Blind artist with a unique view on life + Turkish Baths fiasco

Blind Harrogate artist Holly Holder.
Blind Harrogate artist Holly Holder.

Dear Reader - a regular column by the Harrogate Advertiser's Graham Chalmers

If my life had depended on it, I could not have guessed what was different about Holly Holder.

Harrogate's Turkish Baths.

Harrogate's Turkish Baths.

I was looking her straight in the eye but this remarkable woman seemed normal in every way sitting in the heart of her cosy studio at Conyngham Hall in Knaresborough.

Like every other artist I’ve ever met she was wrapped in her work and by it, safe in the company of her completed paintings, works in progress and half-empty, half-full tubes of paint.

One thing was different. Not all landscape painters need recorded labels on their paints which vocalise the name of their colour whenever a talking pen is pointed their way.

For Holly is a blind artist.

For 26 years she held different brushes in her hand as an in-demand make-up specialist to the stars in both movies and TV.

If Charlotte Rampling looked good in that film or Jeremy Irons in the other, the chances are it was partly because of Holly’s talented hand and accurate eye.

Then a hereditary condition called Retinitis Pigmentosa made itself felt a little earlier than expected.

These days this determined character risks life and limb simply by crossing the road on her own or walking into a shop to buy some groceries.

But she remains cheerful, positive and purposeful in every way. And she still paints.

She loves her art and the art she makes presents a bright vision of the world. And, if your life depended on it, you could not guess what was different about Holly Holder.

All the best stories are true. Where do you think fiction writers get their ideas from?

I mention this because I’m delighted that a ban on men-only bathing sessions at Harrogate’s luxurious Turkish Baths may be about to be over-turned for a trial period.

There is where I spent much of my wedding morning quite a few years ago.

I was a little tense and in need of the relaxed atmosphere of this stunnning Victorian building, its Moorish vaults, Arabesque ceilings and various soothing spa treatments.

Keeping me company was my best man, who looked the epitomy of calm, which was a little annoying.

At least that’s what I thought until he whispered something in my ear within the echoing chambers all around us. He’d dropped something - his own wedding ring.

Dressed only in white, fluffy towels, within seconds we were both on our hands and knees peering down on the wet floor desperately searching for the missing item.

Clearly my best man had been more nervous than I’d reckoned. I was tempted to have a chuckle until I got home and realised I’d left my spectacles behind in Harrogate’s luxurious Turkish Baths.