Arts review: Ten great Harrogate moments of 2017

Arts 2017 highlight - Paul Young in a cowboy hat, right, performing with Squeeze's Chris Difford at The Warehouse Recording Co in Harrogate. (Picture by Stuart Rhodes)
Arts 2017 highlight - Paul Young in a cowboy hat, right, performing with Squeeze's Chris Difford at The Warehouse Recording Co in Harrogate. (Picture by Stuart Rhodes)
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A personal* look back by the Harrogate Advertiser's Graham Chalmers (* standard disclaimer)

1 Swarm by Harrogate artist Laney Birkhead
The art installation that refuses to die, the environmentally-conscious Laney’s lovely billowing sheets of beautiful calico depicting 50,000 bees, created with the help of more than 1,500 local people, including many Harrogate schoolchildren, took its message far and wide in 2107.
After a series of major public exhibitions starting in 2016, Swarm’s highlighting of the threat to bees has so caught the public imagination, Laney is set to take it into 2018.
Laney said: “I want Swarm to continue raising awareness that we are all responsible for this crisis - not only do they have to survive monocultures and loss of biodiversity, over use of pesticides which harm bees,
“The project is continuing in 2018. I'm currently applying for funding to take it to new venues around Yorkshire and beyond, and work with new local communities making artwork to raise awareness of bee decline."


2. Da Vinci Code author Dan Brown visits Harrogate
Thanks to Harrogate International Festival, a packed crowd at the Royal Hall in October were treated to a fascinating talk by one of the world’s biggest selling authors, Dan Brown.
Ostensibily, the intelligent and witty American writer was there to talk about his new Robert Langdon book, Origin, but the equally intelligent audience helped produce a memorable evening.

3. The La's explain their big hit
Organised by Harrogate independent art gallery RedHouse Originals as a showcase for photos and memorabilia of the early days of cult Liverpool indie band The La’s, it’s not everyday, a former band member gets his guitar out and shows a Harrogate aduience how classic hit There She Goes was written.

4. Ripon's St Cecilia’s Orchestra keeps the flag flying for classical music
Another memorabilia for this highly-committed and high quality orchestra led by the inspirational conductor Xenophon Kelsey.
Of all their great moments in 2017, probably the greatest was their performance of Beethoven’s 9th symphony in their Gala Concert at Ripon Cathedral on October 21.


5. The Summer of Love hits Harrogate
I had the great privilege of co-organising and hosting Harrogate’s own ambitious tribute to the 50th anniversary of The Beatles’ classic Sgt Pepper album along with RedHouse Originals and 108 Fine Art.
Harrogate’s 8-Hour Dream featured four different events held across town in sequencein four different venues.
Amid the VIP Summer of Love guests, art, poetry, happenings and live music was a spookily brilliant performance by Heath Common, Patrick Taylor and leading improve keyboard player Paul Taylor which was later released as a Live at the Spirit of 67 EP.


6. Great Yorkshire art at Mercer Gallery
Under visionary curator Jane Sellars, Harrogate’s council-owned Mercer Gallery simply goes from strength to strength.
It’s hard to pick out its best show of the year but Jane herself has an idea.
Jane told me: “My favourite exhibition this year? Well, it’s two actually and the way they worked together so brilliantly. That’s Katharine Holmes: In Grandmother’s Footsteps and Sheila Bownas: A Yorkshire Life in Pattern.
“Katharine Holmes is a wonderful landscape painter, living in Malham.
“Sheila Bownas in one way was Katharine’s opposite, producing precise and delicate designs from the 1950s to the 1970s.
"But Yorkshire unites them, along with a shared love of the natural world that created a delightfully harmonious atmosphere in the gallery that was enjoyed by all of our visitors.”

7. Paul Young singing in a cowboy hat at The Warehouse
Between music broadcasting legend Bob Harris, Harrogate producer Dan Mizen and ex-Wally frontman Roy Webber, Warehouse Recording Studios off Wetherby Road in Harrogate has not only established itself as a top studio but also a rather special live venue with a host of terrific acts from Chris Difford to The Strypes.
The highlight of the venue’s first 18 months was probably an appearance by 80s hitmaker Paul Young in a cowboy hat singing country-rock with his scintillating live Tex Mex band.

8. Harrogate Film Festival in a museum
Harrogate’s first-ever proper film festival took over venues orthodox (Everyman cinema) and less conventional (Revolucion de Cuba) and succeeded in being entertaining and intelligent.
One of organiser Adam Chandler’s own favourites was a family screening of A Night at the Museum – inside the Royal Pump Room Museum. No wonder it is returning in two months; time.

Arts 2017 highlight - Harrogate artist Laney Birkhead with her Swarm installation.

Arts 2017 highlight - Harrogate artist Laney Birkhead with her Swarm installation.


9. A stunning Shostakovich at Ripon Festival
Ripon International Festival may be about to celebrate its 21st anniversary this year but 2017 was a bit of a cracker.
Its director Susan Goldsbrough was justly proud of one concert, in particular.
She said: "Ripon International Festival’s 20th year was a spectacular success, achieving record ticket sales and hundreds of new visitors.
"The performance which moved me most was the Great Russian Classics opening concert, given by the Orchestra of Opera North conducted by Janusz Piotrowicz at the Royal Hall, featuring Shostakovich’s devastating Fifth Symphony. Heart-rending."


10. Frazer Theatre Comedy Club in Knaresborough
A relative newcomer on the scene, the monthly comedy club at Frazer Theatre was soon attracting top names from the UK’s comedy circuit.
Organiser John Pearce said: “ I think my overall favourite show has to be March. This was the show where we bought back two previous acts, by popular demand, in Jollyboat and David Trent as co-headliners.
“Tom Burgess performed an instant-classic set as the brilliant 70's children's TV presenter character Peter Flemming and we had the always great Lee Kyle as MC.
“It was a really special night of comedy and one where I felt we completely nailed what the audience was after.”

Arts 2017 highlight - Ripon International Festival's maestro Janusz Piotrowicz conducting.

Arts 2017 highlight - Ripon International Festival's maestro Janusz Piotrowicz conducting.