Popstar Gary Barlow, one of the men behind a musical remake of the famed Calendar Girls story, has been dubbed an “honorary Yorkshireman”.
The Cheshire-born Take That frontman received the honour alongside childhood friend and co-writer of The Girls, Tim Firth, at the White Rose Awards in Leeds.
With just days to go until Saturday’s premiere the friends made a surprise appearance at the tourism awards staged at Leeds’ First Direct Arena, before promptly being surprised in return with awards of their own.
Speaking to the YEP, the pair spoke of their love for the county having emersed themselves in the story of Rylstone and District Women’s Institute’s finest hour.
The adventure that saw a band of close friends create a now infamous risqué calendar in 1999 to raise funds for charity following the death of a member’s husband went down in Yorkshire folklore.
Barlow, who visited the Dales village Burnsall where The Girls story was born in March, said: “I’ve always toured this area, I was in Leeds Arena a couple of years ago doing my live show, so I’ve always been here over the years but I must say that nothing’s quite touched me like our trip to Burnsall.”
He continued: “We had the most incredible weekend, I always say if you can catch the sunshine in our country there’s just nowhere like it in the world, and it was a beautiful weekend that really inspired us.”
The exploits of the group dubbed the Calendar Girls were made into a feature film starring Julie Walters and Helen Mirren in 2003 and have raised around £4million for leukaemia charity Bloodwise.
Talking of the pair’s nerves ahead of the premiere at Leeds Grand Theatre, Barlow added: “This theatre has to be one of the most beautiful theatres in the country so for us to be able to open our show here is an absolute privilege.”
The show, which runs in Leeds until December 12, will be aired to a crowd of specially invited carers and nurses on Saturday afternoon before the public launch the same night. Visit leedsgrandtheatre.com.
GOOD SIGNS FOR FUTURE OF THE ARTS
The Girls co-writer Tim Firth, who penned both the film and stage adaptations of the Calendar Girls, is keen to continue to give arts in the north its time in the spotlight.
With his latest musical set to be the first to be premiered at Leeds Grand Theatre, Firth, whose father was a Yorkshireman, said: “I opened my last musical in Sheffield and this one in Leeds.
“You are talking to two northern boys who are very happy to spend a huge amount of their lives very close to where they were born so I’m very keen London doesn’t get the first bite of every cherry.”
WHITE ROSE AWARDS WINNERS INCLUDED:
Taste of Yorkshire Award - Lottie Shaw’s Bakery, Leeds
Yorkshire Pub - Shibden Mill Inn, Halifax
Yorkshire Restaurant - The Hare Restaurant, Scawton
Tourism Event - The Best Race in the World, The Juddmonte International, York
Caravan Holiday Park & Holiday Village Award - Humble Bee Farm, Scarborough
Large Hotel - The Black Swan Hotel, Helmsley
Small Hotel - Yorebridge House, Bainbridge
Outstanding Customer Service Award - Wentbridge House Hotel, Pontefract