Harrogate International Festivals

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Harrogate International Festivals (HIF) is Yorkshire's longest running arts festival and a registered charity that programmes festivals and events supported by a year-round programme of arts and cultural activities for young people and communities across the north of England. Festivals include the Harrogate Music Festival, Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival, Harrogate International Spring Series, Raworths Harrogate Literature Festival and a programme of outreach and new programmes under the banner of HIF+ including the Spiegeltent and Children’s Festival programmes. HIF also runs a broad programme of community outreach under the HIF+ programme including literacy, music and arts programmes for young people and communities with least access to the arts due to rural isolation, geographical location or social exclusion. In 2017, HIF won the Northern Soul Arts Festival of the Year Award.[1]


The Harrogate International Festival was set up in response to local demand to re-establish the quality of event that people had been used to between the wars in the town’s spa heyday. In 1966, with the help of composer Benjamin Britten and singer Peter Pears of Aldeburgh Festival fame, and financial support from Harrogate Borough Council and the Arts Council of England, Clive Wilson launched the Festival and became its first Director. In artistic terms the Festival has changed radically from its origins in the late sixties. The Festival dates (originally in mid-August) were chosen as they had to fit into the town’s conference & exhibition calendar (the summer gap after Gift Fair and before Carpet Fair). In its early days the Festival featured music, literature, drama, visual arts and science. However, over the following decades music came to the fore, making up around 90% of the programme.

In 1984 following a national Arts Council strategy review entitled “The Glory of the Garden” funding was withdrawn from all festivals north of Cheltenham. Up to that point Harrogate had received a guarantee against loss of £38,000, the biggest Arts Council grant of any festival in England. The loss of the grant demanded a more populist approach to programming in order to build ticket revenue and to enable the major scaling up of corporate sponsorship.

In 1991 it was recognised that a broadening of the artistic programme was needed to extend the audience reach - geographically and the under 55s - as well as by genre and to increase sponsorship, trust funding and box office revenue, in order for the Festival to grow. An incremental expansion of the performing arts programming commenced initially with jazz, contemporary dance and classical ballet, World Music and literature.

Over the last 12 months the Festivals have staged over 300 distinct events and attracted over 90,000 people to its activities. Alongside box office sales they rely on sponsorship, grants and charitable giving.

The current Chairman of the Trustees is Fiona Movley, she has background in communications and fundraising. This is voluntary position. Previous Chairman include Peter Blackburn CBE and Clive Leach CBE.

Current Festivals[edit]

Harrogate Music Festival[edit]

Harrogate Music Festival – July International arts festival taking place throughout July.[2]

Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival[edit]

Currently held at The Old Swan Hotel dates for 2020 are Thursday 23 July – Sunday 26 July. The 2019 Festival sold 14,500 tickets. As the opening for the festival the Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year Award winner is announced.[3]

Raworths Harrogate Literature Festival[edit]

Launched in 2012 the Raworths Harrogate Literature Festival has become the hot ticket on the national Festival circuit thanks to its stellar line-up of literary names in beautifully intimate settings. Hosted over a long weekend, this Festival celebrates great writing by bringing best-selling authors, influential politicians, comedians and stars of the stage to share their stories with as wide an audience as possible, with a programme designed to entertain and inspire.

Spring Sunday Series[edit]

The Spring Sunday Series concerts, launched in 1993, are held between January and April. All concerts are held in the beautiful surroundings of the Old Swan Hotel.

Children’s Festival[edit]

A unique Children’s Festival featuring arts, music, science and literature that takes place during May and June.

HIF+ Events[edit]

A year-round programme of events and engagement including Berwins Salon North and a wide-ranging programme of community engagement, creative learning and advocacy presented for a broad range of audiences.

Berwins Salon North[edit]

The format consists of an evening of three speakers, each given 30 minutes to engage the audience with their subject, interspersed with intervals allowing time for a swift half.


The Spiegeltent is a unique venue with cabaret-style seating used to extend programmes and audiences.[4][clarification needed]

Musical Mums[edit]

Weekly singing project for teenage parents and their babies, using music as a means of encouraging positive activity between mothers and babies.

Musical Villages[edit]

Half-term world music delivery across the rural areas of the District, targeted at mono-cultural and rural areas.

Big Read[edit]

The Big Read project increases links across the region between libraries and reading groups, creating new readers.

Big Write[edit]

Working in partnership with Pobble and schools; providing support, training and opportunities to meet authors to support the National Curriculum & increase engagement in literacy with young people.

Young Musicians in Residence[edit]

A programme of activity featuring live performance in unusual and unexpected places. Working with local, young musicians and creating a platform for performance

Big Screen[edit]

Big Screen set on Montpellier Hill offering a selection of family friendly free events showing Hollywood Blockbuster, family movies, and live sport spectaculars including Wimbledon Men’s Final.


  1. ^ "The Northern Soul Awards 2017: The Winners". 30 June 2017. Retrieved 23 August 2017.
  2. ^ "Harrogate International Festivals 2013 portfolio announced". Harrogate Informer. Retrieved 7 June 2015.
  3. ^ "WH Smith partners with the Harrogate International Festivals". Harrogate Informer. Retrieved 7 June 2015.
  4. ^ Chalmers, Graham (19 May 2016). "The spiegeltent is back for Harrogate International Festivals". Harrogate Advertiser. Retrieved 31 January 2019.

External links[edit]