One of the main driving forces and organisers behind a forthcoming charity event to mark the Harrogate shopping Montpellier Quarter’s 25th anniversary has a very personal reason for doing so.
Harrogate woman Antonia Sutcliffe, daughter of the owners of Sutcliffe Galleries in the quarter, is leading the push to raise funds for Beat, the country’s leading charity supporting people affected by eating disorders.
Unknown to anyone except those close to her, Antonia, who runs the Sutcliffe Contemporary Gallery, has been battling with anorexia nervosa herself for more than 20 years.
But this courageous woman has now decided to ‘go public’ about it for the first time.
Antonia, 35, said: “I’m coming out that I’m annorexic because ithe only way I can raise money for B-eat, which is the country’s leading charity supporting people like myself affected by eating disorders, is by admitting it to everyone.”
The last two decades have seen her been in-and-out of eating disorder units and hospital five times, including two weeks in intensive care.
For all that time, her condition has been a family secret as Antonia bravely fought to live a normal life.
Her mum Helen Sutcliffe said the family were so impressed by her daughter's bravery.
She said: “We are very proud of Antonia making the brave decision to go public about her eating disorder.
“She is not doing it for sympathy but to show that something positive can come from something so negative and debilitating.”
The main public event in this year’s 25th anniversary celebrations of the establishment of the Montpellier Quarter in Harrogate is called People Meet the People.
To be held from 5pm to 8pm on Thursday, December 14, this street party and late night shopping event is just in time for Christmas and involves almost all the traders in the area.
The iconic Purple Man of York will be hosting the event and there will be street entertainment and Christmas music.
The decision to finally go public with her own struggles has not been an easy one for Antonia but is typical of someone who has already overcome many obstacles in her life.
Born and raised in Harrogate, Antonia was educated at Brackenfield School and Harrogate Ladies College.
Despite her illness, she still managed to gain a degree at Leeds Metropolitan University in business, marketing and PR.
She then went on to join the family business and set up a contemporary gallery on Montpellier Street in 2006. But Antonia has not forgotten all the help she has received over the years and has always been keen to give something back.
In 2009, 2010 and 2011, this quietly inspirational figure organised similar Christmas events in the Montpellier Quarter, raising a total of £12,000 for Saint Michael’s Hospice and Martin House.
And she’s also grateful for the support over the years from her parents.
Antonia said: “It’s been a constant battle but my parents have done so much for me over the years in personal ways.
“That’s why I’m coming out in this way. If I can help just one person not go through what I’ve been through the last 20 years, it will be worth it.”