Main picture above: Artist Eleanor Tomlinson and author Michael Wood

I AM YORKSHIRE by Michael Wood

The Yorkshire Society’s Big Conversation initiative asked what gives the county(s) of Yorkshire its identity and how people define “Yorkshireness”. Born in Bridlington and raised in Hull, I set about trying to answer this contentious request by presenting its diversity in a creative way. I say “contentious” because one person’s view on Yorkshire might likely find another in an apoplectic rage that their favourite places, products and people are not mentioned.

Of late, in my role as the East Riding Town Crier, performing in public has been greatly curtailed due to covid and working from home as a public proclaimer has not been practical. It’s enough that when I shout to my wife “tea is ready” the woman from next door comes running. I have since begun concentrating more on writing for a living. As such, I set myself the challenge of composing an epic ode in tribute to all things Yorkshire and “Yorkshireness”. The opening words of what I have titled “I AM YORKSHIRE” are as follows:

A quarter size snapshot of the overall 64 verses and 62 illustrations of the complete work.

A big challenge was in deciding not what to include but what to leave out? Although some of the usual suspects are cited, folks might be pleased or displeased to know that neither ferrets, rhubarb, nor even Michael Parkinson get a mention.

The fun stanzas are playful truisms and many have a modern slant, but I also knew their energy would have further impact by including illustrations. Fortuitously, residing in the same village as me in East Yorkshire is an outstanding artist, Eleanor Tomlinson. I knew her style would fit perfectly the vision of illustrations that I had in mind: something not created by a computer but expertly hand-drawn and painted.

Eleanor said: “I’m Yorkshire born and bred and the majority of my artwork is inspired by the countryside of the region I love to call home. I jumped at the chance to work on this fun, quirky project with Michael. After hours of planning, drawing, painting, and editing over multiple drafts, to tweak and amend the content, I still grin every time I see it. Coming out of lockdown, we believe it is something to lift the spirits of those local to and fond of Yorkshire, especially at a time when many of the subjects featured have not been possible to be experienced throughout the pandemic.”

As a writer, in composing what I also like to think as “my lockdown love letter to all things Yorkshire”, I have tried to be impartial in the recognition of the icons, cliches and characteristics chosen. From the final result, these include: NYMR Steam Trains, funny shaped balls, Saltburn seaside caviar, the Warbling Wonder of Wakefield and dad dancing TV doctors to name but a few.

Eleanor and I believe this collaboration of pithy words and crafted images will chime with folks and hopefully inspire them to further discover the county(s). For those with Yorkshire connections who have left the region, it also provides a great souvenir to look back on and remember God’s Own Country with affection.

We are proud that our creative efforts will have its world premiere with the first copy of the print-run presented to Sewerby Hall and Gardens, appropriately on 01 August 2021 – Yorkshire Day. This is where local celebrations are held each year and where the East Riding of Yorkshire Council Chairman reads to the public, The Yorkshire Declaration of Integrity.

Folks can obtain the full A3 sized colour print from Eleanor Tomlinson’s website

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