Harrogate set to bid to host historic Great Exhibition of the North

Scene in Harrogate
Scene in Harrogate

The cultural eyes of Britain could be cast on Harrogate in summer 2018, with the town set to bid to host the Great Exhibition of the North.

The two-month exhibition, part of George Osborne’s plans to build a ‘northern powerhouse’, will celebrate the best of the north of England’s culture, art and design.

In April, the competition opened for towns and cities across the north to bid to put on the exhibition and Harrogate is set to throw its name into the ring.

Competing towns so far are said to be Preston, Gateshead, Bradford and Whitehaven.

The venue will be chosen by the Great Exhibition Board, chaired by Sir Gary Verity, and the winning bid announced in the autumn.

The leader of Harrogate Borough Council, Coun Richard Cooper, said the bid would signify the new, ambitious direction that the council was heading in.

However, he stressed that the council had to ensure the event would prove valuable for tax payers’ money before officially putting the bid in.

He said: “I am excited about the possibility of Harrogate hosting the Great Exhibition but I don’t want residents to think that this is unusual for us.

“The council will be bidding for a lot of large-scale events as this is all a part of our vision for the future. We want people holding these big events to think of Harrogate.”

“But we need to make sure that these events will bring more money in, more jobs and more people who are spending money in the shops, restaurants and hotels.”

The Government is contributing £5million towards the exhibition with a £15million ‘legacy fund’ also provided to attract cultural investment in the North.

The first Great Exhibition was held in 1851, including a specially commissioned ‘crystal palace’ in London’s Hyde Park, with six million people attending.

Director of Visit Harrogate Mike Newby doesn’t believe quite as many people will attend this exhibition more than 150 years on, he stressed the event would reinforce the town’s national stature.

He said: “To have such a prestigious event in Harrogate would be a fantastic opportunity to show ourselves as an important centre in the North.

“Harrogate would be a fantastic place to host it. We’re in a great location with the Stray, the showground and the International Centre all fantastic places to hold events.

“There’s perhaps a feeling that the North is all industrial but this would be a fantastic chance to show there’s a different side to what we have to offer.”

Sir Gary Verity brought Harrogate to the world stage in 2014 when he lured the Grand Depart of the Tour de France here as chief executive of Welcome to Yorkshire.

He chairs the Great Exhibition board and said the event will showcase the best of North’s present and future, rather than focusing on past achievements.

He said: “We will be showcasing our art, design and culture to the world in 2018 and high quality bids are an essential part of ensuring that we deliver an incredible Great Exhibition.”

The chosen venue will be announced in the autumn.