It was a pleasure to attend the Dalesman Awards yesterday.
Dalesman, Yorkshire’s favourite magazine, celebrates great things about Yorkshire every month. The Awards are a chance to honour some exceptional people.
Finding the exceptional in a county that seems to have more than its fair share of the biggest and best is no easy task. But this year’s winners were inspirational in their achievements, and a worthy celebration of the best of Yorkshire.
I was particularly touched by the story of Razan Alsous, who won the entrepreneur award for founding Yorkshire Dama Cheese. Hers was a story of true Yorkshire grit, creating success from tragedy. As she explains on her website, she escaped the chaos of war in Syria with little other than her life. Finding her qualifications not understood in a foreign country, she realised she must change her career. So she put together her knowledge of Syrian food with that of her new home, and created Yorkshire Dama Cheese – Syrian cheese made with Yorkshire milk.
It was a winning combination, rapidly winning her a clutch of awards.
Raza is the latest in a long line of incomers who have made Yorkshire what it is. As I learned when I met Alastair Moffat, who has studied the DNA of Yorkshire people, Yorkshire has been built by incomers since the first reindeer herders followed the retreating ice sheets ten thousand years ago. Successive waves of incomers – who at that time simply walked here, as there was no North Sea – brought new technologies including agriculture and metalworking.
Individuals come and go for their own reasons. But geopolitical forces sometimes spark waves of movement. Yorkshire has seen waves of incomers including Celts, Romans, Angles, Saxons, Vikings, Huguenots. In the 19th century people flocked to jobs in the newly industrialised areas. In the 20th century, people came fleeing the chaos of World War II. Then people came from Commonwealth countries, invited to help rebuild war-damaged Britain.
In the 21st century, skilled workers have come from Eastern Europe, and now, sadly, we find people fleeing the horrors of war in the Middle East.
But all of these people have brought their skills, their hard work, and their resilience, to contribute to the great county of Yorkshire. I salute one of them, Razan Alsous.