Re-think in bid to keep Royal Hall viable

Harrogate Royal Hall.
Harrogate Royal Hall.

A revised strategy for Harrogate’s iconic Royal Hall was due to go before the council last night.

The plans are aimed at ensuring the Grade II* listed building is opened up for dozens of community events each year while also remaining financially viable.

The move comes after funding of nearly £150,000 was pulled by Harrogate Borough Council, prompting a new sliding scale of charges to hire the venue.

A deal for Harrogate Theatre to take over the day-to-day running of the Royal Hall was approved in January.

The venue continues to be overseen by the Harrogate International Centre (HIC) – an arms-length organisation owned by the council.

The theatre and the Harrogate International Festival will both receive heavily subsidised rates to stage events at the Royal Hall.

But the HIC’s acting director, Simon Kent, admitted the theatre would have to be more cautious with its programme after the removal of the council subsidies.

He said: “Everyone has huge affection for the building, and I am fully aware of the emotions it provokes. But unfortunately we cannot provide free access for everyone, and we have to ensure that it remains viable for the long-term future.”

The new arrangements will mean the venue can be hired for community events for £1,650 a day.

The theatre and the Harrogate International Festival will be charged a daily rate of £850 for 20 events each. Daily commercial rates are due to be £7,170, while banqueting events will cost £3,000 during 2013/14. The venue opened in 1903, but structural damage forced its closure in 2002.

It was re-opened in 2008 after a £10.7m revamp by a dedicated group of fundraisers led by Lillian Mina. The newly restored hall was even given a Royal seal of approval when Prince Charles came to visit.

But the venue staged just 57 events in 2010-11 – only eight of which were commercial.