What’s your first Yorkshire memory? Driving across the North York Moors as a child. I found the emptiness and bleakness exhilarating, and still do. Time seems to stand still there. I’m always moved by the many stone crosses on the moors, and fascinated by the history of the early Christian settlers who left them.
What’s your favourite part of the county and why? I’d have to mention Ryedale, as I’ve got to know it so well. It’s a beautiful region in itself – especially the Howardian Hills and market towns of Malton, Pickering and Helmsley – but also a great base for exploring the North York Moors and Yorkshire Wolds.
Do you have a favourite walk – or view? I love the walks in and around Sledmere. It’s a bit off the beaten track, but the views onto the Wolds are stunning and Sledmere House, with its deer park and beautiful adjoining church, is something very special. There are some David Hockney pictures which really capture the magic of the area.
What’s your idea of a perfect day, or perfect weekend, in out in Yorkshire? It would begin with one of the famous Ryedale Festival “Coffee Concerts”. They bring music to many beautiful country churches all over North Yorkshire – one favourite is Lastingham. Then lunch at a favourite pub followed by a long walk across the moors. In the evening, maybe another concert at Duncombe Park, followed by late-night drinks with some of the performers and audience members in Helmsley.
Which Yorkshire sportsman, past or present, would you like to take for lunch? Brian Clough (born when Middlesbrough was still Yorkshire). A hero to me as a (Nottingham Forest supporting) child and surely the greatest football manager who ever lived? A fascinating character – enigmatic, prickly and a mercurial genius.
Which Yorkshire stage or screen star, past or present, would you like to take for dinner? Dame Janet Baker. There’s an honesty and integrity to her singing and acting of the kind that can’t possibly be faked. I’d love to talk to her more about how she achieved it.
If you had to name your Yorkshire hidden gem, what would it be? The Ryedale Festival. I’ve performed in festivals all over the world and never come across one with such a rich variety of venues. They include Ampleforth Abbey and York Minster, many beautiful country churches, the great houses of Hovingham, Duncombe Park, Sledmere and Castle Howard, and an array of community arts centres and concert halls. There’s a real buzz about it and it’s run by a very special team of volunteers.
What do you think gives Yorkshire its unique identity? Perhaps a combination of pride in a county that has nearly everything, and a certain state of mind? The richness and variety of Yorkshire is amazing – industry and agriculture, crowded cities and remote countryside, market towns and villages, beauty and grit, hills, dales and coasts...
Who is the Yorkshire person you most admire? At the time of writing, I can only think of Jo Cox MP. Her warmth, energy and humanity embodied the best of what might be thought of as “Yorkshire values” – but she didn’t define them narrowly or exclusively, and her work linked local, national and international issues.
Do you have a favourite restaurant or pub? The Feathers in Helmsley is always my base for the festival and an unfailing source of Yorkshire hospitality and a warm welcome. I also like The New Malton as a perfect place to people – watch and The White Swan in Pickering.
If you could change one thing in, or about Yorkshire, what would it be? I’d like to see its diversity better reflected by those who are in public life.
Name your favorite Yorkshire book/author/artist/CD/performer? Stretching a point (but he did live in Hull for 30 years), my favourite poet Philip Larkin.
Do you have a favourite food shop? Hunters of Helmsley. Their sausage rolls are to die for.
How do you think that Yorkshire has changed, for better or for worse, in the time that you have known it? For the worse, like much of northern England, it seems to have grown apart from the south, not in obvious things like house prices, but in countless small ways which are more and more noticeable. For the better, there is a real optimism and confidence about the arts scene. So much seems to be thriving: Hull’s successful bid to be City of Culture, Opera North’s incredibly successful Ring cycle, the work of Music in the Round in Sheffield, Northern Ballet, Leeds Piano Competition. There’s a lot to celebrate.
■ Ryedale Festival, to July 31. 01751 475777, ryedalefestival.com