The hottest ticket in town: Around 20,000 people enjoyed Fire Garden spectacle at Harrogate's Valley Gardens

Enjoying the Fire Garden at the Valley Gardens, Harrogate.
Enjoying the Fire Garden at the Valley Gardens, Harrogate.
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Around 20,000 people headed to Harrogate’s Valley Gardens to see the park in a new light when it was transformed into a “stunning” Fire Garden at the weekend.

The event, which was the centrepiece of Harrogate International Festivals’ 50th anniversary celebrations, saw queues stretch up Valley Drive over three nights.

The Fire Garden. Picture by Charlotte Graham.

The Fire Garden. Picture by Charlotte Graham.

Around 80 percent of attendees were family audiences and 20 per cent returned night after night, according to the organisers.

The magical event also sparked romance with a marriage proposal in front of one of the installations.

Flaming flower-pots, cast iron sculpture and resonating music enticed audiences through the blazing landscape, delivered by the renowned French street arts company, Cie Carabosse, which delivers large scale installation-spectacles in public spaces across Europe.

Sharon Canavar, CEO of Harrogate International Festivals, said: “We’re delighted that we were able to welcome so many people to celebrate with us, and see the Valley Gardens, and perhaps the Festival, in a new light. This was an event of scale, risk and ambition and the feedback has been both wonderful and very moving.”

The Fire Garden. Picture by Charlotte Graham.

The Fire Garden. Picture by Charlotte Graham.

The event was also a co-commission for Yorkshire Festival 2016 – the UK’s newest international festival which is filling the county with world-class artistic experiences until Sunday (July 2).

Yorkshire Festival’s Artistic Director, Matt Burman, said: “Big, ambitious, international projects like this are only possible through imaginative, positive and creative partnerships, and the team here at Yorkshire Festival and I are delighted to have worked with Sharon Canavar and the team at Harrogate International Festivals on the Fire Garden and we look forward to working with them in the future on even bigger and bolder new shows.”

The Fire Garden was also supported by Harrogate Borough Council.

The authority’s leader, Coun Richard Cooper, said: “What a way to celebrate Harrogate International Festival’s 50th anniversary. I was pleased that Harrogate Borough Council was able to support the event both financially and with in-kind support too.

“It is great that local organisations working alongside the council can bring this kind of spectacular event to the district drawing thousands from near and far.”

As a result of its massive success, Sharon is hoping to bring the event back to Harrogate in the future.

She said: “We’d love to repeat the event - as with all outdoor events on this scale it comes at a cost but it gives us great ambition to bring Carabosse back and do more large scale events in the future.”

The Festival, which has embarked on a Future 50 fundraising campaign to raise £1 million to secure its future, has ambitious plans to position Harrogate as a leading cultural tourism destination.

Its events already have an economic impact of £8.2 million for the town each year.

Speaking to the Harrogate Advertiser on the opening night last Thursday, Welcome to Yorkshire chief executive Sir Gary Verity said: “I think it’s brilliant. It looks exquisite. It’s also fantastic to see so many children enjoying it at this time of night. Families are having a great time on this lovely summer’s evening.

“The Valley Gardens will hold a special place in many people’s memories and hearts and tonight they just look as beautiful as we have ever seen them looking.

“It’s quite remarkable.”

Audience feedback expressed warmth and praise over the three nights, with visitors particularly commending the low price - adults £3 and children £1 - which was aimed at making the event accessible for all. Around 70 per cent of bookers were new audiences for the Festival, organisers said.

On Twitter, Karen Weaver, chief executive of Harrogate and Ripon Centres for Voluntary Services, said it was “magical and beautiful art”. Raworths LLP called it “a stunning and surreal evening”. While David Elliott hailed it a “truly stunning night and landmark magical event in Harrogate” and Jane Barrett called it “an uplifting and mesmerising night”.

The event was the centrepiece of Harrogate International Festivals’ 50th anniversary celebrations. Its month-long programme of summer festivals begins tomorrow, in venues across the town.

The Yorkshire Festival runs until Sunday (July 2).

Sir Gary Verity said: “Fire Garden in Harrogate was simply stunning – a true spectacle - and it’s been the talk of the town ever since. This was one of Yorkshire Festival’s magical moments and it’s not over yet, there’s still plenty more events to enjoy coming up.”

To view the full Yorkshire Festival programme visit www.yorkshirefestival.co.uk For Harrogate International Festivals’ July programme visit www.harrogateinternationalfestivals.com