Harrogate Festival accolade for leading local historian

Historian Malcolm Neesam gives a talk and slideshow at the exhibition of memorabilia at the Majestic Hotel.  (110905M1e)

Historian Malcolm Neesam gives a talk and slideshow at the exhibition of memorabilia at the Majestic Hotel. (110905M1e)

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By Graham Chalmers

Harrogate’s leading historian, Malcolm Neesam, has been appointed vice president of Harrogate International Festivals in the build-up to their 50th anniversary.

The accolade was announced with news that Neesam, a Freeman of the Borough, is to write the official history of Harrogate International Festivals to mark its half century in 2016.

Sharon Canavar, CEO of Harrogate International Festivals, said: “We are delighted to welcome him as vice president. It’s incredibly valuable to look back at our legacy at this pivotal time in our history, and there’s no one more qualified than Malcolm to do this.”

The estemmed historian said the new book would be published in time for the anniversary and would be a two-parter.

The first part will exploring how the festival came into being, the second will show its development since 1966.

Mr Neesam said: “It will be the first in-depth published book on the history of municipal music making in the country. It’s an immense job.

“The book’s title will reflect its subject - Music Over The Waters - the story of how music at Harrogate Spa led to the creation of an international festival.”

Despite currently working on an even larger history project chronicling Harrogate from 1842 to 1922, Malcolm felt he had to take up the festival challenge.

He said: “Many of the main people involved in the festival’s history were close friends of mine. I felt that in taking up the challenge, I would be able to pay tribute to several remarkable people who devoted their lives to the cause of the arts in Harrogate”.

Malcolm attended the very first festival in 1966, though its roots go even further back than that.

Malcolm said: “After the Second World War, workers were brought in by employers such as ICI and the Leeds General Hospital board. By the 1960s Harrogate was ripe for the festival concept to take root.”