D&S column: the great strength of our communities

THE strength of our communities in North Yorkshire has been constant source of satisfaction and gratitude since I became MP.

I’m always coming across groups and organisations working to make their communities a better place.

Last weekend, I encountered three excellent examples of people coming together for local good causes and having great fun while doing so.

On Friday, along with family and colleagues from my Northallerton constituency office, I attended the Stokesley Scouts and Guides quiz at the Wainstones Hotel in Great Broughton for an evening of brain teasers, good food (generously provided by hotel owners David and Rachael Hume) and conversation.

I’m pleased to say Team Sunak performed creditably and I was relieved that we at least got the question about the number of MPs in the House of Commons right (it’s 650). But as a cricket fan, I’m still puzzling over the number of ways you can apparently be out at cricket – turns out the answer is ten!

Congratulations to the quiz winners – The Batmen team – and organiser Chris Johnson. More than 100 people had a great time at an event which raised more than £800 for improvements to the scout and guide centre in North Road, Stokesley.

On Saturday morning, together with my wife, Akshata, I was at Hackforth, near Bedale, to open the village hall’s new toilet facilities. I had been wondering what I might be asked to do at “The First Flush” event and it turned out that my “flush” triggered a spectacular display of pyrotechnics.

Funding for these excellent new facilities came from three charities and Hambleton District Council but the work could not have been completed without a lot of voluntary effort by villagers, many of whom were there on Saturday to celebrate the fruits of their labours.

It’s a lovely village hall and all credit to village hall secretary Chris McGee and supportive villagers from Hackforth, Hornby and Langthorne for making this happen. While there Akshata found out about the village branch of the WI and I enjoyed a dominoes masterclass and also took on the table tennis ball serving machine. I think it won!

I also heard about the Live@Hackforth events – a great initiative to bring high quality bands to a rural venue and I look forward to attending one of their gigs in the future.

On Saturday evening we were just five minutes from home in Kirby Sigston to see the last night of Northallerton Variety Company’s panto Robinson Crusoe at the Forum - which itself is a great community-run facility. It was a highly entertaining show performed by a very talented cast with some great dance routines by the younger members in particular.

Since its foundation in 1979, the Company has raised many thousands of pounds from its productions. Last year the beneficiaries included the Friarage’s MRI scanner appeal and the Dales School at Morton on Swale.

It is yet another example of a local organisation which puts so much back into our communities, helping to keep them strong. I’ve mentioned three such organisations and there are, of course, many more. We owe them all our thanks.