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History lives as Yorkshire open jewel of a museum

— 18 March 2011

Players of yesteryear bestrode Headingley again as buttons brought them to life on the day a Yorkshire benefactor opened their £300,000 cricket museum.

Dr Keith Howard, chairman of the Trustees of the Emerald Foundation who funded the fitting-out of the museum beneath the East Stand, performed the official opening ceremony to fulfil the dream of Yorkshire cricket-lovers down the generations.

Invited guests who included some of Yorkshire’s greatest players were then given the opportunity of touring the splendid museum, which is the most modern in the country and is already earning praise from those who have managed to go through its doors.

Dr Howard explained that the Emerald Foundation was the charitable arm of Emerald, based in Bingley and the leading publisher in its field with 260 employees at headquarters and 60 in 10 offices overseas. It was founded in 1967 by 50 members of the faculty of the Bradford Management Centre, of whom Dr Howard was the one remaining founding member. Emerald was and would remain a family concern, and would always be Bradford-based.

Dr Howard said he had played cricket in the local leagues for 40 years, and it had given him a lot of satisfaction to be able to put something back into the community with investments of this sort: “I wanted to do something rather more significant for Yorkshire CCC, and when I first heard about the plans for the museum I said it was exactly the sort of thing the Foundation would be prepared to support.”

Yorkshire Cricket Foundation and Leeds Rugby Foundation are among the sporting organisations supported by the Emerald Foundation, which also backs the performing arts, particularly Opera North, and has contributed to the redevelopment and renovation of the Grant Theatre in Leeds.

Whitehall Dog Rescue is among the animal welfares supported by Emerald, who also helped to raise thousands of pounds for the NSPCC and Andrea’s Gift, a charity backed by the Lord Mayor of Leeds a few years ago.

Dr Howard and Yorkshire CCC Board member and former President and Chairman Robin Smith were introduced by Museum Director David Hall, who said it had been an aspiration of the Club for many years to have a museum. Thanks to the Emerald Foundation that dream had been delivered today.

The project had been started some 18 months ago with three prime objectives: to establish an ethos confident and charismatic and worthy of the great Club; to challenge the prejudices of the traditional museum environment and experience, and to intrigue and engage young and old visitors alike and deliver their expectations within the limited space and with the memorabilia available.

To make the history of the Club digestible they had chosen to break the story down into a number of zones. There was a large graphic of the 20 grounds on which Yorkshire had played since 1863 with a reminder, too, that Lord’s Cricket Ground was the inspiration of a Yorkshireman from Thirsk.

Other sections included: Lord Hawke, Yorkshire captain for 27 years and president for 40; bats and balls used by many of the Club’s greats; the early years; the golden years incorporating the Edwardian era, the incomparable Twenties and Thirties and the Sensational Sixties; great games; War of the Roses; Yorkshire legends and York View, the museum’s in-house cinema with highlights from the Club’s Legends DVDs.

Some of the zones feature plasma screens and interactive opportunities with puzzle points, questions and challenges to test one’s knowledge on the Club’s history. The central units in the museum are portable so that the central floor area can be cleared to facilitate its use for corporate or dining events, and if anyone knew of any club or organisation that may be interested in using the museum they should contact Liz Neto at the Club’s offices.

Robin Smith said the Yorkshire Cricket Foundation was the cricket charity based at Headingley, and the museum was legally part of the Cricket Foundation.

He particularly wanted to thank Dr Howard for the Emerald Foundation’s funding, Harold North - first chairman of the Archives Committee, David Allan, the present Archives chairman for his huge amount of work over the years, and David Hall, Museum Director and former Archives chairman who was responsible for the “physical slog” which had produced the museum we would see today.

The trustees of the Emerald Foundation who were present were Dr Howard, Tim Ratcliffe, Martin and Karen Fojt (Dr Howard’s daughter and son-in-law) and Melissa Fojt (granddaughter). Mr Peter Meredith sent his apologies.

Yorkshire Cricket Foundation trustees and Yorkshire Charitable Youth Trust trustees were invited to the opening along with honorary life members, vice-presidents, Members’ Committee and Archives Committee representatives and many others closely connected with Yorkshire County Cricket Club.