Dear Reader: Is Harrogate Theatre's panto as good as they say?

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

A regular column by the Harrogate Advertiser's Graham Chalmers

I went to the panto for the first time in 30 years the other Saturday afternoon.

Panto legend Tim Stedman outside Harrogate Theatre.

Panto legend Tim Stedman outside Harrogate Theatre.

I had no choice. I’d promised the show’s star performer, Tim Stedman, something of a legend, that, for the very first time I would come and see Harrogate Theatre’s hugely popular, highly respected annual panto.

As it got closer to the weekend I did think about concocting some flimsy excuse in order to bail out.

This proved to be impossible.

The day before my panto date, I’d arrived early at an artily-redesigned former chapel off Skipton Road in Harrogate to interview an ex-member of Human League about an exciting art installation set to take place there in March.

It was no mistake I’d arrived early. I was due to take a doctor’s appointment by phone at around the same time and I didn’t want to be driving when the call came.

Eventually the phone rang and I was just being filled in on the results of an X-ray when someone walked right into me. Tim Stedman.

The following day, sitting in the stalls at Harrogate Theatre, it became apparent that Dick Whittington was just as brilliant as everyone had said.

Silly but clever, traditional but not nostalgic, full of modern references but with old-fashioned values, altogether fabulous from start to finish.

And Tim was great as the anarchic and silly Idle Jack.

So good was it, in fact, it made me forget that I don’t like panto. And I still don’t.

Not hooked on angling

A small shop closed for the last time in Harrogate the other week.

Sad to say the loss of Harrogate Angling on 61 High Street, Starbeck probably won’t be mourned by many these days.

But the shop’s demise does reflect how life has evolved in Britain since the Millennium.

From what I heard, part of the issue at this expert and friendly tackle and bait shop was a change of behaviour by anglers themselves.

Rather than popping along to the nearest stretch of river or small fishery, more and more of them are casting their net further afield, preferring to drive to the big commercial ponds at the likes of Thirsk.

It’s not hard to work out why.

Better facilities. Food and drink on tap. Plentiful supplies of fresh bait.

Crucially, commercial fisheries also tend to guarantee large stocks of fish aching to be caught.

When I was a small boy my late father tried his best to teach me to fish. The location was usually the lily ponds at Balquhidder in the Trossachs, Scotland’s ‘mini Highlands’ - not far from the less romantic towns of the urban central belt.

There were no facilities there, nor any guarantee of catching a thing.

Truth be told, I had very little interest in learning to fish.

My dad and I would sit there together for hours with nothing much to do and nothing much to say.

Just the two of us, the great outdoors and the ripples of rain on a pond which never seemed to reveal its secrets.