Dear Reader: Supporting Harrogate's Indie Guide + Harrogate's very nice Buddhists

A personal column by the Harrogate Advertiser's Graham Chalmers

Thursday, 30th November 2017, 3:54 pm
Updated Wednesday, 6th December 2017, 12:57 pm
Richard and Danni Park, owners of The Little Ale House in Harrogate, one of the indies at the launch of Indie Harrogate.

This newspaper has championed the cause of independents longer than anyone, so there was no way I was going to miss the launch of ‘Indie Harrogate’ recently.Call me naive but I believe in the idea that ‘indies’ are better than chains - my own music and arts events are always 'indie' - though there are clearly exceptions to every rule.Paul Rawlinson’s rallying call had attracted a packed room of sole traders from the town’s cafés, bars, galleries, restaurant and shops.Expectation was in the air as the owner of Baltzersens cafe and Norse restaurant began his ‘pitch’ upstairs in craft beer bar Major Tom’s Social on The Ginnel off Parliament Street in Harrogate.Amid the hulabaloo, there were a few bumpy moments. Getting nearly 100 people to agree on anything together is always tricky.But there were also lot of good suggestions about how the indies can assert their interests for the benefit of the town - and themselves.Speaking personally, I hope everyone there does sign up to the stylish new Indie Guide Paul Rawlinson aims to bring out next year.But I also hope the guide itself is merely a starting point rather than an end destination.The spirit of working together for the sake of doing things in an original way is more important in the long run than any glossy publication could ever be.Still, whatever happens I’m not going to forget the sight of Paul standing on top of a table in the crowded bar addressing the troops.

Never talk about religion or politics they say, so I’m going to do both.That alarming feeling you often get when facing someone with different political beliefs isn’t caused so much by the details of the disagreements.It’s the clear difference in interpreting the whole landscape.How much more so this is the case when it comes to religion or spirituality I first discovered a long time ago when when my brother became ‘born again’ during the first Gulf War.I knew it was serious when he began throwing out most of his vast collection of rock and pop albums with the words it was the “devil’s music.”Statues of Buddha have become almost a common sight as lava lamps in people’s houses, even if it’s only decorative.But meeting two members of of Harrogate’s quietly thriving Buddhist community in person last week was an eye-opener.Buddhism may have more than 520 million followers worldwide but its exact meaning remains a mystery to most people.I learned a lot, in particular that more than being individuals focused on their own practice of their traditions, beliefs and spiritual practices - their dharma - Harrogate’s Buddhists are engaged in local charity work to help others, specifically at Harrogate Hospital.I came away thinking that Buddhism may be among the least covered religions by the UK media but its followers are among the nicest people of faith I’ve met.