My Yorkshire: Darren Day on his favourite people and places

Darren Day is an actor, singer and TV presenter. He lives near Wakefield with his family and is currently performing in Peter Pan at Bradford's Alhambra.

Sunday, 25th December 2016, 7:45 am
Updated Thursday, 29th December 2016, 3:02 pm
Darren Day, who is currently starring in Peter Pan at the Bradford Alhambra. Picture : Jonathan Gawthorpe

What’s your first Yorkshire memory? I met my wife Stephanie, who is from Barnsley, when we were in a pantomime together. Before we started going out, she found out that I was going to be spending Christmas alone, and kindly asked me to join her family for the celebrations. I felt a bit awkward, but I was given a glowing Yorkshire welcome. I think it was one of the best Christmases ever.

What’s your favourite part of the county – and why? When you are working in the very centre of London, as I do a lot, views aren’t exactly that common. So when Stephanie took me up for a walk around Emley Moor, I was blown away. Fresh air, being able to see for miles in all directions, that was something special.

What’s your idea of a perfect day, or a perfect weekend, out in Yorkshire? We often take the youngsters across to the Yorkshire Wildlife Park. We are great supporters of their fantastic work in conservation, and, for our children, it is a great way of getting an education, and learning about the animals, without them realising that they are actually being taught something.

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Darren Day admires the work of playwright John Godber.

Do you have a favourite walk – or view? Just down the road from us is Newmillerdam – a lovely combination of heath, woodland, water and wildlife. When Stephanie was overdue with our youngest, her doctor recommended that she took a few long walks, just to see if that would start something naturally. So she did. And, not long after…

Which Yorkshire sportsman, past or present, would you like to take for lunch? The amazing Barnsley-born Dickie Bird. I often drive past his statue in the town, and every time that I do I give him a little salute. I worked with his niece once, and she promised me an introduction, but sadly, it never happened – so that is a pleasure to come. He is a real one-off character.

Which Yorkshire stage or screen star, past or present, would you like to take for dinner? It was a great pleasure to work with Brian Glover a few years ago, when he was Magwitch in a stage version of Great Expectations, and I played Pip. He was a great actor, a wonderful raconteur, an accomplished wrestler and, let’s not forget, the voice of Tetley Tea.

If you had to name your Yorkshire ‘hidden gem’, what would it be? It isn’t really that hidden, but every time we go there it is amazing to find that you can walk around for hours and hardly bump into another soul. It’s the Yorkshire Sculpture Park. Stunning setting, great works of art and a nice little cafe for a warming cuppa afterwards.

Newmillerdam Country Park is one of Darren Day's favourite places.

If you could choose somewhere, or some object, from or in Yorkshire to own for a day, what would it be? We are back at the Yorkshire Wildlife Park. I admire Cheryl Williams and her team so much. I’d like to have the run of the place, to be allowed backstage to see what makes it all tick.

What do you think gives Yorkshire its unique identity? Up here, people talk to you. I was down in London the other week, and in a very swanky store, and I got into the lift. I turned to the only other person in it, and I smiled and said: “Good morning, how are you today?” and she recoiled as if she’d met the son of Satan.

Do you follow sport in the county, and if so, what? As a teenager I was pretty good at snooker – good enough to turn professional at any rate. So I watch that when it comes from Sheffield or York. But the family are fervent Barnsley FC fans, and Stephanie’s brother, the actor Shaun Dooley, even presented me with a shirt!

Do you have a favourite restaurant, or pub? The Three Acres up towards Huddersfield and near Emley Moor. The views are spectacular, the food is first-rate and the welcome one of the warmest ever.

Darren Day admires the work of playwright John Godber.

Do you have a favourite food shop? It has to be the Cannon Hall Farm Shop. The produce is always so fresh, there’s a terrific range of things on offer, and the staff are so knowledgeable and friendly.

How do you think that Yorkshire has changed, for better or for worse, in the time that you’ve known it? For the better, definitely. Oh, I wish that people were more careful about the litter that they leave behind, but in general, there has been so much regeneration, and forward-looking development.

If you had to change one thing in, or about Yorkshire, what would that be? You know, I wouldn’t. Much of my work in the past year has been away from home, and I feel incredibly lucky to be so busy. But just getting back here, to the family, is the greatest pleasure. If all my work was in Yorkshire, I’d be as happy could be.

Who is the Yorkshire person that you most admire? My wife. She changed my life, turned it around. We’ve been together for 11 years now, and it has been the happiest, most contented of times.

Newmillerdam Country Park is one of Darren Day's favourite places.

Has Yorkshire influenced your work? I’ve just been doing a revival of Rita, Sue and Bob Too in Liverpool, and I was playing Bob, who is about as Yorkshire as you can get. I got a lot of sound advice on how to tackle the accent from the family, and also from the lovely George Costigan, who was Bob in the movie. Denis, my father-in-law, took the script away from me, went upstairs and read it into his phone, which he then gave to me to learn from. And, you know what? I didn’t get one word of criticism in the reviews.

Name your favourite Yorkshire book/author/artist/CD/performer? One project that I may be involved with this coming year is a revival of John Godber’s Bouncers, and there may also be a production of his play Teechers as well. I’m a great admirer of John’s writing, which blends compassion, observation and dry wit.

If a stranger to Yorkshire only had time to visit one place, it would be? We’d take them to the Sculpture Park and let them roam around to work up an appetite, and then we’d be over to the Three Acres, just to say to them: “Forget your London restaurants. It just doesn’t get any better than this!”

Peter Pan, Bradford Alhambra, to January 29. 01274 432000,