Dear Reader - Time for direction on Harrogate town centre + day the parrot joined the newsroom

A personal column by the Harrogate Advertiser's Graham Chalmers

Thursday, 28th November 2019, 4:40 pm
Has Harrogate got a clear direction yet on how to support the retail sector in its town centre.

If there’s one thing worse than having no idea how to tackle a problem, it’s having too many ideas.

The question we put in this edition to the four candidates for Harrogate and Knaresborough in the General Election about the poor performance of the railways in our district elicited four very different answers.

It’s not just at a national level where a consensus is hard to reach.

Almost a year after it was set up, Harrogate Business Improvement District faces challenges over its membership and direction.

The recent ballot for the board of this Harrogate business body, whose mission in an era of shop closures is to boost the future of the town centre, may not sound the sexiest of topics but that doesn’t mean it isn’t important.

A significant number of independent traders are hoping the board’s make-up will end up reflecting the whole business community, and not just out of a sense of fairness.

Wider representation may produce general agreement on the direction to take.

If you can’t decide which way to go, you’re unlikely to get there.

Over the years, I’ve dealt with all sorts of visitors who’ve turned up in the newsroom, from hard-working community volunteers to angry customers, leading politicians to unknown musicians.

Astrologer Russell Grant even turned up at the front desk when I was at the Goole Times a long time ago.

I didn’t see that one coming.

The latest visitor to arrive at the Harrogate Advertiser at 55 Grove Road was Jim Clark, chairman of North Yorkshire County Council.

A respected councillor of many years standing, this fellow Scotsman wanted a wee chat about a few things.

A new play about Harrogate and the monarchy, the role of Carnegie libraries, plans to record the memories of people in North Yorkshire who lived through WW2, the Scots’ contribution to life in this county.

I really enjoyed our chat but, as a politics and modern history graduate who headed south after graduating from Edinburgh University, I’m a bit cautious about taking pride in my own heritage.

Ask me when Londoners first started complaining about émigrés from north of the border snapping up top jobs and I’ll reply almost as soon as the ink was dry on the Act of Union in 1707.

The one thing I can say with confidence is that it’s in a newspaper’s interest to open its doors to visitors one and all.

There are exceptions.

I can still picture the time during those days at the Goole Times when a large parrot appeared in the newsroom on the first floor.

Yes, a parrot.

Don’t ask me why the thing decided to fly in or who had left the big upstairs window wide open.

I gave it chase round the room, clambering on top of desks, arms out-stretched, trying to grab the flapping thing.

In truth, my efforts were more in hope than expectation.

The parrot had clearly decided the spacious newsroom with its lofty ceiling was somewhere to seek permanent residence.