HE is one of Britain’s biggest songwriters, having sold 50 million records worldwide - and now he’s turning is attention to one of Yorkshire’s most inspiring tales.
Take That star Gary Barlow is writing a new musical based on the Calendar Girls - the women of Rylstone Women’s Institute (WI) who posed nude for a charity calendar in 1999, and went on to raise almost £4m.
The story went from the Yorkshire Dales to cinema screens in 2003 with a film starring Helen Mirren and Julie Walters, and was adapted as a stage play by Tim Firth in 2008.
Today, tourism agency Welcome to Yorkshire announced they are backing Barlow’s stage musical, which will be officially launched near the Calendar Girls’ home in Burnsall soon.
Chief executive Gary Verity said: “To have someone of Gary Barlow’s calibre working on a Yorkshire musical is amazing and I am sure, like the Calendar Girls film and the stage play, this musical will be a huge success.”
The idea for the original calendar was inspired by John Baker, an assistant National Park Officer at the Yorkshire Dales, who died from non-Hodgkin lymphoma in July 1998, aged 54.
While Mr Baker was still alive, a WI friend of his wife Angela, Tricia Stewart suggested an alternative WI calender - in the nude. It amused John, but he never thought they’d do.
But after his death, they did. And when they first posed for the iconic calendar 15 years ago, with expertly placed props such as cakes and flowers covering their modesty, the ladies of Rylstone could not have imagined what would follow.
Initially they wanted to raise enough money to buy a new sofa for the hospital where John was being treated, but after capturing the nation’s imagination, they very quickly surpassed that.
To date, they have raised almost £4m for Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research. The new musical will bring the girls’ story to a whole new audience.
Plans for the show were announced at an event at Scarborough Spa which also saw the teams taking part in the first ever Tour de Yorkshire, which takes place across the county in May, revealed for the first time.
Tour de France winner Sir Bradley Wiggins, Paralympian Dame Sarah Storey and Marcel Kittel will all take part across three days of competition.
Welcome to Yorkshire also announced that their garden design for May’s RHS Chelsea Flower Show has been accepted. Designed by Lee Bestall, it will feature a microbrewery theme.
The agency also unveiled plans to promote the Yorkshire countryside across television and in cinemas across the UK, while an international campaign ran in conjunction with Visit Britain will run in France, Germany and the Netherlands.
A film focussing on the Tour de Yorkshire, featuring aerial footage of the region’s most iconic locations will market the county as a “must-see” destination for visitors.
Mr Verity: “We’ve talked for several years about Yorkshire’s potential as a county and as a destination – and now our collective ambitions and dreams are becoming a reality.
“There must be millions of people around the world who now know of Yorkshire, who didn’t a couple of years ago – we’re firmly front of mind.
Our ground-breaking work builds on that and together we will cement Yorkshire’s place on the world stage as a visitor destination.”