Dear Reader - what's it like to be a politician + the big beasts tackle Harrogate's woes

A personal column by the Harrogate Advertiser's Graham Chalmers

Friday, 2nd August 2019, 3:47 pm
The Saurus 'dinosaurs' arrive in Harrogate town centre. (Picture: Simon I Hill)

I spent an hour-and-a-half in a small room with a councillor the other week.

The idea was all mine and the end result was, I have to say, entirely pleasant.

It was a real pleasure talking to long-serving Harrogate councillor Jim Clark who recently became chair of North Yorkshire County Council.

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I try to take people as they come and treat politicians exactly the same, depending on their ideas and behaviour.Which is just as well, for my job as a journalist at the Harrogate Advertiser is to try to deal with everyone and everything fairly.

Anyway, irrespective of anything else, I learnt a lot from talking to Jim Clark for an hour-and-a-half in a small room.His passion for the arts. His pride in his Scottishness.And his desire to help Harrogate to mark the 75th anniversary of VE Day at the end of the Second World War in a stronger manner than, perhaps, the town marked the First World War anniversaries.

What I found more interesting, however, is the hint I got of what it’s like to be a senior councillor of many years standing.

What is the thinking of someone who has spent decades in the heart of local politics?What’s it like to always have to have to navigate the channels of local government?

Who’d have thought a dinosaur could be part of the solution to the future of Harrogate town centre?

Shoppers stopped in amazement and pressed the video button on their phones last Friday as the wild Saurus roamed free round Oxford Street and beyond.

The five metre high prehistoric creatures were only one part of a spectacular couple of days of fun laid on by Harrogate BID (Business Improvement District), Harrogate Borough Council and Harrogate International Festivals.

Oh, yes,and there was a mind-blowing parade and a fab carnival in the Valley Gardens where the aroma of food blended with the sound of music.

Officially, this entertaining invasion force was part of the Harrogate Welcomes the World celebrations tied into the forthcoming UCI World Road Cycling Championships in September.

But I think it was just as much a snapshot of where people’s thinking is going as to what to do with town centres as the retail sector slips into decline, in terms of national chains, at least.If that is the case, the weekend’s events offered some invaluable insights.

Despite the worst and wettest weather of the whole summer, attendance in Valley Gardens for the Carnival was a lot better than you would have imagined.

The main shopping streets in Harrogate town centre also had a real buzz about them to as street performers offered family fun and a DJ manned the music decks inside Boots store.A word of caution, however.

Even if footfall can be sustained in this manner, will people still flock to be entertained if the number of empty shop units was to carry on rising in the years to come?What would they be flocking to?The dinosaur on the street does not address the problem of the elephant in the room.