Why I Love Huddersfield, sponsored by Wild PR, is a new monthly feature where we ask a well-known Huddersfield personality what the town means to them. Here we chat to international cartoonist, animator, artist and writer (not necessarily in that order!) ROB MARTIN, who hails from Outlane.

Tell us something we don’t know about you.

I was an unwitting model for Despicable Me’s Felonius Gru. When the film first came out, I’d see the advert on buses and think: “Those are my clothes.”

At one point, I wore black, an Italian leather jacket, the shoes etc. I was in Edinburgh one November. It was freezing and I bought a scarf from the Castle gift shop.

Not so long after, I visited an animation movie character designer’s house.

“What are you working on?” I asked. “Oh, some movie called: ‘Evil Me.’” He replied. Then he asked to take a photo for reference as I stood in his hallway.

Anyway, months passed, and I had an animation meeting with the person described here and two fantastic TV animation producers, from ‘Hot Animation’ (Bob the Builder) and ‘Cosgrove Hall Productions’ (Danger Mouse, Count Duckula etc).

They leaned over. They looked at a sketchbook brought by the character designer and then they looked at me and exclaimed: “Did you work on ‘Despicable Me’?”

I looked at the drawings and thought: “My clothes.”

What does Huddersfield mean to you?

It’s my home town for a start. I love our countryside, Slaithwaite and Marsden. And the areas near Castle Hill are very wonderful.

The town centre has many wonderful local businesses such as ‘Calder Graphics’ in the Byram Arcade, which I have been buying art materials from since 1979.

Stuart Hoyle has done a great job keeping things going through these times. It’s a shop known all over the world. People in Glastonbury ask me about it. Good art shops are very rare.

In the past classic cafes in the town. ‘Caledonian’ and Tony and Claire, ‘El Greco’ as well springs to mind. I used to love just sitting in these spots. It was 95p for a cup of tea and someone near would make a bizarre comment like: “You can’t drink sparrows!”

Oh, I do like ‘Merrie England’ cafes. There’s a great warmth with the people of Huddersfield.

It’s all reflections in a way, you care about people, people care about you. Genuine, with big hearts.

“There’s nowt wrong with reet folk!” my grandfather would say.

How would you describe Huddersfield to a stranger?

The town is great and most of the people are cool. Straight to the point.

We’ll take you out for a meal in Huddersfield. Where would you like to go and why?

Will you really take me out for a meal? Can I fetch a guest? Toby Carvery, Brighouse Road on corner of the roundabout. It’s always been a nice spot.

Rob Martin with his portrait of Felix, the Huddersfield station cat

The Huddersfield Blueprint is going to change the face of the town centre over the next five to 10 years. What one thing would you like to see in the town centre?

The one thing I feel would look great are trees. An avenue of trees. 

What venue, nightclub or attraction from Huddersfield’s past would you like to see return?

I think my nightclub days are definitely over. It’s a very blurred memory. I think Johnny’s Nightclub (1969-2003) would be the venue that summed up town.

We all love Jodie Whittaker, of course, but who’s your favourite Doctor Who?

Strap in for this one. Loved Doctor Who, growing up in the 1970s. It was a bit like Hammer Horror, full of melted jelly brains and strange music, dangerous cabbages.

The Doctor Who at the time was Tom Baker. He was signing autographs in ‘Lovell Leisure’ in the town in 1979. And for some reason I was with my mother, who asked if I would like to meet Doctor Who.

She got us into the event and we were last in the queue. No offence to Tom. It was very odd to meet your hero. And he grinned at me, offered me a jelly baby, signed a book “Love Tom x” And I felt really freaked out.

My brother made fun of the autograph, saying Doctor Who loved me. We soon chucked the annuals in the bin. And I got a Tom Baker phobia.

So my favourite is Jodie Whittaker but I haven’t watched it since 1979. I am sure Tom Baker is a very lovely man.

How did you spend your time in lockdown and has the Covid-19 pandemic changed you?

I helped my family out. I painted many pictures. Even one for the City of York, and drew a book of cartoons in 2020 called Corona Virus Street which has just been published.

Back end of 2019 I was in a car accident on the M62. It was a very intense night where I had X-rays for internal bleeding and was told I may need emergency surgery.

So many months later, the pandemic struck. How it affected me is very odd to describe. As going through that paradigm shift, and then around March 2020 watching all these panic buyers. I’m a pretty positive person from it. Things get better after the darkest light.

We’re packing you off to a desert island for a month. What one item would you take with you and why?

Well, to answer ‘record player’ would be a bit wrong without records to play on it. One item??? I don’t need a soccer ball to talk to and call it Wilson, or even Harold. If it’s a Huddersfield link. That was a link to that movie ‘Castaway’, if no one got it.

I’d take this lucky cup I have, that I got in 2020, with a design on it by artist Amanda Castle. It’s called ‘Wasteland’. It’s pretty magical.

Quick questions:

1.          Dixon’s Milk Ices or Marstons Chicken Shop? Dixon’s ice cream please. Either Lockwood or Leeds Road.

2.          Greenhead Park or Beaumont Park? Beaumont Park, it’s an endearing spot. Very lush and green, with a magical type bridge hidden, like some Arthur Rackham grotto.

3.          Castle Hill or Emley Moor TV mast? Castle Hill. No competition, compared to a telly mast.

4.          Strictly Come Dancing or I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here? It’d be ‘Strictly’, with the energy of people being happy and dancing. The other TV programme should be really called: ‘I’m a has-been eating animal testicles! Re-invent my career.’

READ MORE: Rob Martin’s book Corona Virus Street and a satirical look at the pandemic through cartoons