An arts festival truly for all

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Hailed as the ‘North of England’s leading arts festival’ by The Times, Harrogate International Festivals has announced its much anticipated 2014 highlights - and it’s looking like a classic year is in prospect, writes Ann Chadwick.

Wynton Marsalis, Bellowhead, Timothy West and Lynda La Plante are just a few of the star acts headed to Harrogate this summer.

Now in its 49th year, Harrogate International Festivals works year-round delivering festivals, series and events, as well as education and outreach work.

Sharon Canavar, CEO of Harrogate International Festivals, said: “The 2014 programme reflects our history and reputation for delivering world-class international artists, but it also embodies the explorative and innovative spirit of the Festival which has driven our arts organisation since 1966.”

The first-ever Festival included one of the early performances by the Moscow Radio Symphony Orchestra, and this mission to strive for the best international musicians is a quality that distinguishes the flagship Harrogate Festival to this day.

Its legacy includes a commitment to young musicians. Past alumni include Nigel Kennedy, Julian Lloyd Webber – who opened this year’s Spring Series - and Lesley Garrett, who believes Harrogate International Festivals, plays a ‘central role in shaping the nation’s musical landscape.’

This summer, it welcomes the BBC Young Musician of the Year 2012, Laura van der Heijden and Royal Harpist, Hannah Stone.

Excellence in classical, folk and jazz is a hallmark of Harrogate, with acts over the years including Van Morrison, Youssou N’Dour, and Amy Winehouse. In 2014, jazz icon Wynton Marsalis stars with the Lincoln Jazz Center Orchestra. Marsalis will launch his UK tour in Harrogate, celebrating the 75th anniversary of iconic record label, Blue Note.

The show embraces the entire history of modern jazz from bebop to the dancefloor, performing big band arrangements of unforgettable classics.

With over 300 distinct events last year, Harrogate International Festivals has an economic impact of £8.2m.

Sharon said: “It’s our aim to offer a diverse programme to Harrogate audiences but also to contribute to the tourism potential of our town offering these distinctive cultural experiences.”

2013’s BBC2 Folk Award winners, Bellowhead will be hot off the heels of their 10th Anniversary Royal Albert Hall gig.

One of the most successful folk acts of our time, reviewers rave about their sheer exhilaration on stage.

The blistering 11-strong band play everything from concertina to trombone, fusing folk, funk, rock, jazz, music hall, classical and world music.

The ever-popular John Wilson Orchestra swings into town with the sumptuous sounds of the great MGM musicals.

Special tickets will be available for a champagne reception with the stars of the show.

The magnificent Medici Quartet, who retired at the 2007 Festival, return to play Sir John Tavener’s final work. Tavener died last year. This promises to be a deeply moving concert, forming part of a series of events marking the life of the composer.

In addition, outdoor theatre company Oddsocks brings Shakespearean shenanigans and Stile Antico provides a moment of calm with the traditional Concert by Candlelight.

With three major literature festivals – Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival, the Raworths Harrogate Literature Festival and, later this year in October, the Harrogate History Festival - it is putting Harrogate on the national literary calendar, combined with almost half a century of delivering world-class musicians to the town.

Crime is the genre that just won’t die and Europe’s biggest celebration of the genre is hosted at the Old Swan Hotel. July’s killer line-up features the usual staggering mix of iconic names, including an exclusive appearance by J.K. Rowling, writing as Robert Galbraith. She’ll be joining Lynda La Plante, the Vera and Shetlands author Ann Cleeves, John Harvey, Sophie Hannah, Laura Lippman, Peter May, Val McDermid, Denise Mina, and S.J. Watson, whose debut Before I Go to Sleep is hitting the big screen with Nicole Kidman and Colin Firth.

It’s not unusual to have Oscar nominated actresses milling around with journalists Mark Lawson and Jenni Murray, alongside some of the most powerful names in publishing. Sarah Millican, Brenda Blethyn and Dr Who’s Peter Capaldi were all spotted last year.

Headline sponsor, Simon Theakston, Executive Director of T&R Theakston, said: “We’ve supported the festival since almost from the start, and every year I think it surpasses already high expectations. 2014 is no different with this remarkable line-up of world-class authors.”

It is ranked as one of the top three literary festivals in the UK by The Guardian, and featured in The Independent’s ‘The 50 Best Festivals’.

Raworths, one of Yorkshire’s most established law firms, returns as title sponsor for the Raworths Harrogate Literature Festival, now in its third year. It takes place from July 10 to 13 at the elegant Edwardian St George Hotel.

Raworths became the inaugural sponsor of the literature festival in 2012 to celebrate the law firm’s 125th anniversary in Harrogate.

It’s appropriate then that the literature festival gives a nod to Harrogate’s heritage as Matthew Dennison discusses his biography, Queen Victoria A Life of Contradictions. The Valley Gardens were opened to commemorate Victoria’s Jubilee in 1887; her statue sits in Victoria Gardens.

Venturing boldly into books, Raworths Harrogate Literature Festival offers a wider cross-section of genres. Explorer Sir Ranulph Fiennes headlines, alongside a wealth of intrepid authors, from war correspondent Kate Adie to adventurous foodie, Jay Rayner and investigative journalist, Ben Aaronovitch.

Appropriately for a town making a name for its literary festivals, the Raworths Literature Festival’s special Salon North event features three experts on stage - including philosopher Julian Baggini - exploring our senses, including our love of books and the trend for bibliotherapy.

It also features a number of commemorative events. Actor Timothy West will read Wilfrid Owen’s poetry in the ‘Pity of War’ to mark the WW1 Centenary, and actor and producer, Ben Crystal, will celebrate Shakespeare’s 450th birthday with a troupe of Shakespearean actors.

Sharon added: “The over-riding message of our 2014 Festival is of opportunity, the opportunity to discover and explore a whole world of theatre, poetry, music, philosophy and literature. It’s a festival open to all, and we can’t wait to invite everyone to join in.”

Tickets for the crime writing festival’s Special Guest events will be available to purchase from Monday, March 17, with panel events available to purchase from early May.

Tickets for Wynton Marsalis are are now on sale!

Tickets for all other events will go on sale on March 10.

Visit or call the box office on 01423 562 303.