Dear Reader: Black Snake reform + tricky Valley Gardens issue

Paul Kettley of Black Snake.
Paul Kettley of Black Snake.
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A regular column by the Harrogate Advertiser's Graham Chalmers

One of Harrogate’s longest-standing independent bars was the scene of a remarkable reunion last week.

The return of Black Snake!

Now, I realise most readers will never have heard of this five-piece rock band.

Still, Monteys Rock Café was packed to the rafters – three to four hundred people all enjoying a trip down memory to the days of 1970s hard rock and 1980s heavy metal – long hair and loud guitars, Thin Lizzy and Black Sabbath, Metallica and Iron Maiden.

I’ve known the band’s lead singer Paul Kettley for nearly 25 years, sometimes in a reviewing capacity but mainly from facing him at five-a-side at Harrogate High School’s gym.

As expected, the singer was in phenomenal form at Monteys, as were the rest of this no-nonsense, high-energy band.

It truly was a brilliant night.

Amid the waving arms and clanking of beer glasses, there were an awful lot of familiar faces in the crowd, faces I recognised from the 1990s, the days of the Rum Runner, the Harrogate Arms and the Little Wonder.

It’s possible the people around me hadn’t been together in the same place at the same time since those days.

In a way the gig at Monteys was more of a reunion for the crowd than the band.

All-in-all, the debate on damage to the Valley Gardens was a lot better than I expected it to be.

There were a couple of daft moments at the open meeting called last week by the hard-working, unpaid volunteers of Friends of the Valley Gardens who look after Harrogate’s award-winning Victorian park.

At one point an expert in heavy vehicles took time to explain the different levels of damage caused to grass by different types of lorries.

But, in the main, everyone in the crowded hall in the redeveloped St Peter’s Church made intelligent points about the ins-and-outs and pros-and-cons of turning one of the country’s greatest traditional parks into a sort of unofficial events arena.

Everyone talked sense – from the residents who live in the neighbourhood to officers from groups with a vested interest in possibly holding events in the park to the Friends of the Valley Gardens themselves.

One particularly crucial point was raised early on.

As part of his opening address, a representative of Harrogate Borough Council, who licence events in Valley Gardens, informed the audience the reason the council didn’t hold more of these things on The Stray rather thanValley Gardens was because of the restrictions of The Stray Act.

With that, the ball seemed to have been left firmly in the court of the competing groups of people who care about the park in their different ways.

But the rug or turf, rather, was pulled from everyone’s feet less than 24 hours later.

A press release arrived in the newsroom the very next morning announcing a new proposal from Harrogate Borough Council - to apply to have The Stray Act relaxed by Parliament.