A documentary that "sums up the hope of Yorkshire, and the linked sense of belonging as unquestionably diverse"

We track Yorkshire (and the Humber) a lot as a English region. It’s a place which is likely to manifest a rich, resonant and natural call for political and administrative devolution at some point in the future (that is, should the constitutional situation unfreeze at the UK national level).

As Leeds’ Ian Martin (from We Share The Same Skies) has often blogged here, there is a strong undercurrent in Yorkshire - inspired to some degree by the successes of Welsh and Scottish devolution - that it should have regional powers appropriate to its economic resources, and its social and cultural identity. The Yorkshire regionalist (and founder of the Yorkshire Party) Paul Salveston has argued here for a “Northern Umbrella”.

What is attractive about Yorkshire regionalism is the strongly civic and diverse tones that it strikes. An example of this - brought to our attention by Ian’s tweet to the left - is the BBC documentary The Jews of Leeds, made by Simon Glass, and shown this December.

As the clip above relates, the Yorkshire identity was strongly embraced by the immigrant Jewish communities of the 19th and early 20th centuries.

And as Ian says about the doc in another tweet, it “sums up the hope of our region, and the linked sense of belonging as unquestionably diverse, very well”.

In a feature covering the doc for the Yorkshire Post, Anthony Clavane writes:

Like mine, Simon’s great-grandparents left the impoverished shtetls of Lithuania for a better life in Britain at the turn of the 20th century.

“The dream,” explains one of his interviewees, “was that the immigrant would come to the promised land, he would see the promised land – but the children would enjoy it.”… They were indebted to the city that had taken them in. Through their drive, ambition and vision, they revitalised the textile industry and produced such notable figures as Fanny Waterman, founder of The Leeds International Piano Competition, Michael Marks, Montague Burton and Arnold Ziff.

They also helped transform the fortunes of Leeds United. Directors such as Manny Cussins, Sydney Simon and Leslie Silver were partly responsible for the club’s glory years. In his novel The Damned Utd, David Peace calls them “a last, lost tribe of self-made Yorkshiremen and Israelites. In search of the Promised Land; of public recognition, of acceptance, of gratitude.”

If you want more audio-visual enjoyment from the history of “God’s Own County”, see this collection of clips from the BFI.