Independent festival to return to Harrogate's Valley Gardens

Gary Simmonds, one of the main organisers of Happygate Festival, with the Valley Gardens bandstand behind him. (1706121AM1)
Gary Simmonds, one of the main organisers of Happygate Festival, with the Valley Gardens bandstand behind him. (1706121AM1)
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The chief organiser behind Happygate Festival at the Valley Gardens has been speaking about why he believes the event is so important for the town.

When volunteers from various grassroots groups launched this free one-day arts and music festival for the first time last July, they had no idea if it would work.

But, despite less than friendly weather, Happygate drew thousands of people to the Valley Gardens, raising thousands of pounds for local charities in the process with a good ‘vibe’ throughout.

Gary Simmonds, who acts as the main coordinator, said: “We were thrilled last year that so many people turned up to this ‘new event’.

“Happygate is about celebrating Harrogate as a community. It’s a festival for all the different sections of our varied local community, whatever their age, gender, race, religion or creed, to be able to come together as a whole and enjoy themselves in our beautiful Valley Gardens. We aim to have the happiest day of the year.”

Gary, who returned to his home town of Harrogate nine years ago after a successful career in the music scene in London night clubs, said he had been delighted that last year’s event had raised more than £2,000 for Fighting Ependymoma, Craft Aid International and The Harrogate Homeless Project.

The hope for this year is that Happygate, which will take place on Sunday, July 23, will raise even more this time round.

Community-led and completely local, Gary said it is vital that the event remained free and focuses on local talent.

He said: “We all know it can sometimes cost an arm and a leg to take your family to many of the cultural events in the area so to actually have a free event where people can encounter a wide selection of arts and music is a lovely way for the artists and musicians of Harrogate to give something back to the people that make the town such a lovely place to live.”

This year’s Happygate, which runs from 11am to 9pm, will offer a wide range of different arts and activities for all the family - plus food and drink.

On the art side of things renowned local artist Steve Blaylock of The Old Blacksmith’s Shop has kindly donated some of his striking metal sculpture artwork to help raise money for the event’s nominated charities.

The mix of live music covers the board, from indie to swing, blues to a brass band, original rock to classic retro, reggae to pop.

Among the local acts on the bill will be The Harrogate Band, The Flash Mob Brass Band, the Harrogate Theatre Choir, DJ Trev, DJ Rory Hoy, The MG Band, Paul Middleton’s Angst Band, Instant Species, The Omega Era, Two Rivers Swing Band, Howlin’ Mat and the 80’s, 90’s & Noughties covers band.

But Gary Simmonds, who is particularly keen the event retains a family-friendly vibe.

He said “Lisa Brough and Rhona Johnston are running a children’s crafts and play area.

“They will be showing them how to make recycled sleeping mats by crocheting old plastic bags with giant wooden crochet sticks and how to make their own mobiles out of twigs, wool and pine cones.

“Stephanie Martin is running another children’s play area where there will be all sorts of circus skills activities for the older kids and a soft toys play area for the younger ones. There will also be face painting and story-telling work shops”

Anyone wishing to show their art should contact joinin@happygate.co.uk

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