Dear Reader: Up close to Farage + tale of two businesses

Nigel Farage MEP and entourage on Kings Road on Saturday approaching Harrogate Convention Centre.Nigel Farage MEP and entourage on Kings Road on Saturday approaching Harrogate Convention Centre.
Nigel Farage MEP and entourage on Kings Road on Saturday approaching Harrogate Convention Centre.
A personal column by the Harrogate Advertiser's Graham Chalmers

He’s a political celebrity, nearly a legend, really, but he’s a man without a title, except for the one he probably dislikes most of all – Member of the European Parliament.

In my defence, I didn’t follow a tanned and confident-looking Nigel Farage everywhere during his visit to Harrogate on Saturday.

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I was actually in front of him most of the time as he made his way in the middle of his pro-Brexit entourage through Harrogate down Parliament Street and along to Harrogate Convention Centre on Kings Road.

In town for a rally organised by the Leave Means Leave campaign, I took the view that what mattered to the Harrogate Advertiser and its readers wasn’t what was said by either the pro-Brexiteers or the anti-Brexit protesters who’d gathered outside the venue.There’s been plenty said already.

What mattered was what it was like to be in Harrogate the day it became the centre of national attention, even if the massive Peoples Vote march in London did overshadow it a little.

Harrogate doesn’t normally do public controversy and, unsurprisingly, the protesters at Harrogate Convention Centre turned out to be civilised to a fault.

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As for me, on a couple of occasions I found myself a matter of mere inches from the man who has done more to sow the seeds of political division in this country, perhaps, than anyone else in the last 20 years - and received more than his fair share of column inches.

Rather than grab a perfunctory couple of questions with the inevitable answers, I decided to say to him what journalists have found almost impossible. Nothing.

By chance I found myself experiencing very different ends of the business spectrum in the space of an hour and a half and the distance of just more than a mile last week.

I’d gone to Hornbeam Park to talk to one of Harrogate’s leading developers, Chris Bentley about why he is supporting a ‘yes’ vote in the current ballot of local business over whether the town should take a major step towards helping its retail and food and drink sector by becoming a Business Improvement District.

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Then I had to dash down Skipton Road to visit Jem Henderson, the young woman behind Indieworx collective, a new socially-minded independent business located at her welcoming base at Grove Road.

The first interviewee looked relaxed, sitting in the offices of a tower block in an area he owns most of.The second was hard at work putting the final touches to her fledgling enterprise.

At that moment neither seemed to have much in common except a burning ambition in business terms.But after I’d finished the mini series of interviews and set off back to the Harorgate Advertiser offices, I realised there was something more.

They wanted to do something to help make the town a better place as a whole.

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