Dear Reader: Fame in Harrogate + hurrah for independents
A personal column by the Harrogate Advertiser's Graham Chalmers
One thing led to another and before you knew it I was chatting to an artist who has the good fortune to call LA his home for several months of the year.
As anyone who’s lived in this part of Yorkshire for any time will realise, there’s more to life in this district than meets the eye.
Chatting to this talented artist in the throng of Harrogate’s Little Ale House, I got the impression he quietly thought he was the bees-knees – though, if you’d ever seen his artwork, he’s got good reason to think so.
I didn’t get phased by this. Over the years I’ve bumped into all sorts in Harrogate, from legendary late film director Ken Russell at the Harrogate Odeon, to bestselling author Ian Rankin at Theakston’s Old Peculiar Crime Writing Festival to Sir Peter Blake, the man who designed the sleeve of Sgt Pepper, at RedHouse Originals art gallery.
This weekend will see another arrival at this Harrogate venue who is as ‘modern’ as they come.
Rock music photographer Brian Cannon not only shot the iconic sleeve of Oasis’s classic (What’s the Story) Morning Glory, it’s also him pictured walking along London's Berwick Street on the album cover.
It's him, ironically, with his back to the camera.
I had the great pleasure of talking to Colin Gibbs, the president of Harrogate’s Tewit Youth Band, earlier this week about the band’s recent exploits on a tour of Canada.
What these young musicians achieved in Barrie, Ontario, one of Harrogate’s twin towns, goes well beyond playing fantastic music.
They acted, albeit by accident, as ambassadors for all of us, making friends wherever they went, flying the flag unpaid for the town.
But what is our town?
It was encouraging to learn this week that the Harrogate district’s independents may finally be about to get some official support.
A new ‘Harrogate Independents’ campaign about to be launched by Visit Harrogate means at long last that the authorities are recognising something the public knew all along - locally-owned shops, bars, cafes and restaurants are one of the best things about living where we do.
The Harrogate Advertiser has been writing about this issue regularly for years as two things began to become obvious – independents were on the rise and national chains were on the wane.
With their closeness to their customers and their capacity for fresh and original thinking, the former are clearly more likely to ride out our present storms than the latter.
Not that being independent always means being better. No one has a monopoly on quality.
But the carrot of the internet and stick of austerity seem less likely to undermine a smaller more specialist, locally-owned business than a giant, one-size-fits-all national company.
It may be that the notion that the nation’s obsession with brands and chains is finally over is a little far-fetched, to say the least. But the fact the authorities are realising that times have changed feels like a sea change.
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