Dear Reader: Does Harrogate deserve Great Exhibition of the North?

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

A personal column by the Harrogate Advertiser's Graham Chalmers

Whether Harrogate ends up hosting the Great Exhibition of the North or not, and it’s a bit of a moot point despite our story last week, there is a bigger question to be addressed.

Does Harrogate deserve to host this celebration of what’s best in culture, art and design in the north of England?

Sometimes when I’m trying to appear, er, clever to friends I describe Harrogate as a “little bit of the south up north.”

But it’s not true. I’ve been to the south and Harrogate is different and better.

The town clearly retains many Yorkshire characteristics but it’s hard to argue it’s typical of the county and it’s even trickier to claim it is representative of the north of England as a whole.

Which is a bit rich coming from a Scotsman - even if I have lived in God’s Own County for 30 years.

If over the years I have become in any way “Yorkshire” I suspect it’s a Harrogate version of this honourable status.

Last Friday saw myself and a few friends indulge ourselves in a leisurely train pub crawl from Harrogate to Leeds and back again on a day off work.

The standard of the bars on our route varied wildly from place to place but our favourite by some distance was Friends of Ham in Leeds for one simple reason.

The charcuterie.

Every now and then someone will say to me “don’t you feel a bit silly introducing bands at your music nights who’re sometimes 30 years younger than you. Aren’t you too old to like indie or alt rock or whatever?”

Well, no, not really, I usually reply. I’ve written about local bands for nearly 25 years and I really enjoy presenting great new bands to people who might not have seen them before.

This district is full of musical talent, proof of which came at the annual free Bed Fest on Saturday at Henshaws Arts and Crafts Centre which acts as a sort of a giant after-show party to Knaresborough Bed Race.

At least 500 people showed up to watch around 40 acts, mostly hailing from less than five miles from the venue itself.

I did my bit to help by MC-ing the main stage after DJ Trev, a case of the amateur following the professional.

It’s not my natural forte but it’s hard to say no to Bed Fest’s highly likable organiser Rufus Beckett - plus the line-up was truly amazing.

Still I may have a bit too carried away with one of the bands I introduced to hundreds of people, Black Ocean, a young Harrogate alt-rock band I’ve happily tried my best to support this year.

Temporarily taking centre stage at the mic stand, I showered the four grungey-looking young men with lavish praise in front of the rather relaxed Bed Race day crowd.

Job done, I handed the microphone back to the lead singer and turned to leave the stage. Before I could make a move, the vocalist replied over the PA with a little smile “cheers dad.”