Column: Keep supporting the arts - David Bown, Harrogate Theatre

​Imitating the Dog’s Macbeth is on at Harrogate Theatre February 24 – 25​Imitating the Dog’s Macbeth is on at Harrogate Theatre February 24 – 25
​Imitating the Dog’s Macbeth is on at Harrogate Theatre February 24 – 25
​There is a lot of uncertainty for everyone as we move forward in to 2023. We are only a stone’s throw away from the transition into a new unitary authority that will see the creation of North Yorkshire Council (NYC) and the winding down of Harrogate Borough Council (HBC).

As a consequence, there has followed much debate as to how the arts scene will look under this new governance.​

What is important to remember is that all our major entertainment venues, including Harrogate Theatre, are HBC owned and most are HBC run.

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The Theatre is a charitable trust, which means it does have a degree of independence, but not much. For example, the grade two listed theatre building is a high maintenance asset that the Trust could not manage without HBC. Those upkeep responsibilities are something that NYC may not wish to shoulder in the future.

Harrogate Convention Centre and the Royal Hall (HCC) are essentially run by the HBC and are equally huge economic, entertainment and heritage assets, but they are accompanied by a financial drain.

Also, we have read recently that HCC is struggling to attract support for its high-profile refurbishment that has subsequently raised doubt as to the relevance and purpose of the organisation from NYC.

There has been talk of NYC creating a centralised management team for all its regional venues that would include Scarborough or even a new commercial operation to deliver Yorkshires cultural offer.

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There is a lot of uncertainty for the cultural industries that creates risk and instability for the region’s economy.

Arts and culture are enormously important to a destination economy, as Harrogate and Yorkshire prides itself on welcoming people from all over the world to visit. A vibrant arts scene is essential when providing activities for tourists with secondary spends in our shops, hotels and restaurants. It’s vital that our entertainment activity survives as a local amenity and a nationwide attraction.

There is still a while to go before the new North Yorkshire Council finds its stride, but I urge everyone to keep on top of the various discussions and make sure that our thriving arts scenes remains a major contributor to the local economy as well as huge cultural asset for residents.

Keep supporting events and performances and continually advocate for the benefits of a strategic cultural offer in a tourist region.

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Looking ahead to spring, Harrogate Theatres has a busy and varied programme as usual.

Comedy as always is prominent with visits from Tom Allen, Frankie Boyle and Gary Delaney. Also, throughout the spring there will be our Little Stages Festival with a whole host of work for families.

Lastly, I really encourage you to check out Imitating the Dogs’ Macbeth, opening this week. It’s an audacious and daring retelling of a classic. ‘A neon noir thriller where Shakespeare’s original language collides with startling new scenes, stunning visuals, and a powder-keg intensity.’ A little like local government restructures.