David Parkin on a corner of Yorkshire in London, the tears of a clown and celebrity gossip

THE big news of the week comes from the Chelsea Flower Show…where Welcome to Yorkshire’s commercial director Peter Dodd was pictured wearing a tie for the first time in living memory.

I thought Peter wouldn’t even wear a tie to a wedding. Given he has been lobbying me to get hitched for some time, may be I’ll get to find out one day.

The actual big news was that Welcome to Yorkshire’s garden at the annual Chelsea Flower Show was awarded a gold medal and received thousands of visitors including the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge (despite her designing a rival garden at the blue riband show), Joan Collins and Philip Schofield.

I think the Krankies tried to get a photo standing on the lock gates but security managed to stop them.

Since Welcome to Yorkshire first went to Chelsea a decade ago its gardens have won plaudits and medals every year so another gong this year is no surprise.

But it is a welcome shot of good news for the tourism organisation after a tough few months in which its long-serving chief executive Sir Gary Verity resigned amid accusations of bullying and misuse of expenses.

Welcome to Yorkshire has set up two independent inquiries into the allegations and while many people have been supportive of the organisation, there has been something of a feeding frenzy by those who either have a beef with it or its former boss.

If nothing else, the success of Welcome to Yorkshire’s garden at Chelsea gives the lie to the half-baked claims of some that the tourism body is just about cycling.

If you haven’t seen photos of the garden, it really is stunning.

The time lapse film below is a minute long and shows the garden being built.

It has been designed by Mark Gregory who worked on Welcome to Yorkshire’s most successful Chelsea garden to date, last year.

His 2018 Dales inspired garden scooped a Gold Medal, the People’s Choice Award and won the prize for Best Construction.

And I wouldn’t be surprised if his latest creation wins the People’s Choice Award, which will be announced on tonight’s BBC programme at the show.

The 2019 Welcome to Yorkshire show garden is an authentically built canal with flowing water and genuine canal lock gates.

It also includes a towpath and a lock keeper’s lodge with a colourful garden and vegetable patch.

Hopefully it doesn’t also include some of the pasty teenage louts you often see jumping into the Leeds & Liverpool Canal during the summer months.

Bless them.

The garden was inspired by Yorkshire’s proud history of industry, manufacturing and innovation but also the county’s stunning natural environment and many green spaces.

According to Welcome to Yorkshire: “This atmospheric garden evokes the very essence of the county, striking a balance between the industrial and the beautiful, demonstrating that a working lock can also be a place of tranquillity and charm.

“The aim of the garden is to inspire those who see it, to visit Yorkshire and experience the county’s beauty first hand.”

Lock gates recently removed from a canal in Yorkshire were donated by the Canal & River Trust for the show garden.

Visitors to the show were certainly impressed and it has created widespread headlines.

I had lunch with Simon Kamstra, managing partner of law firm Addleshaw Goddard’s Leeds office this week.

The firm is a long-standing supporter of Welcome to Yorkshire and a member of its Y30 corporate scheme.

Simon said that AG had invited some clients and contacts to a drinks reception at the garden one evening this week and it had attracted some very big blue chip names.

Sometimes if you can’t persuade people to come to Yorkshire then you have to take Yorkshire to them to showcase what they are missing.

It is what Welcome to Yorkshire does very well but something that some of the small-minded moaners just don’t get.


LIKE him or hate him, Freddie Starr was one of the most creative, anarchic comic talents Britain has ever produced.

A bit like Tommy Cooper or Eric Morecambe, he could make an audience laugh without speaking.

But unlike those two greats, he didn’t reach the pantheon of British comedy, mainly due to a self destructive nature.

At his height, in the 1970s and 1980s, the Liverpool-born comedian appeared in front of audiences of millions on TV and was the first person to get an encore at the Royal Variety Performance.

His appearances were often manic, unpredictable and hilarious.

Although I doubt some of his comedy creations – Hitler in a pair of wellies playing football and Mick Jagger as a monkey – would get TV airtime today.

He was a regular guest on the Des O’Connor Show and even the host didn’t have a clue what to expect.

When Des sang the Skye Boat Song Freddie accompanied him by whistling it but ended up doing bird calls and hyena screams.

His two ‘An Audience With..’ shows for ITV in 1996 and 1997 probably came after his peak but got huge viewing figures (and still do on YouTube) because those watching never knew what he was going to do next – including throwing live maggots into the audience of celebrities.

My favourite bit was when he got iconic 1990s TV fitness expert Mr Motivator out of the audience to ride an exercise bike which he said was connected up to power the studio.

Seeing Robson Green in the audience, Freddie burst into a rendition of Unchained Melody as Mr Motivator pedalled furiously to keep up the power.

But the studio lights flickered and Freddie went into slow motion as he urged the fitness fanatic to speed up his cycling – which of course then saw the comic speed up his singing.

I thought that was comedy genius. You can watch a clip of it on YouTube.

The 20 years or so since those shows weren’t kind to Freddie Starr, but then reading the obituaries, he may not have been kind to many others, even those closest to him.

In 2012 he was arrested by police investigating allegations of historical sexual abuse, but after spending 18 months on bail, he was told in 2014 that he wouldn’t be prosecuted.

He spent most of what money he had on a failed claim for slander and libel against his accuser.

He died, with little money and few friends, in Spain, aged 76, earlier this month.

Freddie Starr joins a long list of British comics who made millions laugh but struggled to find happiness themselves.


THE most interesting piece of gossip I learned this week was from my old friend Scott Allen, a writer and children’s author who took part in the recent Lord’s Taverners Balloon Debate.

I met up with Scott to thank him for his efforts – he lost in the final by just a handful of votes to former Olympic badminton player Gail Emms.

He told me that before the event he was chatting to fellow contestant Mark Lawrenson who told him that former Derbyshire and England cricketer Phillip DeFreitas – who took part in the Balloon Debate a couple of years ago – used to go out with Whitney Houston.

Now there’s a turn up for the books – and not a couple I would have put together.

Have a great weekend.


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