Yorkshire Post - YP Magazine

Alan Coulson


Alan Coulson is a contempora­ry artist who works predominan­tly in portraitur­e. He exhibits regularly in both the UK and United States.

What’s your first Yorkshire memory? I grew up in Roundhay, Leeds, so many of my early memories include the park. Firework displays on Bonfire Night, or snowy days hurtling downhill on a wooden sledge with waxed steel runners built by my dad. My dad also used to build and fly model aeroplanes. He would drag us out to remote spots to launch them, resulting in rambles across fields and into woodland in search of them. I remember meeting tethered horses at Heath Common in Wakefield (one of my dad’s launch sites).

What’s your favourite part of the county – and why? The place where I currently live. Six years ago, my family and I moved from London to Hebden Bridge, and discovered a beautiful valley with magical woodland walks, gorgeous views, wild swimming and country pubs. I have a studio up by the moors in a disused chapel. The place has a very special atmosphere, and I feel very fortunate to be able to work there. The town itself has an eclectic mix of independen­t cafes, bars and shops. It’s a small town and you get to know everyone here pretty quickly. I’ve made some very special friends and collected some great faces for my work too.

What’s your idea of a perfect day, or a perfect weekend, out in Yorkshire? I love to walk with my family.

We have four kids, and sometimes we have to force a walk on them, in order for us to spend a day all together (everyone enjoys it after the initial complaints). On a warm day, my ideal would be finding a secret spot by the river for a picnic and dip (I’d get into trouble if I were to disclose the exact location). A good walk for me has a reward at the end, usually a nice pint and some chips in the pub. We are always armed with paper, pens and tabletop games for such occasions.

Do you have a favourite walk – or view? We’re spoiled for choice here in Hebden Bridge. There are so many lovely walks and seemingly limitless new routes and pathways wriggling around the valley.

One of my favourites is from Hebden to Heptonstal­l via Hell Hole Rocks (gorgeous views over the valley here). The reward is a mooch around the old church ruins and a pint in one of the pubs before tumbling back down the cobbled Buttress.

Which Yorkshire stage or screen star, past or present, would you like to take for dinner? I think an evening with Brian Blessed would be fun. Perhaps I could persuade him to sit for a portrait too.

If you had to name your Yorkshire “hidden gem”, what would it be? Wainsgate Chapel, the building where I work. A former Baptist church and historic Grade II-listed building, it’s tucked away by the moor, just outside Hebden Bridge. It hosts regular concerts, performanc­es, workshops, residencie­s and open studios and it’s also the home of Wainsgate Dances, an internatio­nal artist-led programme of dance-related events.

If you could choose somewhere, or some object, from or in Yorkshire to own for a day, what would it be? I’ll take the portrait wall from the upstairs at Leeds Art Gallery please. Just to indulge myself.

What do you think gives Yorkshire its unique identity? Yorkshire has a very creative and independen­t spirit and a unique blend of both urban and rural lifestyles.

Do you have a favourite restaurant, or pub? I’m a big fan of a tasty ale in a cool venue. My current favourite is Dukes in Halifax. It is owned by my lovely friends Sean and Elly, who ran various great pop-up bars whilst looking for a permanent venue. They moved into Market Arcade during lockdown and worked hard to create a super colourful contempora­ry space whilst honouring the building’s original features. They have a great selection of beers and wine and regularly invite artists to show their work on the walls. I’d definitely recommend giving them a visit.

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