Was Queen's Jubilee a huge success for Harrogate? Here's what town's leaders said

Harrogate is basking in the success of its plans to celebrate the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee which the local authorities say attracted an estimated 120,000 visitors to the key festivities at the town’s iconic Stray and much-loved Valley Gardens.

By Graham Chalmers
Thursday, 9th June 2022, 4:35 pm

Destination Harrogate, the district's destination management organisation set up by in 2021 by Harrogate Borough Council, estimates that, across the four-day weekend to mark the Queen's 70-year reign on the throne, there were more than 120,000 visitors to Harrogate’s Valley Gardens and the Stray.

Gemma Rio, head of Destination Harrogate, said the turnout for the series of organised events over the extended four-day weekend showed that when the town worked together the benefits were substantial.

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Part of the large crowds who turned out at in Jubilee Square in Harrogate, in this case for the dog show. (Picture Gerard Binks)

“The Jubilee proved that with great collaboration comes great success,” she said.

“Together with our partners we were able to host fantastic events that were fitting for the occasion, which our residents and visitors to our wonderful destination will remember for a lifetime.”

Harrogate Business Improvement District (BID), one of the key drivers of the festivities in what was a broad-ranging co-ordinated effort with Harrogate Borough Council, local businesses, community groups and charities, also hailed the town's celebrations as an economic success

“Each of the four days of the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations saw thousands of people visit Jubilee Square,” said Matthew Chapman, manager of Harrogate BID.

“I was in town every day of the celebrations and there were certainly plenty of people around.

“Sunday was quieter than the previous three days, but that was probably due to the wet weather.”

The town's strategy for the Queen's Platinum Jubilee included organising a wide range of events in the Valley Gardens and on the West Park Stray.

The latter was the location for the fan parks for both the Tour de France in 2014 and UCI Road World Championships in 2019.

But the organisers of Harrogate’s Jubilee festivities had clearly listened and learned after those two international cycling events, in particular the controversy over the UCIs and what some complained was a negative impact on businesses in Harrogate’s town centre.

Harrogate BID’s manager explained that, although the aim had been to offer plenty of things to see and do for families during last week’s four days of celebrations, the overall aim was to ensure trade drifted towards hospitality and retail in the town centre.

“As well as all the events BID put on, we also had street entertainers on three of the four days, which were very well received, and again gave people another reason to come into town.”

“We deliberately didn’t have any food and drink concessions at Jubilee Square, as we hoped those coming to the Stray would go into town either before, or after, and patronise our pubs, bars and restaurants – which they did.

"Town was awash with people" says Harrogate Borough Council

Harrogate Borough Council’s policy of encouraging and supporting fooftall and visitors by supporting events was shown once again by the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee.

Across the district, the council issued 46 grants amounting to £37,000 to help fund events to commemorate the Jubilee.

Coun Richard Cooper, leader of Harrogate Borough Council, said the four days of festivities had been “awash with people”.

“As a destination for visitors both locally and far and wide, we are always keen to help bring different events to the Harrogate district,” said Coun Cooper.

“With The Queen being the first British monarch to celebrate a platinum jubilee, it was only right that we recognise this momentous event in such a way. And what a way it was.

“Harrogate was awash with people and the four-day event in the Stray, Valley Gardens and elsewhere was a big success.

“People young and old were clearly enjoying the free festivities. Sadly, the weather was a little mixed, but it didn’t put a dampener on people enjoying themselves.”

View from the Harrogate ‘high street’ on Jubilee’s impact on shops

Harrogate may have enjoyed a regal four days to mark the Queen’s 70th anniversary with an early June tonic for cafes, bars and shops but the mini-bonanza was not shared equally.

Commercial Street is one of the town’s most vibrant ‘indie’ retail hubs with 25 unique independent shops.

Such is the close-knit nature of its business community, traders came together in October 2020 to form the Commercial Street Retailers Group to promote this special street in the heart of Harrogate.

Despite its wide range of successful businesses - including Bean & Bud coffee house, Tarbett’s Fishmongers, The Cheeseboard, Arkwright’s, Books for All, White Rose Sewing, Lilly’s Cafe, the Harrogate Town Shop and Foxy Antiques - the street reported mixed fortunes from the Jubilee.

Sue Kramer of Crown Jewellers, who is also president of Harrogate District Chamber of Commerce, even went to the trouble of checking with her fellow traders on Commercial Street.

“It was quite a mixed reaction,” she said.

“Some shops said they definitely enjoyed more footfall.

“One said it had been much better than at the Easter weekend, for example.

“But one told me ‘Thursday was quiet, the street seemed dead’ and another said the street seemed quieter than pre pandemic times.”

Getting an accurate picture of how the celebrations helped this single Harrogate shopping street is made more complicated by the fact the Platinum Jubilee coincided with the school half-term which sees many parents heading for the airport with their family for a holiday.

The impact of the nation’s cost of living crisis and the growing fear factor afflicting consumer spending must also be taken into consideration.

Despite a context where normal behaviour has not fully returned after the Covid lockdowns, the president of Harrogate District Chamber of Commerce remains positive.

“The Platinum Jubilee did seem generally a bit disappointing for Commercial Street in some ways,” said Sue Kramer.

“But I genuinely believe people wanted to party not shop, in general.”