Dear Reader: a weekly column by the Harrogate Advertiser's Graham Chalmers
“Jimi Hendrix was in Harrogate once.” Well, Chris Salewicz should know.
This renowned former NME writer from the golden age of music journalism is the author of 17 books and numbers Mick Jagger, Keith Richards and the late Joe Strummer among his close, personal friends.
I’d invited him up from London to take part in a talk at RedHouse Originals Gallery in Harrogate in a small-ish, independently-organised bash I was involved with on Saturday.
Called Spirit of 66, the exhibition/talk/gig was so busy people were spilling out of the doors of RedHouse Originals onto the pavement on Cheltenham Mount.
It was so bad, in fact, the rest of the ‘cast’ - artist Dudley Edwards, beatnik poet Heath Common, a string quartet from Harrogate Symphony Orchestra and RedHouse co-owner Richard McTague himself - could scarcely be squeezed in.
Later on, we shifted location to one of the town’s most distinguished venues, the fabulously grand and Victorian The Club on Victoria Avenue where the likes of Sir Arthur Conan Coyle once played snooker.
We’d booked a semi-psychedelic new rock band called The Chessmen. It has to be said they were loud as well as brilliant but it turned out to be a great night.
As for the Hendrix story, it emerged that Hendrix had travelled from Ilkley one night in 1966 during a brief break from touring to watch John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers playing in Harrogate.
When people think of the town they tend to think of tradition but the success of Saturday’s happenings showed that’s not entirely true.
Harrogate is big enough to have many sides.
Afterall, on the same weekend as this year’s Harrogate International Festival came to an impressive finale with a performance of Mozart, Tchaikovsky and Dvorak by the Czech National Symphony Orchestra, here was a very different event where the talk was of The Rolling Stones, The Beatles, Pop Art and psychedelia.
Saint Michael’s Church in Markington was packed to its leaky rafters on Sunday.
This was no ordinary service. It was part of William Willberforce Day, a celebration of this quiet village’s close connections to the man whose determination was instrumental in ending the slave trade.
Standing alongside the parish’s own vicar Paul was a new face in the church - the Archbishop of York Dr John Sentamu.
No wonder there was more pomp and pageantry on show than normal in the lovely morning light of this beautiful 19th church set on a leafy lane on a country road near Ripon.
It soon became obvious that the power of Dr Sentamu’s quietly commanding presence was more than enough in itself.
After a witty reminder to the congregation of the importance of Saint Michael’s appeal to raise enough money to plug the holes in its roof, the archbishop got to the nub of his sermon.
I’m not a strongly religious man but it was easy to see why Dr Sentamu is who he is.
Nothing he said was forced. He never laboured a point or got bogged down in detail.
He let the words speak for themselves. And the spirit.