, and for a very special reason, because that is where I took my wife, for our very first date, in the middle of all those smells and noises. And she still continued to go out with me and, in the end, married me. No, I can’t explain it either!