Dear Reader: Fab Harrogate Beer Festival + in defence of 'elitism'

The Harrogate Advertiser's Graham Chalmers.
The Harrogate Advertiser's Graham Chalmers.

A regular column by the Harrogate Advertiser's Graham Chalmers

Holding a beer festival may sound like one of the more pleasant ways of raising money for charity but when I met Carl Cowgill the other week in the Blues Bar for an update on preparations for this year’s Harrogate Beer Festival he was clearly a man with a lot on his plate.

Incredible opera singer Bibi Heal at the sponsors night for Northern Aldborough Festival at Ogdens jewellers in Harrogate.

Incredible opera singer Bibi Heal at the sponsors night for Northern Aldborough Festival at Ogdens jewellers in Harrogate.

Still, this year’s head of organisers Harrogate Round Table’s Beer Festival Committee seemed cheery enough as he kindly spelt out all the various things about to happen a week or so from now at Harrogate’s Crown Hotel, including a mouthwatering choice of 120 beers (plus ciders, gins and wines).

Like everyone else involved with the 27th annual Harrogate Beer Festival, Carl is a volunteer doing it for the love of it.

I’m always more impressed by someone doing something independently on the basis of sheer passion.

Perhaps this is because it’s always been the way I have organised my own not-for-profit gigs and arts events.

I truly believe in bodies like The Arts Council and I’d happily give them more money rather than less.

But tick boxes don’t equal great ideas and committees don’t equal creativity.

For someone originally from a small industrial town, one of the events I was invited to attend last week turned out to be what would have been called a “swanky do” back home.

The sparkle of chandeliers. The chink of champagne glasses. The nibbling of nibbles.

At one point a soprano walked among the assembled guests treating us all to some fantastic renditions.

Ferociously talented as opera singer Bibi Heal is, I have to admit her soaring voice was a little intimidating at close range.

But the choice of the elegant, wooden-panelled glamour of Ogden’s jewellers for Northern Aldborough Festival’s sponsors night was entirely appropriate.

Both institutions exist to maintain the sort of high standards which have gone out of fashion in other areas.

To see internationally-renowned classical acts perform in the gorgeously hushed but fairly small Aldborough Church each June - among other venues near Boroughbridge, - is a real treat for anyone who appreciates that old-fashioned idea of “quality.”

Undoubtedly these are tough times for classical music and its supporters.

Despite the brilliance of the music, more people go fishing in the UK than go to a recital or a symphony.

Some people now look on all things classical as”elitist.”

My younger self in the days when ‘dos’ consisted of sausage rolls and pints of heavy at Grangemouth Dockers Club might have agreed with them.

But it’s possible to enjoy most of this year’s programme at the Northern Aldborough Festival for less than it costs to buy a season ticket to watch football in the Premier League.

And I don’t agree with them anymore.