How growing up in Leeds shaped me, by Dawn-Maria France, journalist, broadcaster and writer.

editorial image
0
Have your say

I am the daughter of a hard-working Asian-Caribbean couple, who made their home in Leeds.

They’ve contributed to the very fabric of UK society by working hard, believing in education and being active members of the community.

My parents experienced kindness and friendship from most people they met, but they still faced prejudice. My mum was told she’d never get a decent job and my parents wouldn’t be able to rent a room – because of their colour. As a person of colour, I’ve faced prejudice, too. When I said I wanted to be a journalist, writer and broadcaster, my high school teachers told me “People like you don’t get jobs like that.”

My real love for Yorkshire came as a young girl, looking at the diverse friendships my parents enjoyed amongst our neighbours, work colleagues and the general community. My mum’s female friends of all colours came to her dinner parties to eat Caribbean food and put the world to rights. With that no-nonsense approach of both Caribbean and Yorkshire people, they were always positive and uplifting, allowing me to move forward, even when faced with countless racists and bullying managers. My Yorkshire colleagues and friends have been my rock and my cheerleaders.

My Yorkshire college tutor noticed I had a flair with words at 16 and found me a placement with the local paper. I learnt so much from the mainly Yorkshire male journalists and editors. The respect, support and encouragement they gave me was unprecedented, and the assignments kept coming, with research, interviews and copy to file.

I loved press day – seeing my articles in print was amazing! Working as a northern reporter for a London international newspaper gave me the opportunity to tell stories of the people I love – Yorkshire people. Such an honour. My editor encouraged me to go to university, get qualified as a journalist and in management, and take the world by its horns – which I did. I recently won The English Women’s Award North for service to the media. I couldn’t help thinking of my Yorkshire colleagues, friends, and past editors, who led me on the path to winning such a prestigious award. I feel so glad to hail from Leeds. I am a proud, Yorkshire lass. Yorkshire people have given me support to do what I do, as a journalist, children’s author, writer and broadcaster. It’s no accident that my children’s book, The Adventures of Jenny and Philip: The Naughtiest Girl in the World, features a strong, self-assured, little Yorkshire girl. It was important to me, as a writer, to celebrate Yorkshire. Especially its strong women, with whom I have grown up, becoming one myself. Years ago, I was a business ambassador for Leeds, welcoming women from nationwide to Yorkshire – a pride-boosting, enjoyable role.

These days, I’m lucky to travel around the world as a journalist and writer – and no matter where I am and who I’m with, I always declare how great Yorkshire is.

Describing the wondrous countryside, towns, events and people to different people and cultures, I’m the unofficial ambassador and cheerleader for the county.

Throughout my work on BBC News and Sky, I can’t help but proudly interject great things and good news about my wonderful Yorkshire.

My family’s culture and Yorkshire itself have made me into a strong, fearless, confident woman.

I relish the opportunities and friendships I’ve gained from living in a multi-cultural city like Leeds, and in gratitude, I embrace my colour, my culture and my Yorkshireness.

It’s called God’s own country, and it created me.

Dawn-Maria France is the Editor-in-chief of women’s news-based magazine Yorkshire Women’s Life. She is an award-winning journalist,travel writer, children’s author and broadcaster, who is passionate about women’s rights, equality and diversity.

Rob Atkinson: England’s World Cup dream ends in pain and pride