POP STAR Gary Barlow, one of the men behind a musical remake of the famed Calendar Girls story, has been named 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 following months of songwriting.
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 tonight, before promptly being surprised in return with awards of their own.
The pair told The Yorkshire Post 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 spent a lot of time in Yorkshire, a lot of our early recordings were in Sheffield where my friend Eliot Kennedy lived. 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.”
Barlow and Firth were on a guestlist that included Lizzie Jones, the widow of late rugby player Danny Jones, as well as stars from Yorkshire County Cricket Club and Leeds Rhinos.
Lottie Shaw’s Bakery, in Leeds, won the Taste of Yorkshire Award, sponsored by The YP, while attractions such as The Hare Restaurant, in Scawton, The Black Swan Hotel, in Helmsley, and Hull Truck Theatre took home awards.
The exploits of the women 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 research charity Bloodwise.
Firth, whose father is from Doncaster, said: “To see it [The Girls] born 25 miles from where it was set and where the story took place is a very special thing.”
The duo also talked of their nerves ahead of Saturday’s premiere at “one of the most beautiful theatres in the country” in Leeds Grand Theatre.
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 general public launch the same night.
Despite the nerves, it seems that the pair’s venture into Yorkshire has reinvigorated their northern spirit.
Firth added: “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:
Small Visitor Attraction. Burton Agnes Hall and Gardens, Driffield.
Large Visitor Attraction - The Forbidden Corner, Leyburn
Taste of Yorkshire Award - Lottie Shaw’s Bakery, Leeds
Self-Catering, Cruisers and Serviced Apartments Award - Dovecote Barns, York
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
Bed & Breakfast / Guest Accommodation - Low Mill Guest House, Bainbridge
Large Hotel - The Black Swan Hotel, Helmsley
Small Hotel / Townhouse - Yorebridge House, Bainbridge
Business Tourism Award - The Coniston Hotel & Country Estate, Skipton
Restaurant with Rooms - The Cleveland Tontine, Northallerton
Visitor Information Award - Thirsk Tourist Information, Thirsk
Yorkshire Arts & Culture Award - Hull Truck Theatre, Hull
Outstanding Customer Service Award - Wentbridge House Hotel, Pontefract
Taste of Yorkshire: Tipple Tails at Wadsley Hall Farm Kitchen
Small Attraction of the Year: Yorkshire Trike Tours
Large Attraction of the Year: Yorkshire Wildlife Park
Self Catering, Cruisers & Serviced Apartments Award: Shire Cruisers
Tourism Event of the Year: The Freedom Festival, Hull
Small Hotel/Townhouse: Beverley Tickton Grange Hotel
Business Tourism Award: Bedern Hall, York
Arts & Culture Award: Alhambra Theatre, Bradford