Christmas provides a packed diary for a Mayor on civic duty

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Since my last diary column, which covered the first six months of my mayoral year, our activities have continued unabated and the pace of engagements have increased as Christmas approached, writes Mayor of Harrogate Coun Nick Brown.

The Mayoress’s fractured ankle, sadly, has still not fully recovered since she broke it in early May but at least she has been able to attend some less strenuous functions.

I briefly mentioned before, in my last diary article, that I welcomed a special train from London, at Harrogate Station, laid on for visitors to the Christmas Market, and to mark the occasion I wore my bowler hat. One such visitor looked at me and said “Ee lad, you do look like the Fat controller!C

In the run-up to Christmas, carol events came thick and fast with wonderful and well-attended services at St Peter’s Church in Harrogate and at Ripon Cathedral, with fine singing from their respective choirs. Then there was the carol concert and Christmas tree lighting at Harrogate Hospital with singing by youngsters from St Robert’s RC school, in great voice, and joined by donkey Nigel.

The Mayoress and I were hugely moved by the love and care shown to all the pupils of the Forest School in Knaresborough, that provides for pupils, aged three to 16, with a range of complex disabilities and special educational needs, at their carol service.

The Tewit Youth Band’s concert, Green Hammerton Primary School’s Carols round the Tree concert, the Harrogate Symphony Orchestra and Harrogate Choral Society, together with more than 300 children singing their hearts out at HIC and a Carols by Candlelight Concert in aid of Craft Aid International – all were hugely uplifting.

Then there was the Harrogate Gilbert and Sullivan Society’s Christmas Concert with the great Brighouse and Rastrick Band.

All of these culminated, at a packed Royal Hall, in my own Mayoral Carol Concert on Christmas Eve, for my own mayoral charities when we also saw on stage, to well-deserved applause, Rio Olympian divers Oliver Dingley and gold and silver medallist Jack Laugher, both born in the Harrogate district.

With all the cheering and singing at this and the other events in December it was no wonder that it made me totally lose my voice over Christmas which was, according to my family, no bad thing.

Other musical and theatrical interludes included a truly splendid Messiah given by the Harrogate Choral Society, a fabulous performance of Billy Elliot by pupils at St John Fisher School, a wonderful piano recital given by the Serbian pianist Nikola Avramovic, sponsored in his studies by generous Harrogate philanthropists, and finally a hugely amusing amateur production of ‘Allo ’Allo at Kirkby Overblow.

And there were even more engagements during the month with highlights being the the Christmas shop window contest, the first anniversary of the opening of Cordings, a fabulous Arts Fund lunch at Rudding Park, dinner with the Ripon Rowels Rotary Club with gorgeous food provided by the Royal Baths Chinese restaurant, the opening of the new civic room at the Harrogate Club together with an interesting lecture on a previous Mayor, the great Samson Fox, by Malcolm Neeson, tree-planting around the new HBC civic building by myself and children from Coppice Valley Primary School, a taekwondo Christmas party, the Mayor of Knaresborough’s Christmas charity quiz night, the induction of the new pastor, the Rev Ann Chesworth, to the Baptist Church in Harrogate, who will be a huge asset to the district, a delightful meeting with Wallace Sampson, the chief executive of HBC, and myself at a meeting of the Harrogate Men’s Forum, various Christmas fairs and a visit to the food bank’s “Cares at Christmas” campaign in Knaresborough where I met some very dedicated volunteers.

This was true also on Christmas Day when I helped serve lunch for some service-users of the Harrogate Homeless Project together with 80 or so other recipients of a marvellous Christmas feast. I was humbled by the passion and commitment of volunteers who organise this year after year.

We were honoured to give a civic welcome to the UK’s Chief Rabbi, Ephraim Mirvis, paying an official visit to the Jewish community in Harrogate, the first for many years.

Other highlights included being present at the last speech day for the headmaster of Ripon Grammar School, Martin Pearman, who is retiring next summer. He will be able to look back on a job well done at this great school.

Linda and I took part in the unveiling, performed by the Belgian Consul, M Bruno Marien, and his wife Greta, of a restored plaque to commemorate the help and support given by the people of Harrogate to many hundreds of Belgian refugees who were displaced during the First World War.

None of our involvement at these events could have occurred without the tremendous backing of my very small team of mayoral staff at HBC and I must thank all of those attached to this task.

With just under five months to go to the end of my mayoral term I still have much to look forward to, including my ball in aid of my charities on April 8 but more of that will be in a feature with the Advertiser series, our media partner for the event, nearer the time.

I wish everyone a very happy and prosperous New Year.