Bernard Atha: Vice-Chairman, The Sports Council, and a Leeds City Councillor for 57 years

Bernard Peter Atha amazingly trod the boards on stage, sport, the arts and above all in Local Government for six decades. Bernard is a former Lord Mayor of Leeds and is a major figure in the arts and sport in West Yorkshire and elsewhere; he has also appeared in several films.

Bernard Atha was born in Leeds in 1928 to a working-class couple, Bernard was the third of five children. As a child He trained as ballet dancer. Evacuated during the war, he then attended Leeds Modern Grammar School followed by Leeds University, graduating with LLB Hons and being called to the Bar. He did his National Service as an officer in the RAF after which he began a short career on the variety stage. When his parents became ill, he returned home and took up teaching as a source of income, a career he found extremely rewarding. He had also enjoyed working as an actor in TV and film for some years.

Always interested in sport, he was appointed vice chairman of The Sports Council and helped set up the organisation of Sport for the Mentally Handicapped.

He was influential in the building of West Yorkshire Playhouse in 1974 and previously sat on the board for the Leeds Grand Theatre. His many accomplishments include chairing the Leeds Playhouse Board, being one of the first directors of Opera North and being instrumental in the creation of a magnificent home for Northern Ballet. He was the Founder Chairman of the British Paralympic Committee and served on the Leeds City Council for the Kirkstall Ward for the Labour Party for 57 years from 1957-2014. Bernard was awarded an OBE in 1991 for services to sport, particularly sport for the disabled, and in 2007 awarded a CBE for services to the Arts and to the community in Leeds.

He appeared in two roles in Coronation Street in 1973 and 1988. His appearances also included Doomwatch, Crown Court, Play for Today, Juliet Bravo, The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, The Beiderbecke Affair, All Creatures Great and Small, Last of the Summer Wine and Emmerdale Farm. Important film roles included ‘It Shouldn’t Happen to a Vet’ and the famous 1969 film ‘Kes’. ‘Kes’ tells the story of a 15-year old boy from Barnsley who spends his time training his pet falcon. His role in ‘Kes’ as the careers officer came about when he joined the White Rose Theatre Company in Leeds and an agent invited him to meet the director Ken Loach.

He was Lord Mayor of the City of Leeds for one term from May 2000-2001. An amazing life – and Bernard was still living in Yorkshire in March 2020.

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