David Parkin finds Hollywood in the Yorkshire Dales, ducks Mad Friday and meets a music legend

WELCOME to Yorkshire held its latest dinner for its Y30 corporate members in the wonderful surroundings of the Swinton Park Estate this week.

I always enjoy the venues and the company at these events, but this was even more special – given the timing and surroundings, it felt like someone had flicked a switch and turned on Christmas.

Driving up past the huge Christmas tree outside Black Sheep Brewery, through the characterful market town of Masham and then turning into Swinton Park, a luxury hotel with a brand new spa set in 20,000 acres of the rolling Yorkshire Dales, I felt like I’d driven straight onto a film set.

And when a porter greeted me with a cheery smile and offered to valet park my car I was proud to give him the keys of the new Mercedes I’ve leased from Harrogate business Synergy Automotive.

Synergy is one of those Yorkshire companies worth watching given its rapid growth under founder and managing director Paul Parkinson, who has made sure the business balances its growth alongside valuing and developing its people and putting something back into the local community.

Entrepreneur Andrew Cope, who built Zenith Vehicle Leasing into a £750m business, has invested in the company and he is one of the shrewdest judges in business that I know.

I don’t think his judgement is as good on the style front given the tartan trews he sports at the annual Firecracker Ball.

Synergy Automotive is the latest firm to join the Y30 scheme, an exclusive business club for companies that want to back Yorkshire and the great work that Welcome to Yorkshire does.

To that end Synergy has provided two vehicles to Welcome to Yorkshire, one of which is being used for its pioneering Yorkshire Bank Bike Libraries scheme.

The bike library scheme was launched as a legacy of the Tour de France Grand Départ in 2014 and its aim is simple: to give every child in Yorkshire access to a bike, for free.

With the backing of Yorkshire Bank there are now almost 50 bike libraries around the region and the initiative was recognised with an international award last week.

It was the very first time a project from the UK has been successful at the annual Peace and Sport Awards which recognise organisations that have made an outstanding contribution to peace, dialogue and social stability in the world – through sport.

Yorkshire Bank Bike Libraries won Sport Simple Program of the Year and Sir Gary Verity of Welcome to Yorkshire was presented with the award at a glittering ceremony in Monaco.

Deserved recognition for such a simple but incredibly effective initiative.

Gary brought the award trophy to the dinner at Swinton Park and delivered an upbeat message about Welcome to Yorkshire’s many plans for next year.

Before the dinner I got a chance to sample the facilities at the new spa at Swinton, a beautifully designed and luxuriously comfortable development to add to the many attractions of the estate.

A fellow guest at the dinner, who works for a major bank, told me that she caught a glimpse of me getting out of the outdoor hot tub at the spa.

“I thought you looked like a young David Hasselhof,” she said, rather breathily.

We all deserve a little Christmas treat


IS today Mad Friday or is it next Friday?

We’ve had Black Friday and Cyber Monday, but today heralds the craziest day of the Christmas season when many firms hold their festive shindig and the rest of the world appears to join them.

A Geordie told me that this day is known as “Black Eye Friday” in Newcastle, such are the number of fights that break out around the Toon.

I’m keeping well away from such mayhem today and after a small sweet sherry at a positively Dickensian hostelry I shall repair to my quarters and don a braided smoking jacket and tasseled velvet smoking cap and reflect on life over a cheroot.

Well they don’t allow smoking in the Purple Door.


ONE Christmas gathering I look forward to in particular is a festive lunch for former employees of the Yorkshire Post.

It is a relaxed affair, organised via an email telling attendees where to meet and at what time.

Then things just go from there.

It was organised by Bob Schofield, once a YP news desk stalwart who had the foresight to move into public relations and focus on the health sector before selling his agency and taking a break in Spain then returning to run Harrogate Paintball Centre.

Bob told me he has just opened that new corporate entertaining phenomenon, an “escape room” near Boston Spa.

I thought Boston Spa was where people from Tadcaster escaped to after drinking too much Sam Smith’s beer.

At midday last Friday, braving the early winter frost, former Yorkshire Post staff members met at Raja’s on Roundhay Road, the oldest and certainly one of the most celebrated Indian restaurants in Leeds, which was started in 1983.

It was great to see so many old faces and it brought back memories of the wonderful times I had working at the Yorkshire Post.

I firmly maintain that the group of people in that big, windowless newsroom were the most talented, interesting and fun individuals I will ever have the pleasure of working with.

Over spicy food and cold beer stories were recounted of the time some bored sub-editors staged a cycle race around the perimeter of the newsroom (perhaps early inspiration for the Tour de France to come to Yorkshire?) and the time another sub-editor (they were affectionately known as ‘pond life’ because the unsociable hours they worked meant most preferred not to engage in conversation) did an entire shift wearing a full suit of armour.

Apparently nobody dared ask him why he was dressed in such a way.

Among the attendees last week was Tony Watson, the best editor I was ever fortunate enough to work for, who is now the globe-trotting managing director of the Press Association.

Also there was the former deputy editor of the YP, Mike Heron, who once summoned me into his office when he was going through expense claims from the newsroom.

I was already twitchy as I’d been on a trade mission to China and had submitted a hefty bill for expenses which I knew would get scrutinised or worse, thrown out.

“David, I want to speak to you about your expenses from your recent trip,” said Mike.

“I know, they are a bit steep, aren’t they,” I replied, waiting for the receipts to be thrown back across the desk at me like confetti.

“Yes, but I want to congratulate you on them, they are all in Chinese and I haven’t got a clue what they say or what they are for, well done!” he said whilst signing them off with a flourish.

There were a few faces at the lunch that I didn’t recognise and when I asked whether our paths would have crossed at the newspaper two of them told me they left in 1981 and 1982.

Given I only arrived there in 2000 I quickly worked out that our time probably didn’t coincide.

One of the guys I spoke to, Paul Vallely, had gone on to work for virtually every newspaper in Fleet Street before writing a biography of Pope Francis.

Another was Jonathan Margolis, a writer on technology for the Financial Times who is currently writing a memoir of his journalistic experiences which he said would recount the time he told Michael Jackson it wouldn’t do him any harm to be interviewed by Martin Bashir.

“How did you get to be speaking to Michael Jackson?” I asked, between sips of Kingfisher beer.

“You’ll have to wait for the book, £9.99 from all good booksellers,” replied Jonathan.

It made me think of any occasions when I have met a music legend.

Well, there was that time when I went clubbing with Roy Wood of Wizzard at the Blue Note nightclub in Derby.

But I’m not saying any more.

You’ll have to wait for the book.

Have a great weekend.

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