Dear Reader: After cycling thrill is gone + Blues Bar's cultural greatness

Harrogate cycling hero Mark Cavendish.
Harrogate cycling hero Mark Cavendish.

A personal column by the Harrogate Advertiser's Graham Chalmers

The streets of Harrogate were awash in blue, yellow and white Yorkshire flags last Friday when the glittering cycling stars of this year’s Tour de Yorkshire rode through the town centre, thanks, primarily, to an enterprising street seller doing the rounds on Parliament Street.

But, perhaps in a sign of the times we live in, god’s own county wasn’t the only colours being waved with some vigour, possibly in an effort to keep warm.

Outside Bettys tearooms and The Ivy restaurant were the 12 gold stars on a deep blue background of the EU, presumably brandished by pro-Remainers.

A little further along West Park saw some anti-fracking banners making their point about Ineos.
Altogether, crowds seemed a little thinner than previous years in the unseasonal weather, though the chill factor didn’t stop young Harry conducting his usual Free Walking Tour of Harrogate, nor The Guardian’s visiting correspondent writing about the event in person.

Talking to small independent traders this week in passing, most of them expressed concern that major cycling events hadn’t done much so far to put money in their pockets.
One cannot live on sporting excitement and TV coverage alone.
What lingers after the thrill is gone?

But one person who seemed certain the idea of bringing world class cycling to Harrogate was a good one was a member of the peleton.
He may not have won the actual race but when Mark Cavendish came wheeling along the roads of a town his mum calls home his face was beaming with a smile a mile long.

Council: Why Harrogate needs cycling events

There’s always a surprise or two in the Blues Bar in Harrogate.

Don’t ask me why? Its special character is a mystery.

It must be more than the weather-beaten wooden floor boards or its relaxed welcome to one and all.

As the town’s only venue hosting live music seven nights a week all year round, perhaps, all that blues and rock and roll and funk and folk has seeped into the bar’s very pores?
I only know that it’s the only place in town where you’re likely to see a besuited businessman from London at the bar rubbing shoulders with someone who looks like they may never have worked.

Having attracted music legends in the past such as poet John Cooper Clarke, Julian Cope of 80s hitmakers Teardrop Explodes and singer Glen Hansard, star of the film Once, I’m tempted to hail the Blues Bar as one of Harrogate’s greatest cultural achievements of the last 50 years.

I think I may have said as much to Paula Lorimer, the new director of Harrogate Convention Centre the other week.

I certainly said she should start pushing the idea of promoting Harrogate as a centre of creative and independent culture as well as elegance and tradition.
I’m not entirely sure this formidable figure bought the idea.
Back to the Blues Bar?

Interview: 'Dreaming big' pays off for famous Harrogate rock band