Dear Reader: Brilliant Henshaws + incident at The Club!

Graham Chalmers of the Harrogate Advertiser.
Graham Chalmers of the Harrogate Advertiser.

A personal column by the Harrogate Advertiser's Graham Chalmers

There’s a lot of talk these days about equality but there’s one place where it’s so real it’s almost in the air you breathe.

The Harrogate district is blessed with a huge range of fantastic charities doing great work but the atmosphere at Henshaws has to be experienced to be believed, particularly at the hive of activity that is its arts and crafts centre at Bond End in Knaresborough.

I’ve had the great pleasure of visiting there twice in the last fortnight, once to help judge its Volunteer of the Year awards, the second time to check out the action at the Mods on the Beach event.

This Harrogate charity specialises in providing support, advice and training to anyone affected by sight loss and other disabilities but each time I go, I can never tell who are the staff and who are the ‘art makers’, as they are known.

Add to the mix the arts and crafts centre’s regular events open to the public and the place fairly purrs along.

As for Mods in the Beach, the final event in this year’s ‘urban beach’ at Henshaws, the assembled crowds on Sunday were treated to a feast of live bands and tonnes of real-life sand.

Nostalgia was the day’s key note.

Many of the musicians on stage harked back to Quadrophenia which was first screened in 1979.

That famous movie was spawned by The Who’s album of the same name which was first released in 1973.

And that collection of classic songs was itself an act of nostalgia for the Mod scene of the early 1960s when sharp-suited young men fought running battles with rockers on a different beach in a different time.

According to the dictionary, ‘Mod’ is short for modern.

Joining clubs isn’t really my style but I broke the habit of a lifetime recently.

The Club is no ordinary club.

It first opened its imposing wooden doors to the great and good at 36 Victoria Avenue in 1886.

Although members-only, it’s keen these days to welcome everyone, especially a younger and wider demographic.

As a former comprehensive school pupil from an industrial town, that sounds like a good approach to me.

Among the many benefits of membership is getting your own key allowing access at any time of the day.

When I arrived with a friend late on Saturday the streets were dark and there wasn’t a single light visible inside.

“Please come in as my guest at The Club,” I said with a minor flourish.

I should add The Club’s committee is currently in the middle of restoring the building to its full Victorian splendour and it’s looking pretty impressive.

Despite the poor light, I successfully inserted my key at the first attempt then gave the large brass knob a firm yank.

All I heard was a dull thud as it came off in my hand and landed on the pavement.