New arts festival to give tourism boost

A NEW arts festival being held in Harrogate this summer will bring a welcome boost to tourism, hoteliers in the town have said.

Classic Fest, created by the organisers of Buxton’s popular International Gilbert & Sullivan Festival, will include opera, oratoria, operetta, musical theatre and pop.

The Buxton event, now in its 19th year, brings in £1m a week to that spa town’s economy, and Ian Smith from the festival says that in time Harrogate could enjoy the same effect.

“We’re hoping that we can have a similar success in Harrogate and bring a lot of business to the town,” Mr Smith said.

“I started talking to Harrogate 20 years ago and it was the first choice for our original festival, but because of dates and things, it wasn’t possible for the town to take it.

“Now 20 years later the town has contacted us to see if we might be interested in doing this and we’re very excited.

“We’re looking forward to it.”

Mr Smith said the idea was to lay the foundations in 2012, so that in three or four years the event could match the Buxton festival.

The inaugural Classic Fest will run from Tuesday, August 21 to Bank Holiday Monday, August 27, with events being held at the Royal Hall, Harrogate Theatre, Harrogate International Centre (HIC) and the Majestic hotel, which will host late-night cabaret entertainment in the lower-ground floor Carriage Suite.

Vince Johnson, general manager of the Majestic, said: “The festival is a great fit and plays on the heritage, history and beauty of the town, and fortunately we’ve got a hotel that’s quite complementary in terms of what Harrogate stands for.

“We were very keen to work with them and support them to launch this new August festival.

“It seems like a really interesting opportunity for everybody to get a bit more happening during the summer months in Harrogate.

“We have a hotel in Buxton that works with the G&S festival as their headquarters, so we know how good potentially the festival could grow to be.”

Mr Johnson said the festival would bring new business to the town, giving the hospitality sector a major boost at what is typically a quiet time of year.

“I think it’ll without doubt bring people to Harrogate during the summer who wouldn’t necessarily have come,” he said.

“They will come because there’s an added purpose to their visit - this will support our leisure tourism initiatives during what traditionally is a quiet time. It can only be positive.”

Beverley Kemp, owner of guest house Arden House, said she was also excited at the prospect of the festival.

“It will hopefully attract more trade - so that’s the number one reason why I want it to be strong - but for Harrogate itself, it’s very important,” she said.

“August is a funny time, because you would think it would be very, very busy, but a lot of people go away to foreign countries then, so it’s a very quiet time.

“Obviously if people are going to be here in town, there will be more money spent in the shops, the bars and at the tourist attractions - the Pump Room, the museums, the galleries.

“This is going to benefit everybody in Harrogate and it couldn’t be at a better time of year. It’s great.”

Performances at the festival will include Quaker Girl, Chess, Merry Widow, Die Fledermaus, A Little Night Music, HMS Pinafore and The Mikado, with a special Jubilee concert at the HIC on Sunday, August 26, featuring a choir of 600.

Future years could include a professional operetta mini-festival within the main event, attracting the very best performers from Europe.

l Is Classic Fest right for Harrogate? Email ackrill.news@ypn.co.uk or write to the address on Page 6.