Charles and Camilla mark Harrogate International Festival's 50th anniversary

Charles and Camilla in Harrogate
Charles and Camilla in Harrogate
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The Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall congratulated Harrogate International Festivals on their 'special' 50th anniversary as they visited the town's Royal Hall this morning.

The royal pair enjoyed a private tour of The Royal Hall and a showcase of the Festivals' events, including the 'Musical Mums' group, 'Kids, Spies and Private Eyes' and 'Young Musicians'.

St John Fisher's jazz band performed for supporters of the festival as The Royal Highnesses made their way into the historic auditorium.

British cellist and conductor Julian Lloyd Webber introduced celebrated opera singer and musician, Leslie Garrett and clarinettist Emma Johnson.

The pair, who both launched their glittering careers at Harrogate International Festival's Young Musician Series, performed three flawless pieces in front of Charles and Camilla.

The Prince of Wales, a Patron of Harrogate International Festivals, then unveiled a commemorative plaque in the auditorium before congratulating the staff, volunteers and sponsors.

Prince Charles said: "I feel that as Patron of this remarkable institution, I must say how enormously proud I am to be associated over the last several years with this.

"It's become a national treasure really. It's been such a treat for both of us to join you here this morning for the 50th anniversary.

"It is clearly so special and means so much to so many people. Clearly I'm going to have to organise myself better in future in order to reach Harrogate in July to see a great deal more that the festival does."

Lesley Garrett gave her very first recital as part of Harrogate Festivals and thanked them for making classical music available to a wider audience.

She said: "It's wonderful to be here to celebrate this fantastic achievement. My first recital at the Swan Hotel told me I was going to go on and be a recital giver and travel the world.

"But, without the festival's first support, I don't really believe I would have got to where I am today."

After watching 19-year-old Harrogate clarinettist Sam Gillespie perform, the royal couple unveiled the commemorative plaque before leaving the Royal Hall.

Excited fans greeted Charles and Camilla as they left to make their way to Harrogate Hospital, with some lucky members of the crowd even sharing a joke with the royal pair.

Paul Ratcliffe, visiting from Leeds said: "Prince Charles came over to me and joked that I should keep taking pictures of them, it was a really nice moment.

"We've waited here for about an hour and a half to see them but it was definitely worth the wait."

Harrogate resident, Sarah Stanley, said: "I had a bit of a joke with Prince Charles because, when he came over, I had to admit to him my iPhone had just run out battery.

"He said to me I should have brought a camera instead. It didn't matter as I was just so surprised that he came over to have a chat with us."