Inspirational success for Harrogate's arts revival as Raworths Harrogate Literature Festival returns for real

Harrogate International Festivals is celebrating after a “fabulous weekend” when the town was host to some of the UK’s biggest-selling authors - from politics to royalty.

Friday, 29th October 2021, 3:44 pm
Updated Friday, 29th October 2021, 4:51 pm
Harrogate visit - Former Labour Party leader Ed Milliband on stage at the Crown Hotel in Harrogate talking about his book Go Big during Raworths Harrogate Literature Festival.(Picture by Richard Maude)

The successful return of Raworths Harrogate Literature Festival last weekend has closed the book on the frustrations of months of lockdown for the town’s arts hub which was forced to go online last year.

A delighted Sharon Canavar, chief executive of organisers Harrogate International Festivals, said the event showed how far the arts had revived recently and the strength of creative ideas in the town.

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Royal visit- Sarah Ferguson, the Duchess of York, meets Harrogate International Festivals chair Fiona Movley and chief executive Sharon Canavar. (Picture byCharlotte Graham)

“After a tough 18 months for everyone, what a fabulous weekend of literature, speakers and entertainment we have had at this year’s Raworths Harrogate Literature Festival,” she said.

“We had politicians, climate change experts, future trends analysts, and speakers from activities to ‘elves’, all of whom were part of this year’s Raworths Festival line up.”

Sponsors Raworths Solicitors said the event had been a huge success and inspiration.

Zoe Robinson, managing partner at Raworths Solicitors, said: “We are incredibly proud to support Harrogate International Festivals in bringing this fantastic event to town and have our name associated with this wonderful literature festival.

“Thanks to the Harrogate International Festivals team’s determination when faced with unprecedented challenges, we can now turn a new page.”

Among the highlights of the four-day event, the arrival of Sarah Ferguson, Duchess of York at the Crown Hotel in Harrogate had heads turning.

The Duchess was accompanied on stage by Marguerite Kaye, the co-author of Her Heart for a Compass, to talk about the ideas behind the fictional recreation of the life of her own ancester, Lady Margaret Montagu, in the drawing rooms of the court of Queen Victoria.

Dr Kate Vigurs attracted a good turnout to hear how she wrote Mission France: The True History of the Women of the SOE - and her and the book’s links to Harrogate.

In complete contrast, three events with political themes also proved popular.

Led By Donkeys saw James Sadri and Oliver Knowles explain how four friends came up with a guerilla poster campaign to embarrass the Government which became the biggest entirely crowdfunded campaign in British history.

Former Labour Party leader Ed Miliband, the Shadow Business and Energy Secretary, was interviewed by renowned broadcaster Mark Lawson about his new book Go Big, How To Fix Our World which offers solutions on everything from affordable housing to tackling the climate emergency.

Climate Change - Code Red For Humanity saw a panel of four renowned guests look at what this weekend COP26 summit needed to do on climate change.

A festival packed with variety did have its lighter moments with authors talks from the QI Elves, the brains behind the hit BBC TV panel show, and a History of Food and Class In Britain with Pen Vogler.

Comedian Robin Ince was on hand to give a witty talk about his book The Importance of Being Interested.

Meanwhile, the 2020 Costa Book of the Year winner Monique Roffey shone in the final event of this year’s programme to discuss The Mermaid of Black Conch, her winning work of fiction about an ancient Caribbean woman cursed to be a mermaid in modern times.

The reputation of Raworths Harrogate Literature Festival at the national level is such that a guest also appeared who wasn’t in the official list of events at the Crown Hotel.

The Minister For Arts Lord Parkinson from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport was greeted by Harrogate International Festivals chief executive Sharon Canavar and Harrogate International Festivals Chair, Fiona Movley.

The sheer breadth of what is offered by Raworths Harrogate Literature Festival is something Mrs Canavar is keen to highlight when talking about the festival’s return.

“We are thrilled to have returned to delivering live events,” she said. “The weekend included great moments such as Dr Waheed Arian sharing his fasinating personal journey from refugee to medical change maker and MP Ed Miliband shared his advice on how to fix the world around us.

“But we also had the “The ‘Dogfather’ Graeme Hall who kept the audience in stitches with his stories of misbehaving pooches and gave advice to a host of dog owners who’s questions were myriad and entertaining.

“And the weekend wasn’t just about what was on stage either. More than 300 families also received free books.

“We are incredibly grateful to our wonderful sponsors and supporters, our generous audiences and all those on stage who helped make the event a huge success.”

Taking culture to the streets: Imaginative and spectacular ways of engaging with the public - by Harrogate International Festivals

Last weekend’s Raworths Harrogate Literature Festival wasn’t just about books.

Priding itself on community engagement, organisers Harrogate International Festivals took their love of literature to the streets.

A spectacular celebration of Harrogate’s spa heritage saw the 450th anniversary of the discovery of the waters by William Slingsby that ‘made’ the town’s reputation with a dazzling sound and light installation around the Crown Hotel and the Royal Pump Rooms.

Created by Dan Fox and James Bawm, 1571 The Waters That Made Us proved a big popular draw.

Harrogate International Festivals’ chief executive Sharon Canavar said: “The 1571 installation was a huge success. It was such a fantastic example of soundscape and lighting architecture.

“It was featured across social media, driving an incredible amount of footfall to that area of town across the week.”

Harrogate International Festivals also introduced a ‘stop me and book one’ scheme in the build-up to this year’s event featuring a fleet of ‘projector bikes’ to light up the town centre.

The bicycles, pictured above on the streets of Harrogate, projected animation onto buildings and pavements with an open invitation for the public to stop them and ask for a free book as they passed.