Dear Reader - The end of debate + the cult of Tubular Bells

A personal column by the Harrogate Advertiser's Graham Chalmers

Friday, 24th January 2020, 3:58 pm
Updated Friday, 24th January 2020, 3:59 pm
Arguments over the Stray at West Park in Harrogate are still raging months after the cyclists left town. (Picture by Gered Binks)

Context, they say, is everything.

But what happens if a substantial number of people start seeing the idea of context, not as a matter of fairness but as evidence you are simply on the wrong side?

I mention this in the, er, context of the running controversy over the muddy mess on Harrogate’s Stray at West Park.

The sad fact is I could be talking about almost every major issue that’s flared up over the last two or three years.

When it comes to this particular sore point - now there’s something I never thought I would find myself writing about the normally tranquil Stray - divisions run deep.

One side says it’s only grass, it will grow back.

The other it’s an utter disgrace and someone simply has to be blamed.

Of course, there are questions to be addressed over whether last year’s UCI cycling championships should have been held in Harrogate at all and whether more could have been done to protect the much-loved grassland.

And, at this point, I feel obliged to point out that it would have taken a brave person to have said ‘no’ to one of the biggest sporting events in the world coming to Harrogate and that the town very obviously wasn’t entirely in control of its own destiny for those very wet nine days in September.

If there’s one thing that being in newspapers for 35 years has taught me it is that what the truth is isn’t always clear-cut.

Often it’s to be found somewhere in the space in between.

Personally speaking, I think locating the middle ground still matters.

Without it, what is left isn’t debate, just a boxing match.

Harrogate’s Vinyl Sessions went to church last week to celebrate an iconic slice of 1970s rock history.

After 18 months in the cosy confines of Starling Independent Bar, for one night only this monthly charity music event took place amid the grandeur of All Saints Church in Kirkby Overblow, parts of which go back to the 14th century.

Now impressively equipped as a live venue, though it still performs its usual ecclesiastical duties, this stunning church was ram-jammed with people.

Who knew Mike Oldfield classic 1973 album Tubular Bells was so popular?

Even Vinyl Sessions organiser Colin Paine, who first set up the event to raise funds for Harrogate Hospital, knew it was a big occasion - and he was a DJ back in the day.

Not only was the crowd bigger than usual, so were the speakers, stacked up as if in preparation for an AC/DC gig.

I started to get nervous. Looking around the hubbub in the church before picking up the mic, I couldn’t be sure if most people were really there to hear me yak on about the deeper meaning of Tubular Bells, or for some other reason.

There I stood under a giant picture of Mike Oldfield projected onto a big screen feeling as nervous as Frankie Boyle about to give a talk at a Women’s Institute.

I’m not sure I rose to the occasion this time round but I did, at least, plough on, paying testimony to the 70s rock musician like a slightly dotty disciple of a long lost cult leader.