Yorkshire folk have always been proud of their roots.
For some, that pride manifests itself in telling people about the county and its attributes; for others, the role of being a Yorkshireman or woman is that bit more official.
A growing number of individuals and businesses are joining the Yorkshire Society, which this month celebrates its 30th anniversary. They are reaping the social and economic benefits that the organisation has to offer, which are assuming greater importance during the recession.
“Our membership encompasses individuals, corporate organisations and other agencies across the whole of Yorkshire – it is the only organisation that brings everybody together, and we are very pleased with the way it is developing,” says society chairman Keith Madeley.
“Our corporate membership is increasing and we now have more than 200.”
Individual membership is also rising, and now numbers more than 600.
Members from the Bradford district include the University of Bradford, Bradford Council, the Diocese of Bradford, the Telegraph & Argus and Morrisons. Others include Bradford-based Yorkshire Water and Yorkshire Building Society.
Among those who have recently joined are the National Media Museum and the Bradford-based South Asian arts organisation Kala Sangam. Its chief executive Dr Geetha Upadhyaya has been appointed as an ambassador for the society, one of six across the region.
Ajit Singh, programme manager at Kala Sangam, believes that being a member will bring positive benefits. “It provides a great opportunity for people to get to know us and promote South Asian arts and culture, which is our mission. We are hoping it will raise awareness of what we have to offer, and also to for us to find out about other organisations which we may be able to work with as partners.”
He adds: “I am a strong believer in the Yorkshire Society and think it is a great way of promoting what we have here – the beauty and economic attributes. It is great to contribute towards the fabric of the county and the greatness that is Yorkshire.”
Funded entirely through income from membership and occasional sponsorship, the society was founded to dispel long-standing myths about England’s largest county.
“It was intended to stop people seeing Yorkshire as redundant coal mines and industrial mills, and realise that it has so much more to offer,” says Keith.
“As well as the scenery, the county has science parks full of innovative companies, and pioneering universities like Bradford. We want to get that message across to others outside the county.”
The non-political and not-for-profit society, which is marking its 30th birthday with a dinner at the National Railway Museum in York, has set a medium to long-term target of 10,000 corporate and more than 500,000 individuals – around ten per cent of the county’s population. “This coming year we will be working hard to raise awareness,” says Keith. To this end, the society is extending its use of social media, with a new website and presence on social networking sites. It already has a Facebook page and is now also on Twitter and the micro-blogging site Tumblr.
“We get 10,000 hits a month on our website and hope the new ‘all bells’ website gets a greater number and makes it easier for people to sign up,” says Keith.
He said more members would bring in more funds, which would be put to good use. “In an ideal world, we would like a paid secretariat – that would enable us to do a lot more,” he adds.
The society is also hoping to establish more branches around the world. There is already a Yorkshire Society in Houston, Texas, set up by member Arlene Graiff, who divides her time between Yorkshire and the American city.
The society carries out its own fundraising, distributing the proceeds among charity members, including Yorkshire Air Ambulance, Yorkshire Cancer Research and a number of hospices.
As well as sponsoring the annual Yorkshire Day celebrations, the society hosts a Civic Day, bringing together civic dignitaries from across Yorkshire.
* For more information on The Yorkshire Society ring 0845 0724461, e-mail membership@ yorkshiresociety.org.uk or write to The Membership Secretary, 3 Albion Place, Leeds LS1 6JL.