Charity selects people’s choice

Sixty members of local charity Opening Doors enjoyed a summer lunch with an artistic twist earlier this month.

Following a two course meal at the Dower House in Knaresborough, members of the group, who are all older, disabled or have a sensory impairment, their guests and volunteers, were asked to take part in The People’s Choice, an initiative launched by the Mercer Art Gallery to create an exhibition of artwork chosen by members of the public in the Harrogate District.

Opening Doors which has been running for over 15 years, promotes independence for older and disabled people in Harrogate, enabling them to access social, leisure, shopping and medical appointments. The annual summer lunch is a highlight in the Opening Doors calendar and raises money to support the day-to-day running of the charity.

Freelance curator Sheila Asante from the Mercer Art Gallery approached Opening Doors to choose the final piece of artwork which completes the exhibition, launched last week. The exhibition features artwork from the District’s fine art collection, all selected by local people and groups. Mayor of Harrogate Michael Newby, Council Chief Wallace Sampson and actor Hugo Speer are just three of the prominent local people who have taken part in The People’s Choice.

Members of local charity Opening Doors which held its summer lunch at the Dower House Hotel in Knaresborough, Opening Doors’ choice: Janet Rawlins b. 1931, Open-air Art Market Harrogate, French Week, c.1950s

Opening Doors members chose a picture by Janet Rawlins depicting an open air art market in Harrogate during ‘French Week’ from the 1950s. Members of the group commented that it ‘brought back happy memories’ and ‘reminded them of summer’ whilst others thought that it showed ‘a bit of Paris in Harrogate’.

Sheila Asante, who attended the Opening Doors summer lunch with the artwork, said:

Working with people and groups from across the District has allowed us to introduce our fine art collection to new audiences. It has been fascinating to see the thought process and the debate that has taken place to choose each of the artwork – we’ve got an interesting and colourful selection to display.


Rachel MacKenzie from Opening doors said:

We were delighted to have been approached by the Mercer Art Gallery and to participate in this exciting project. We do hope as many people as possible will be able to go and view it.

The People’s Choice exhibition at the Mercer Art Gallery runs until Monday 15 September. For more information and opening times visit

Opening Doors supports around 70 people and has a team of 21 volunteers who enable the clients to get out and about. It is just one of the services provided by the Harrogate Easier Living Project (HELP) which was launched in 2011, bringing together three services which provide support for older people and those with a disability to remain independent in their own homes. Opening Doors along with Help at Home and Carers Time Off are partly funded by a Big Lottery Fund grant and are supported by an army of volunteers.

Anyone interested in finding out more about the service, or becoming a volunteer, should contact Rachel MacKenzie or Lizzie Hughes on 01423 813095 or

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