Dear Reader - An era of virtue signalling + cinemas only live twice

A personal column by the Harrogate Advertiser's Graham Chalmers

Friday, 7th February 2020, 2:30 pm
Updated Friday, 7th February 2020, 2:32 pm
Should hard decisions be taken on issues such as town centre shops in Harrogate?

These days I seem to be getting more and more emails from strangers asking or, occasionally, telling me to write a story on a particular issue that’s put fuel in their fire.

I can’t always do anything with the ideas or complaints that pop into my inbox but I’m grateful to receive them.

The latest this week came from Anne Smith of Pannal who came up with a suggestion to solve traffic congestion in Harrogate town centre, one that I’ve heard a few times before.

The return of two-way traffic to the present one-way system on Parliament Street and West Park.

Whether you think that’s a lightbulb moment or not, the bigger problem is I’m not sure anyone is ready for such a practical measure in the current climate.

The fashion of the day is for lofty aims, broad statements and virtue signalling rather than getting down to the nitty-gritty.

From climate change to town centre shops, the intentions are good but the action required to get the job done seems beyond our resources or will.

If politics was based on realism, not sentiment, it might be possible to say something along the following lines: “If there isn’t likely to be a general and substantial reduction in business rates and rents to rescue the high street sector and struggling shops, perhaps, we should be accepting the inevitable and planning other ways of utilising the town centre such as arts and entertainment?”

Whoops, I can feel the brickbats flying already.

But the danger in pretending that every problem can be solved, is there’s no way the results can ever match the rhetoric.

When the lights went down for my very first time at ‘the pictures’ as a small boy in the 1960s I was spoilt for choice.

And I don’t mean what movie to watch.

In any case, I can’t remember if I saw Sean Connery in You Only Live Twice or Julie Andrews in Mary Poppins.

In those days my hometown of Falkirk had at least four cinemas

From what I’ve heard since moving here in 1987, the story was much the same in Harrogate in the 1960s.

What I didn’t know all those years ago sitting in the stalls of the ABC in short trousers was those were the twilight days of the golden age of cinema-going in the UK.

From a peak of 1,635 million cinema admissions in 1946, ticket sales dwindled to 193 million by 1970.

It’s no surprise that, by the 1990s, both these important towns in my life could only boast a solitary cinema each.

Flash forward to the present day and it’s great to see the movies are still going strong.

Harrogate now has two successful picture houses, the Odeon and Everyman.

I found myself in the latter earlier this week for a preview of next month’s Harrogate Film Festival.

This independently-run, imaginatively curated event is getting bigger every year, flying the flag for the town culturally at an international level.

A lesson that change isn’t once and for all and decline can be followed by revival

If the right decisions are taken.