Dear Reader: Brilliant 'hidden' Harrogate mural + school days

A personal column by the Harrogate Advertiser's Graham Chalmers.

Friday, 21st September 2018, 4:09 pm
Updated Friday, 21st September 2018, 4:12 pm
Fantastic mural - Youngsters and local residents at the unveiling of the new wall mural in Starbeck. (1809156AM)

A very British mural was unveiled in Harrogate at the weekend and its impressive design didn’t contain a hint of a Union Jack.

I’d heard in advance how fantastic the massive wall painting in Starbeck was.

I wasn’t surprised. In terms of true community spirit, this small but important part of Harrogate has got it in spades, including the spades you often see deployed by hardy volunteers in their spare time as part of Starbeck’s award-winning In Bloom efforts.

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The feeling on the High Street and The Avenue and Stonefall is of life as a level playing field, rather than a competition.

It’s an atmosphere created, perhaps, by its geographical spot outside the bubble of natural affluence in central Harrogate and its more immediate neighbouring areas.

The giant mural with its attractive and colourful abstract patterns and shapes was put together from the designs of local schoolchildren after a lot of work by St Andrew’s Church, in particular.

It’s a truly impressive sight - when you actually notice it.

Unlike some urban areas in London or Leeds where murals almost set the tone for the entire area, Starbeck’s brilliant new feature has to be sought out, which is a shame.

Tucked politely round a corner down a side alley from the church, it’s a whisper of a “welcome to Starbeck” rather than a shout.

Starbeck is still a part of Harrogate in a lot of ways.

To step inside Brackenfield School is to step into a different world.

And I don’t mean that this small Harrogate school on the sought-after Duchy Road is independent as opposed to a state school or that it’s supported by its charity relief status as opposed to taxpayer money.

It’s not about that.

No, I mean it’s like going back to a perfect time in the past.

I was there to interview the new headteacher of this independent prep school for two to 11-year-olds.

The place was a buzz of chatter and purposefulness, bathed in an atmosphere of colour and warmth.

The pressures of the modern world seemed to be completely missing.

Children will be children but everything felt in its place and politeness abounded.

I was surprised to realise that it felt a bit odd to me.

Not only am I the child of a different era, I’m a child of a different place.

My education was one of urban primary schools and Grange Hill-like comprehensives in Scotland.

There the atmosphere was starker and harsher.

It was more Gregory’s Girl the movie than Tom Brown’s School Days the book but it couldn’t be called ‘nice’.

It probably says something about me that I sort of liked it that way!

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