‘Incredible’ Harrogate Festival hits new highs

Broadcaster and journalist Mark Lawson, Harrogate Festival chief executive Sharon Canavar, author Ruth Rendell and Simon Theakston, executive director of sponsors T&R Theakston. (Picture by Fenris Oswin)
Broadcaster and journalist Mark Lawson, Harrogate Festival chief executive Sharon Canavar, author Ruth Rendell and Simon Theakston, executive director of sponsors T&R Theakston. (Picture by Fenris Oswin)
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By Weekend Editor Graham Chalmers

This year’s Harrogate International Festival has been hailed an incredible success.

Ending last weekend with a sold-out show by the John Wilson Orchestra in the Royal Hall, chief executive Sharon Canavar said the raneg of events had ensured there truly was something for everyone.

“”It’s been an incredible Festival this year, the programme has been so diverse. It seems a long time since we began festivities at the end of May.”

To be strictly accurate, there have been at least five festivals since the cultural extravaganza originally kicked off nine weeks ago: The Spiegeltent and Fringe, the Children’s Festival, the Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival, Raworths Literature and Lecture Series and the music-packed Summer Festival.

The annual cultural feast was blessed with more good weather than most years but audience reaction and the number or star guests meant the sunshine was merely a bonus.

Sharon said: “The memorable live Wimbledon screening really stood out. I’ve never seen Montpellier Hill packed to such capacity; it was like Harrogate’s very own Murray Mount with our free Big Screen.

“We all felt incredibly proud to offer that live experience to the community for such a historic sporting moment.”

As expected, the Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival was a massive hit with a record 13,000 ticket sales this year.

Sharon said: “It’s been described as the Glastonbury of crime writing festivals because events sell out even before the line-up is announced.

“Featuring the brilliant Sarah Millican with Lee Child this year it was just hilariously good and I know everyone was buzzing from that event.

“Welcoming the legendary and iconic Ruth Rendell to the Festival to receive her Outstanding Contribution Award is something we, and Harrogate, should be very proud of.”

The Summer Festival has gradually won a reputation for spotting the proverbail ‘next big thing’ in music, having previously introduced Harrogate audiences to Amy Winehouse and Paloma Faith.

This year it was the turn of new singer Lianne La Havas whose performance was compared by this paper’s reviwer to the great Ella Fitzgerald.

All in all, quite a time for festival-goers.

Sharon said: “During rehearsals at the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra someone came up and said to me, “it’s like Premier League compared to the Conference North I usually hear”, which was quite a cool moment showing the world-class events the Festival brings.”