Inventive Harrogate festival goes digital with exciting Raworths literature event for the very first time

Harrogate International Festivals has praised law firm Raworths for its continued backing for the arts as it prepares to go digital once more.

Thursday, 15th October 2020, 5:15 pm
Updated Thursday, 15th October 2020, 5:20 pm
Ten Word Stories competition - Raworths managing  partner Zoe Robinson and Harrogate International Festivals chief executive, Sharon Canavar.
Ten Word Stories competition - Raworths managing partner Zoe Robinson and Harrogate International Festivals chief executive, Sharon Canavar.

Due to the ongoing Covid-19 crisis event organisers, Harrogate International Festivals, has been unable to deliver any of its public events - including its international music festival and annual 1940s Day - which attract thousands of people to the town.

But, thanks to the law firm’s support, Raworths Harrogate Literature Festival featuring bestselling authors, politicians and satirists, will happen a week from now online for the first time since it was first successfully launched 12 years ago.

Beginning on Friday, October 23, the three-day celebration of books and their authors will be available to a worldwide audience to view free of charge.

Harrogate International Festivals Chief Executive Sharon Canavar said: “As the arts goes digital, we are extremely grateful to Raworths for their continued support. They have been, and continue to be, a fantastic supporter of the arts.

“For the last ten years they have given their name to this wonderful annual festival, which is rightly regarded as one of the country’s premier literature events.”

Like so much of the arts world in a year of closed theatres and live venues during the pandemic, Harrogate International Festivals has had to reinvent itself for audiences forced to stay at home.

Sharon Canavar says the battle for survival has inspired the arts charity to adapt to the harsher climate with new ideas and ways of doing things.

Its first venture into hosting a digital festival in late July - the four-day HIF Weekender featuring the world’s greatest crime writers, top musical figures and more - attracted more than 10,000 streams.

Sharon Canavar said: “Coronavirus has hit the arts, charities and performance industries, particularly hard.

“Reinvention has come out of necessity to ensure the survival of our arts charity.

“Whilst the hospitality sector has been able to open to some extent, the arena we operate in has been totally shut down.”

The forthcoming Raworths Harrogate Literature Festival looks all set to repeat the success of the HIF Weekend, packed as it is with star writers such as the creator of Sharpe - Bernard Cornwell, Jeremy Vine, David Lammy MP, Ken Follett, Elif Shafak, Natalie Haynes, Ariana Neumann, Loyd Grossman, Jess Phillips MP, ex-Vogue editor, Alexandra Shulman, Simon Mayo and Jack Reacher writer Lee Child.

Writer and radio and TV presenter Matt Stadlen, who this year will be a Raworths Harrogate Literature Festival’s interviewer, says festivals are simply the “lifeblood” of the country.

The ex-LBC broadcaster, who last year quizzed Shoestring actor Trevor Eve at the same event, said: “It’s more important than ever that we continue to support the charities and organisations whose very survival relies on financial support. We all stand to lose if the arts go under.

“Festivals are the lifeblood of this country’s culture, they connect us, inspire us and challenge us.”

Despite the difficult circumstances, there’s a spirit of adventure around the Harrogate International Festivals’ team - and self-confidence.

Ahead of the launch next week of its latest online venture, it invited the public to submit entries for a new prize competition called ‘Ten Word Stories’.

Since then, its inbox has been swamped with entries.

Raworths managing partner Zoe Robinson said: “Having launched the competition last week, I’m delighted to say the entries are coming in thick and fast.

“We are looking for all kinds of stories, funny, personal or evocative, it just has to involve Harrogate.”

In another sign of HIF’s spirit of adventure, a selection of the very best entries will be projected onto Raworths’ Station Parade offices over the weekend of the digital festival, which begins on Friday, October 23.

HIF chief executive Sharon Canavar says the excitement of the arts endures even now.

She said: “Whilst there is no denying that this is a hugely challenging time for the festival, and for artists, through our exciting digital weekend of events, we support authors, creators and suppliers and bring them together with audiences as community in a celebration of literature.

“We can’t wait to invite audiences to this incredibly stimulating, exciting and inspiring festival.”

How to enter Ten Word Stories competition

To enter the Ten Word Stories competition, email your ten-word story (title excluded) to [email protected] or tweet to @HarrogateFest using the hashtag #RaworthsLitFest

Watch Raworths Harrogate Literature Festival

Free to attend, the Raworths Harrogate Literature Festival will be streamed through the Harrogate International Festivals website: from Friday October 23 to Sunday October 25.

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