A friend up
north tells me that one of the local papers in my home town of Keighley, Yorkshire, has
a report I ought to know about. It says that ‘Politicians and pop stars,
academics and business chiefs are being challenged to say why they love the town where they grew up.’

I am listed with Bafta winning film-maker Simon Beaufoy, recently honoured for
best screenplay for the fabulous Slumdog Millionaire and former Labour Cabinet
heavyweight Denis Healey as being invited to contribute to a new website
championing Keighley.

It says that ‘As Keighlians who have made their mark globally, they can now
help stamp world-wide their town of origin. The site ­ lovekeighley.co.uk is
the brainchild of the Keighley Town Centre Association, the business-led
organisation which already has more than 200 members both in the public and private sectors.’

It goes on to say that they are hoping local MP Ann Cryer will approach me.

But now that I’m all internet savvy (ish) they don’t need to. I can put my
words on here, put on a link to www.lovekeighley.co.uk and away we go. So those who
have no interest in Keighley and its role in my life, cheerio. Those who might,
here is my message for www.lovekeighley.co.uk.

‘I hear from the local
media that you were hoping Ann Cryer could approach me to ask me to support the
love keighley initiative. I am happy to support it without any reservation and
without any intervention from Ann.

I was born in Keighley and spent the first eleven
years of my life there, first in Oakworth, later in Keighley itself. My Dad,
Donald, was a vet, part of the Campbell, Crabtree and Green practice in
Devonshire Street, opposite the swimming baths. Sadly he had a terrible
accident involving a pig when I was young and eventually he decided to leave
private practice and join the Ministry of Agriculture. I was eleven when we
moved away to Leicester. Had it not been for the accident, I expect we would
have stayed in Keighley for the rest of my upbringing, possibly the rest of our
lives. My parents, though Scots, often said the Keighley years were the
happiest of their lives.

I have many fond memories of the town and the surrounding villages and
countryside where I often went with my Dad on his rounds. When he died four
years ago, many of the mourners at his funeral came from the Keighley area. I
have no family there now but get asked back regularly. In recent times I have
done fundraisers for the Keighley Labour Party and also SportKeighley. The
Labour Party event enabled me to renew a friendship with my best friend from
Utley primary school, John Bailey. I was honoured to be asked to be the guest
speaker at the Keighley Show last year (my Dad was once President) and saddened
when it was called off because of the weather. Ann Cryer, who in my view has
been a terrific MP, has asked me to do this year instead and I will be
delighted to do so, and bring my Mum with me.

Most of my visits north these days are to Burnley to see my football team, but
I also still have a soft spot for Keighley’s rugby league team. When I was
growing up, my ambitions were to play football for Burnley and Scotland,
cricket for Yorkshire and England and rugby league for Keighley and Great
. Sadly, none of these ambitions were fulfilled but hours spent
imagining they might be helped contribute to a happy childhood.

We are nothing without our family and our background and though circumstances
forced us to leave Keighley when I was still growing up, I am very proud to see
it recorded in my passport as my place of birth, and grateful for what it gave
me in the first eleven years of my life. Good luck to the town and to your
initiative celebrating it.’