Sheffield has a real village mentality

Joe Scarborough
Joe Scarborough
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JOE Scarborough is a celebrated painter born and brought up in the Pitsmoor area of the Sheffield in a steelworking family

1.When you were younger, did you ever think of leaving Yorkshire?

No, the furthest I’ve ever been is Dumbarton in Scotland, just after the war.

2.What is it about Yorkshire people that keeps you here?

There’s the usual things, very straightforward and very good natured people.

3.Is there a particular Yorkshire sense of humour?

I love Yorkshire humour, that kind of “You think you were poor, but…” kind of stuff.

4.Have you any regrets about the career you followed?


5.Of all the paintings you have produced, which do you feel sums up the spirit of Yorkshire most – and why?

I once did a painting of a wedding in the upper room of a pub. It must have been after the war because no-one wore white. It summed up post-war Yorkshire, the wedding only cost the room hire.

6.Are there any scenes or events that capture the greatness of Yorkshire and its best city, Sheffield, that you have in your sights for a future painting?

I’ve always fancied doing a funeral in Crookes, next to the football pitch, so everyone going into the church is just watching the football.

7.How would you sum up Yorkshire to someone who had never been?

It’s odd, we have this reputation for being dour and really friendly. But I love this juxtaposition of the formal and informal, the playoff of these two is Yorkshire to me.

8.Do you think we are dour?

Sometimes, definitely, but there’s also a real kindness in Yorkshire.

9.Why do you think people do leave the county?

It’s usually because they can’t practise our religion: work.

10.Why do you thnk we have that industrious mentality?

I think the fact that, traditionally, we were a county split between the hammer and the plough has a lot to do with it.

11.What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

Barry Cryer once told me ‘never get above your audience’.

12.Could you ever have done any other job?

I’m a daydreamer and you don’t get paid for staring into space.

13.Who are your favourite Yorkshire artists – and why?

I’m a great fan of Fred Taylor. He and Kenneth Steel, who’s from Sheffield, they did loads of work on posters. Railway stations, shipping, that kind of stuff.

14.Where is your favourite spot in Yorkshire?

I think it would have to be Whitby.

15.How much of your success do you owe to the people of Yorkshire?

About 95%, because it’s under your nose.

16.Why have you stayed in Sheffield, specifically, for so long?

There’s a real village mentality in Sheffield. It isn’t like other big cities.

17.Do you think there’s any ignorance about Yorkshire, outside the region?

In 1984 I was selling through a gallery in Mayfair. So I went in with some canvases and the owner went ‘Joe, we don’t want any more smoky chimneys’. That’s all they thought we were.

18.Have you ever made any big mistakes in your paintings?

In the pub wedding painting, I put in a big advert advertising the races up at Thirsk, but it wasn’t until I’d finished it that I realised I’d written ‘Thirk’ by accident.

19. Are you ever stuck for subject matter in Yorkshire?

Never, the landscape is always changing but the characters are always the same.

20. How do you think Yorkshire people view you and your work?

I’d like to say with affection. But as I’ve always modelled myself on the music halls, then hopefully in the same vein.