Dear Reader - Everyone wants to help Harrogate + the nicer side of comedy

A personal column by the Harrogate Advertiser's Graham Chalmers

Friday, 9th August 2019, 3:20 pm
The rising star of British comedy - St Aidans High School old girl Maisie Adam, who is returning to her Harrogate roots to fundraise for a cancer charity inspired by much-missed schoolboy Frank Ashton.

An increasing array of different groups of people seem to be queuing up to rescue Harrogate town centre.

Harrogate Borough Council, Harrogate BID, Independent Harrogate, Friends of Harrogate Town Centre and now, possibly, something called Town Team suggested by the Lib Dems all contemplating different strategies for action.All in all, I believe this augurs well for the future of Harrogate.

Not that any of this will come as news to our readers who were early to spot that things were not quite right about the town centre.They’ve not been slow to make their views known, firstly, in this newspaper’s Town Centre Survey a year ago and, secondly, in their more recent posts to the Harrogate Advertiser ‘State of Harrogate’ Facebook Group we have set up.

Of course, the idea that Harrogate, or anywhere else in this largely prosperous district is ‘going to the dogs’ is preposterous.But complacency can be dangerous.

People sometimes say if you want to take the temperature of a town, ask a taxi driver.I haven’t heard a positive comment on the state if Harrogate from any of the drivers who’ve ferried me around on the occasional night out since about 2003 or 2004.

Still, as someone who has lived in this town more than 30 years, I can think of at least four significant ways in which things in the town centre have deteriorated of late.Too many cooks may spoil the broth but we should be grateful, at least, that plenty of people are hard at work in the kitchen.

“I still get some of my material from my days at school,” the rising star of British comedy told me in Marconi café in Harrogate the other week.

In the case of St Aidan’s High School ‘old girl’ Maisie Adam this is no cause for alarm on the part of the school or the town.

The last time I’d chatted to her in person two years ago we were in the same location.But things have changed a lot for the likably down-to-earth and very funny Maisie since then.

Since she won an Edinburgh Fringe award in 2017 and moved ‘down south’, the world has become this talented youngster's oyster card.Sorry, I realise that, er, ‘gag’ only works if she lived in London, not Brighton, her current home.

Anyway, Maisie may be a star of TV shows such as BBC TV’s Mock the Week but she not only remembers her roots in Harrogate, she honours them.

Which is why she’s returning to St Aidan’s next month for a charity comedy show she’s organised to fundraise for the much-loved schoolboy Frank Ashton, a huge comedy fan who died from a rare form of bone cancer called Ewing’s sarcoma earlier this year.It’s a nice thing to do but then again Maisie is a nice person.

There’s often an element of cruelty in comedy but this talented former Harrogatonian seems to have enjoyed a glide to the top with manners intact.Her influences hail from the gentler side of comedy, inspired by the likes of Victoria Wood.That and those happy school days in Harrogate she still cherishes.