Harrogate International Festivals announces redudancies as pandemic takes its toll

Harrogate International Festivals (HIF) has announced more than half of its team has been made redundant, reducing its core to just four staff members.

By Brogan Maguire
Monday, 19th October 2020, 1:46 pm

More difficult decisions are expected to be made in the near future after the pandemic stripped HIF of it "most vital revenue streams overnight", with a loss of more than £850,000.

In a statement, HIF said: "As a registered charity, and even before Covid-19, we were responsible for raising 98% of our income through ticket sales, sponsorship, collaborations and donations. That constant challenge has meant we have always worked within a strong business framework to raise these less than robust income streams, but the sheer scale of the pandemic and its repercussions have left the festivals sector reeling and we are not immune."

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Harrogate International Festivals is responsible for bringing a number of events to the Harrogate district.

Fiona Movley Chair of Harrogate International Festivals said: “Whilst we are often recognised as an extremely resilient organisation, agile and adaptable for over 50 years, times are still extremely challenging and HIF unfortunately did not qualify for the recent emergency Arts Council England grants that have been reported in the media.

"Between March and August this year, HIF took a hit of £850,000 through lost revenues, ticket sales, hospitality closures and sponsorship. It is clear as we look ahead to the coming months, and see no signs of change for our arts charity, it is now, perhaps more than ever before, that we turn to our sponsors and supporters to continue this vital work.”

Over the coming months HIF will need to raise funds which can support it as the team plots a route forward to secure its future - whilst continuing to find new ways to connect writers, readers, musicians and audiences.

Despite these dark times and the strain on finances, HIF has used its reserves to deliver programmes which supported individuals and the wider creative community.

Harrogate International Festivals is responsible for bringing a number of events to the Harrogate district.

Festivals were broadcast online and a podcast was launched, reaching number 43 in the UK arts podcast charts, as well The Theakston Old Peculier Crime Novel Of The Year Award being awarded. Staff also ran online book clubs, community arts campaigns, family music workshops, despite running at half its usual capacity.

Sharon Canavar, CEO of HIF, said: “Community has long been at the heart of what we do. We’re agile, we have embraced change and faced the challenges of the last year whilst ensuring that we continue in our charitable aims. Our priority over the last seven months has been ensuring delivery of the arts to local Harrogate people bring the light of the arts into the darkness.

"We are more than a series of events; we are at the heart of Harrogate’s cultural life and have been a magnet and income generator for local tourism for more than 50 years.

"We remain optimistic that Harrogate International Festivals can and will continue to provide the highest quality events online, until such a time we can personally share more cultural experiences together. In the meantime, if we are to survive we urgently ask for your continued support and appreciation of Harrogate International Festivals and its crucial role in our town’s cultural, economic and social future.”