A chance discussion between members of The Yorkshire Society and the Yorkshire Dialect Society about Yorkshire Day 2022 led to a minor revolution in the awareness and teaching of Yorkshire Dialect.

From that discussion it was agreed that The Yorkshire Society should help promote a special event to tie in with out Yorkshire Day Civic Celebration in Keighley. The idea was a Day School on Yorkshire Dialect to be held in Keighley to coincide with our civic celebration of Yorkshire’s day. The ‘day school’ was designed to raise awareness of that very special aspect of being Yorkshire – our spoken and written language, or dialect.

So, on the Saturday before Yorkshire Day 2022, the Chairman of the Yorkshire Dialect Society, Rod Dimbleby, and one of its leading Council members, Ian Stevenson, led a very well supported educational event in Keighley Library.  It was no coincidence that a former Chief Reference Librarian at the library had been the late Ian Dewhirst, MBE, (1936-2019) a well-known local historian, poet and dialect specialist, and leading member of the Yorkshire Dialect Society.

It was agreed by the end of the afternoon session that the two organisations would take the idea further, which led to the very successful Talk Yorkshire project which took the form of four short YouTube films made by Maltby film-maker, and public historian, Joshua Daniels. These films were designed to awaken an interest in dialect. The films give examples not only of historic dialect usage in Yorkshire, but showcased the work of two contemporary female poets from Halifax with a shared Yorkshire and South Asian background, exploring their own dual identity with poems littered with words of both Yorkshire dialect and Punjabi.

The success of these events led to Rod Dimbleby deciding, in autumn 2023, to run a pilot course of six classes in Yorkshire Dialect, encouraging Yorkshire people to listen, speak and write Yorkshire – literally teaching people to Talk Tyke. So, a ‘Let’s Talk Tyke’ press release was sent out via local newspapers, the Yorkshire Post and of course the Yorkshire Society website. The impact was phenomenon and within days the national press had picked up the story of “teaching Yorkshire people to speak Yorkshire”. Articles appeared in the Daily Mail, the Times (with a Times Leader), The Daily Telegraph, The Guardian, Metro and even the Sun. The Telegraph, Mail and Guardian sent reporters to the class to interview Rod and students. The Telegraph reporter was so fascinated she signed up for the course!  Soon local and national television followed and Rod was inmterviewed on Calendar, News at Ten and then featured on BBC Radio Four’s Today programme.

Course numbers quickly passed their official limit and students had to be turned away and put on a waiting list.

The course itself was a huge success with students reporting real enjoyment and even producing their own booklets at the end of the course with examples of poems and prose written by participants. In many  cases students were recalling words and phrases from their own childhoods, or those their parents and grandparents used but had slipped from memory and usage. The Yorkshire Dialect Society, Britain’s oldest Dialect Society, has also gained many new members as a result.

To cope with the demand, and to encourage younger people to take part, Rod is running a second six-week course on Saturdays in Brighouse, close to where he lives, and a third is already in the pipeline for February and March in Cleckheaton. For details see Events – Yorkshire Dialect Society There are still one or two places left, so any Yorkshire Society member, supporter or friend reading this and wanting more information needs to contact Rod direct on 07545308346, or you can email him at  letstalktyke@gmail.com.

Rod is hoping that other dialect experts in the Yorkshire Dialect Society will follow his lead and establish courses or classes in other parts of Yorkshire, including in the former East and North Ridings, where the Yorkshire dialect is different and distinct from the more familiar sounds of the industrial West Riding.

We hope to hear some dialect (East Riding of course) spoken at our Yorkshire Heritage Summit in Hull on May 11th and say it quietly, “appen there’ll be summat goin’ on around Yorksher Day, August 1st, in York, at what some folk are already calling a ‘ThriddingsFest'”. Watch this space!

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