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Highlights of International Festivals’ 50th year

2016 has seen the biggest Harrogate Music Festival in its half century history, staging over 30 music events.

Sell-out performances included the legendary Van Morrison, which attracted 60% of audiences from across the country to Harrogate.

Just shy of 10,000 tickets were sold for music events alone.

The Festivals delivered a number of events, including a free concert featuring the music of LA composer, Christopher Tin featuring over 250 performers. The two-time Grammy winning composer from Santa Monica, who has worked with everyone from Lang Lang to Taylor Swift, delivered a special commission, The Drop That Contained The Sea.

Harrogate also had the hottest ticket in town with three special nights of Cie Carabosse in Valley Gardens, featuring remarkable fire installations. It attracted 20,000 people with low-cost tickets, and became the ‘must-see’ event.

Cie Carabosse in Valley Gardens
Cie Carabosse in Valley Gardens

Sharon Canavar, CEO of Harrogate International Festivals, said:

For our 50th, we wanted to be extra special, bring in new audiences, be as accessible as possible and offer truly inspiring experiences through culture, music and the arts. I’m incredibly proud of our hard working team and Festival volunteers, who have helped stage such a remarkable summer.

It hasn’t been without hitch. Oddsock’s steampunk-version of Macbeth at RHS Harlow Carr Gardens may have sold out both night, but the final night was hit by a power cut in the locality. Despite this, the theatrical troupe received a standing ovation.


Marc Dunleavy, Music Festivals Manager at Harrogate International Festivals, said:

This year we supported more Young Musicians than ever with our unique Pay It Forward scheme, which featured leading musicians such as Julian Lloyd Webber and Sir Willard White hand-picking the stars of the future. We also tried some innovative approaches, such as Oz Clarke offering a wine tasting to music with the Armonico Consort. Oz even mentioned the warm reception he received in Harrogate whilst presenting the proms. We also had the world premiere of a new piece commissioned especially for our 50th by composer Howard Skempton, and a UK premiere of composer Edward Gregson with the Black Dyke Brass Band.

The free Big Screen on Montpellier Hill was packed for the Wimbledon men’s final, despite the sudden downpours and sporadic weather.

The Festival also delivered the 14th Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival, featuring 90 authors over four days, selling 14,000 individual tickets.

Bestselling author, Peter James, 2016’s Programming Chair, said:

It has been a glorious event, one which has firmly demonstrated that this is the finest and biggest attended crime and thriller writing festival in the world – without peer.

The Raworths Harrogate Literature Festival also featured headline acts attracting capacity audiences.

Gemma Rowland, Operations Manager at Harrogate International Festivals, said:

The Raworths Harrogate Literature Festival featured an incredible line-up, with a celebratory focus tying in our 50th, featuring events around Shakespeare’s 400th, the Queen’s 90th, and the anniversary of winning the World Cup in 1966 – the year our Festival began.

Berwins Salon North series – a TED-style night out featuring three-expert speakers exploring science, philosophy and psychology – has also become one of the festivals most sought after events.

Gemma said:

Our latest Berwins Salon North was the biggest to date with almost 200 attendees.

Although the summer Festivals have drawn to an end, September sees the return of the Spiegeltent, a bespoke Children’s Festival, and a Berwins Salon North focussing on ‘magic’. October also features the Harrogate History Festival with major authors including Philippa Gregory, Paddy Ashdown and Antony Beevor. There’ll also be a one-off event to catch number one bestseller, crime author Michael Connelly.

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