Tony Clarke

Is one of Bri­tain’s last re­main­ing Punch and Judy men. Now based in Brad­ford, the 45-year-old started in the busi­ness as a teenager, fol­low­ing in the steps of his fa­ther, who was a tra­di­tional beach en­ter­tainer from Low­est­oft.

Yorkshire Post - YP Magazine - - My Yorkshire... -

What’s your first York­shire mem­ory?

I drove up to York­shire from East Anglia at the be­gin­ning of the 90s to see an old friend who lived an Men­ston – it was the first time that I’d made it this far north on my own. My friend was keen on pup­peteer­ing, and af­ter talk­ing the hind legs off each other, he took me for din­ner to Harry Rams­den’s at Guise­ley. I was work­ing at Nor­wich Union and not long af­ter they asked for vol­un­teers to work in Sh­effield on sec­ond­ment. I put my hand up, got the place­ment and fell in love with the county. While fi­nan­cial man­age­ment is still my day job, Punch and Judy is my pas­sion, and I do it nearly ev­ery week­end, es­pe­cially in the sum­mer. What’s your favourite part of the county – and why?

The east coast, and es­pe­cially Whitby. My wife Dawn and I love go­ing up there, rent­ing a cot­tage for the week­end, and tak­ing our two dogs, Ge­orge and Lucy, for a lot of long walks on the beach or in the hills be­hind the town. We ac­tu­ally rather like it all when it’s “out of sea­son”, and a bit on the cold side – less peo­ple, and far more brac­ing. What’s your idea of a per­fect day, or a per­fect week­end, out in York­shire?

It’s that Whitby week­end... just do­ing things that we want to do, at our own pace, and in our own time. And the town has plenty of nice lit­tle cafés and pubs for us to en­joy. Do you have a favourite walk – or view?

The one from our bath­room win­dow. We live in Od­sal in Brad­ford, and it’s pretty high up there – about 1,000ft above sea level – and there, across the way, are the moors and the Em­ley Moor tele­vi­sion and ra­dio trans­mit­ter, and on a clear day, Hud­der­s­field. It re­ally is spec­tac­u­lar, and I love it. I also love the (rather ap­pro­pri­ately named, for me) Judy Woods at Wib­sey. Cen­turies ago it was a quarry, but it’s now lush with veg­e­ta­tion. Which York­shire stage or screen star, or past or present, would you like to take for din­ner?

Brian Blessed, the Mexbor­ough lad. I just love the stuff he’s done. A big, boom­ing, brash York­shire­man who is equally adept at Shake­speare as he is at do­ing voiceovers for ad­ver­tise­ments. I saw him, not that many years ago, play­ing the Cow­ardly Lion in The Wizard of Oz at the Al­ham­bra in Brad­ford, and it was a masterclass in how to grab the at­ten­tion of the au­di­ence, and get­ting the right bal­ance of laughs and the pathos. If you had to name your York­shire “hid­den gem”, what would it be?

Bolton Abbey. I know it’s al­ready a favourite of so many peo­ple, but I’ve only re­cently dis­cov­ered it. I’m lucky enough to travel all over the place, and part of the joy of that is ex­pe­ri­enc­ing new places. I al­ways think that the Ja­panese and Amer­i­can tourists who go to Bolton Abbey must have their eyes opened – it is the epitome of what Bri­tain is all about. What do you think gives York­shire its unique iden­tity?

The coun­try­side, the at­ti­tude of the peo­ple. I’ve lived in Lon­don, and East Anglia, and be­lieve me there is a very marked dif­fer­ence be­tween them all. Com­ing here was a huge rev­e­la­tion for me – ex­pe­ri­enc­ing the frank­ness of peo­ple. You lot don’t take any non­sense, do you? But un­derneath is a real friend­li­ness. Do you fol­low sport in the county, and if so, what?

In a way... our house in Od­sal is not so far from the sta­dium, and on a big match day, I know ex­actly how it is go­ing from the roars of the crowd. I have a brother-in-law who is a mas­sive Bulls fan, and he man­ages to keep me up-to-date, and is al­ways invit­ing me to matches, but week­ends are when Punch and Judy take over my life. Do you have a favourite restau­rant, or pub?

The Mag­pie Café in Whitby. If we go up for a few days, we might well be in there three or more times – lovely staff, nice at­mos­phere, and good value for money. I heartily rec­om­mend the hal­ibut and chips. Do you have a favourite food shop?

Yes, Keel­ham Farm Shop in Thorn­ton. It’s so far up the hill­side that if there are a few flakes in Brad­ford, it’s like Antarc­tica when you get up there. A su­perb butch­ers, a huge range of in­cred­i­ble ed­i­bles, and ev­ery­thing, where pos­si­ble, that is lo­cally sourced. Nice knowl­edge­able peo­ple be­hind the counter, as well. How do you think that York­shire has changed, for bet­ter or for worse, in the time that you’ve known it?

For the bet­ter, I think... when I first came up here, Sh­effield city cen­tre was a mess, and if you went along the rail­way line to­wards Don­caster you strayed into a land­scape that wouldn’t have looked out of place in a Mad Max movie. Ut­ter des­o­la­tion. Now that’s all Mead­owhall and love it or loathe it, at least it’s brought money into the area. We all want more jobs in the area, and a more buoy­ant econ­omy, but things will get bet­ter, I think, with time. Who is the York­shire per­son that you most ad­mire?

Brian Blessed again and an­other ac­tor, the late Brian Glover, who il­lu­mi­nated ev­ery­thing that he did. In­spi­ra­tional in that he could be in a wrestling ring one day, on stage play­ing Shake­speare the next, and in a record­ing stu­dio later the same week be­ing Mr Tet­ley Tea Bag. Not to men­tion his tour de force in Kes. Now that’s what I call range, and ver­sa­til­ity. Has York­shire in­flu­enced your work?

A very great deal, yes. In that there is a won­der­ful tra­di­tion in York­shire for fetes and shows and galas, and that, over the years, they’ve pushed a lot of em­ploy­ment in my di­rec­tion. Name your favourite York­shire book/ author/artist/CD/per­former.

Dawn and I much ad­mire David Hock­ney’s work, and we of­ten go over to Salts Mill, Sal­taire, to just stand in front of some of his can­vases, which have great power and imag­i­na­tion. If a stranger to York­shire only had time to visit one place, it would be?

Ei­ther Whitby, or York. We had some Cana­dian friends over the other week, and we took them all over the place and it was such a joy to see them drink­ing in all the spe­cial places we have in this county.

PACK­ING A PUNCH: Tony Clarke still keeps the Punch and Judy tra­di­tion alive.

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