My Yorkshire: Leeds’s own Curtis T Johns

Curtis T Johns.
Curtis T Johns.
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Last year, Leeds-born Curtis T Johns won the TV talent show Let It Shine which aimed to find stars for The Band, a new stage show based on the hits of Take That. The 23-year-old also owns the Far Moss Sports Ground in Leeds.

What’s your first Yorkshire memory? Oddly enough, it is of doing car boot sales very early every Sunday morning. Heaven knows what the rest of the family were looking for, but I know that in my case it was to find any Doctor Who memorabilia, because I was besotted with the TV series. The best ones, I seem to remember were in Leeds and Pontefract and I will never forget the smell of fresh bacon butties.

What’s your favourite part of the county – and why? Otley, so rural and peaceful – especially if you happen to have been working in London. A lovely little town, with bags of charm and character, and lots of quirky little shops.

What’s your idea of a perfect day, or a perfect weekend, out in Yorkshire? At the moment, the only day that I get off is a Sunday, but, ideally, I’d be in Leeds, the sun would be shining, and I’d be heading off out with Molly, my border-collie cross to Roundhay Park.

Do you have a favourite walk – or view? It’s a toss-up between Birstall and Temple Newsam. Ours is a very big (and often very boisterous) family. I’m one of five brothers and sisters, we seem to have dozens of uncles and aunts, so a huge picnic somewhere with lots of room.

Which Yorkshire sportsman, past or present, would you like to take for lunch? Any and all of our amazing Olympians, no exceptions. But I’d like to request that I am sitting next to Nicola Adams, purely because of her devastating smile and that big, completely sincere laugh. One of those rare people who lights up a room when she comes in.

Which Yorkshire stage or screen star, past or present, would you like to take for dinner? Sean Bean, because he is always the best in anything he does. He’s got that marvellously broad Yorkshire accent, and never tries to hide it, but his range is incredible. I saw him in a little independent movie called Tom and Thomas once and Sean was a one-man lesson in quietly expressing emotions.

If you had to name your Yorkshire ‘hidden gem’, what would it be? It’s a little live performance space call the Musiquarium, in Kirkstall in Leeds. Someone once called it an “off the beaten path haven”, and they had that spot-on. It’s a lovely little hideaway, with great acoustics.

If you could choose somewhere, or some object, from or in Yorkshire to own for a day, what would it be? The place where they make Yorkshire Tea, because it is the best that there is. You can’t beat it, and we drink it all the time while we’re on tour.

What do you think gives Yorkshire its unique identity? The bluntness and the honesty of the people, their stoical, practical approach. There’s no nonsense or faffing about up here, and if someone says “X will happen”, it always does.

Do you follow sport in the county, and if so, what? Rugby league and also rugby union are my passions. Particularly my own team, which is Moortown RUFC, based in Alwoodley in Leeds. We are hugely inclusive, and to our delight, we’ve just been promoted to the Premier League. It’s a classy game – players stay grounded and the fans have an astonishing loyalty.

Do you have a favourite restaurant, or pub? There are a few that I enjoy when I’m back up home. There’s the Olive Tree, in Headingley and the Levanta Meze Bar and Grill in Clarendon Road in Leeds, which serves wonderful Greek cuisine, and which I always think is great value for money. Both are very welcoming.

Do you have a favourite food shop? No-one does fish and chips like proper Yorkshire fish and chips. One of my favourites is The Avenue, in Alwoodley, the best chippie by far. My dog Molly loves it too – she just has the fish, and enjoys every scrap.

How do you think that Yorkshire has changed, for better or for worse, in the time that you’ve known it? It seems to have effortlessly modernised itself – but that has, behind the scenes, take a lot to achieve. I think that the people are also far more inclusive, and open to new ideas. It is, by and large, a very welcoming society.

If you had to change one thing in, or about Yorkshire, what would that be? If you can find me someone who can push us just a little closer to the Canary Isles, that would be nice.

Who is the Yorkshire person that you most admire? There are so many that it is impossible to name just one. All the creative people, for a start, folk who just get on with it and make something new and original. All the volunteers who give up their time to make life better for so many. All the people who get up and say: “You’ve told us that it won’t be possible. Well now, just watch this…”

Has Yorkshire influenced your work? Massively. My family, my friends, everyone and anyone who has seen or heard me, they all have a profound effect on me. A sense of humour also helps.

Who is your favourite Yorkshire book/author/artist/CD/performer? The Kaiser Chiefs always get a thumbs-up from me. Great players, perceptive and original songs, and fine lads.

If a stranger to Yorkshire only had time to visit one place, it would be? We are back in Otley. A place where tradition is in the air, where people are really community-orientated – which is becoming more and more rare these days – and where you are given a warm and sincere welcome.

The Band, Lyceum Theatre, Sheffield, tonight; Bradford Alhambra, October 17 to 28. Next 
year the show will play at the New Theatre, Hull and the Grand in Leeds.