Dear Reader: If I got an MBE + the people's Bed Race

The Harrogate Advertiser's Graham Chalmers.
The Harrogate Advertiser's Graham Chalmers.

A personal column by the Harrogate Advertiser's Graham Chalmers

If in some bizarre alternative universe I ever received a Royal Honour I reckon I would be fairly casual about it, even torn, perhaps.
Or that’s what I thought until last Thursday, that is.

Some of the crowds enjoying Knaresborough Bed Race at the weekend. (1806091AM26)

Some of the crowds enjoying Knaresborough Bed Race at the weekend. (1806091AM26)


It’s one thing reading about who’s got what in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list.
It’s another thing entirely when that list contains two people you know well and respect.


News that both Jane Sellars and Keith Tordoff were going to get a MBE found me all of a flutter, though possibly not quite as all of a flutter as Jane and Keith must have been.
Though both of them have achieved much for the community over several decades, they operate in very different worlds.
One is being recognised for services to the arts and to the community in the North of England, the other for services to business and the community in Nidderdale.
In some ways they are very much alike, however, and I don’t mean they both work very hard.
You don’t tend to make the Queen’s List if you don’t.
No, I mean their character.


Two people determined to make a difference.
Two people who put getting something good done above almost everything else.
Two people unafraid to do it their way.


In these troubled times, these two particular royal honours constitute a heartening sign.


l Even the photographs seem to say in their own silent way that this year’s Bed Race in Knaresborough was something rather special.
The sun shone on the event and on its record crowds – as many as 40,000 people.
The appeal of this slightly potty charity challenge over a gruelling 2.4 mile course which was first staged in 1966 isn’t hard to fathom.
There’s the spectacular parade.
Then there’s the hair-raising race.
Not to forget the live entertainment at BedFest at Henshaws.
And all of it taking place in the dramatic setting of a town whose topography alone attracts tourists in their thousands each year.
But I think there’s also something else which helps explain the Bed Race’s enduring success.


It truly is a whole town effort - a community event for the community by the community.
Despite its considerable growth over the last decade or so – and the consequent increase in bureaucracy and costs, not to forget things like health and safety and terrorism-related concerns - it is still run by Knaresborough Lions and an army of volunteers.


It may now depend partly on the support of sponsors, but it still doesn’t feel corporate.


On Bed Race day, the streets belong not only to the 90 teams racing but to the people.