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Dear Reader: Town centre changes needed + tricky art of sticking up posters

The Harrogate Advertiser's Graham Chalmers.
The Harrogate Advertiser's Graham Chalmers.

A personal column by the Harrogate Advertiser's Graham Chalmers

Shops and bars and restaurants and cafes come and go all the time – like most things.

But the streets of Harrogate town centre do seem to have seen more goings than comings in recent months.

Shops and bars and restaurants and cafes come and go all the time – like most things.

But the streets of Harrogate town centre do seem to have seen more goings than comings in recent months.

Some people believe it’s purely a national problem, one afflicting mainly particular chains the public have fallen out of love with.

But, if you read between the lines, local businesses have been complaining quietly about things round here, for a while, too.

The real story is one of the carrot and the stick.

The carrot being the cheaper prices online and the offer of home delivery.

The stick being the fear factor of austerity and Brexit and its impact on how we spend our money.

Plenty of people have good ideas for making changes to the town centre and the fabled high street to ensure its future economic good health.

I suspect tinkering might not be enough in itself in the years to come.

If the town, for example, really wants to retain its vital conference trade in the face of rivals such as Leeds and Birmingham, why not do something radical?

Why not knock through the hot-potch of ad hoc halls and rooms which have mushroomed off the original Harrogate Conference Centre on Kings Road over the past 25 years and create one single venue truly large enough to appeal to the big boys?

One of the changes which may help transform the atmosphere of the town centre for visitors and residents is clearer labelling of where things are and more spaces for promoting events and entertainments.

I know that there has been some effort on signage already in this direction in recent years.

But, at the moment, the few boards set up to promote events seem to be largely the preserve of Harrogate International Festivals and shows at Harrogate Theatre.

Now, before anyone is tempted to get on the nearest available high horse, I have to say both of these titans of the town’s arts scene fully deserve the spotlight.

The problem is that there’s very little room for anyone else in Harrogate’s diverse and vibrant cultural landscape.

A friend of mine was telling me recently that he had been forced to creep about at night putting posters for an event on the glass window of an empty retail unit or two.

He was almost as reluctant to talk about it as he had been to do it for, strictly speaking, it’s not allowed.

When it came to the crunch, the sight of neighbouring shopkeepers shutting up put him off.

But, he said, he plucked up the courage to return later to attempt the dastardly deed.

He’d just started to stick up the first poster when he felt a whoosh of air whizzing over his right shoulder.

He turned round just in time to see the police car.

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