Harrogate's top arts charity: Roadmap delay will impact on our events such as Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival

Harrogate International Festivals chief executive Sharon Canavar looks ahead to the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival next month - in a revised form.Harrogate International Festivals chief executive Sharon Canavar looks ahead to the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival next month - in a revised form.
Harrogate International Festivals chief executive Sharon Canavar looks ahead to the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival next month - in a revised form.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson's announcement earlier this week of a four-week delay to the roadmap out of lockdown has proven a setback for Harrogate International Festivals.

With a reliance on turnout to cover costs, culture has been, perhaps, the single sector hit hardest of all during the pandemic since February 2020 as social distancing has a drastic impact on possible attendance, making it almost impossible to break even - despite the Government’s support for the arts, albeit patchy, through its furloughing scheme and the Cultural Recovery Fund.

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So Monday's news that the remaining Covid restrictions would remain in place until at least July 19 was not welcome for Harrogate's most important arts charity - Harrogate International Festivals.

The Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival will be proceeding from July 22-25 this year but it will now be in a revised format to create a safe event.

Oddsocks Productions’ outdoor version of Shakespeare’s The Comedy of Errors held in the grounds of RHS Harlow Carr scheduled for July 6-7 is also still able to proceed with social distancing in place.

But the sad news is that Harrogate International Festivals’ summer music programme will be decimated for what will be a second year running.

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Roadmap delay: What Harrogate International Festivals chief executive Sharon Canavar says

Sharon Canavar said: "For Harrogate International Festivals the last 15 months have been a period of unknowns.

"The arts and some events continue to be held back in this last stage of lockdown despite being closed for over 15 months.

"Events of all sizes, large and small have put in the required and necessary measures to create a safe event including our delivery of the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival from the 22nd July.

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"Often this means a significant reduction in the number of people in attendance reducing income whilst investing in additional safety infrastructure which further increases costs.

"As a seasonal organisation we have adapted significantly but the constant unknowns towards the June 21 and now the 19 July 19 means we can’t just open the doors again and everything will go back to normal and nor we can play catch up.

"There is no insurance, our delivery and planning periods continue to be concertinaed up into an ever smaller planning cycle but we are determined to deliver a high quality, safe and ultimately very special series of events in Harrogate in the coming weeks."

Roadmap delay: The overall picture on events and the arts in England

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The Government may be pressing ahead with its coronavirus pilot events as planned, including some Euro 2020 games, Wimbledon and arts and music performances where attendance levels will be near normal as along as attendees show proof of vaccination or a recent negative test.

Two trial events held in Liverpool in May to test Covid transmission did not cause any detectable spread of the virus, the city's health chief claimed.

But, to put that in context, for arts and events as a whole, only 15 pilot events are being held in total this summer.

In addition, the arts and events industry has been calling on the Government since last year to introduce back cancellation insurance, as happens on the Continent.

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That would allow organisers to go ahead with their plans without suffering financial losses if they were forced to cancel their events due to a new spike in Covid cases.

So far, their pleas have been ignored.

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