A jam-packed July in store for the Harrogate International Festivals

Sharon Canavar

Sharon Canavar - Credit: Archant

It’s frenetic behind the scenes as the Harrogate International Festivals burst upon us.

Musical Mums in session

Musical Mums in session - Credit: Archant

Pass the smelling salts. Festival fever is upon me. July is THE month. Five long weekends of acts to stage. Thank goodness we have a session on MindFOLDness at the Raworths Harrogate Literature Festival to encourage us all to stay calm and carry on.

Do we have enough hotel rooms for the Czech National Symphony Orchestra or enough chairs on stage? Did they really mean they’re bringing 23 double basses or is it the typo we think it is?

How and where do you feed a group of French artists, known for their leisurely lunches? Leisurely is a lovely word, one that sits distantly on my horizon. The French company, Cie Carabosse, will be turning Valley Gardens into a Fire Garden for three nights. Behind the spectacular scenes lie legalities and health and safety regulations (saying ‘don’t touch the displays’ apparently doesn’t cover it!).

My dreams are infiltrated by ticket sales angst, niggles and ideas that seem lucid at 3am but turn to cold reality by 8am. Should we do a viral film with fireman singing and dancing to Relight My Fire to raise awareness of the Fire Garden event? Or do I just like the idea of being rescued by a fireman?

Putting out figurative blazes is part of hosting events. Budgets, accounts, board meetings, fundraising. I have to-do lists for to-do lists. How to keep our lovely sponsors like Transdev engaged? Why not launch a 36-word short story competition in honour of its No. 36 bus?

And then there’s the weeding. Nothing short of a nuclear attack could shift those weeds outside our office in Cheltenham Parade but they won’t win. Waging war on those weeds gives me time to think.

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We always have one eye on the future too, similar to the way that hotels announce their Christmas bookings in July. We’re already planning next year’s Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival. But first there’s the Spiegeltent to track down for this September’s Children’s Festival.

Talking of children, we hosted 600 primary school pupils in what could well have been the largest writing workshop ever hosted in the UK at Harrogate’s Royal Hall.

And when mummy (that’s me) heads up a major festival, the boy Ben (my son) naturally expects a decent birthday bash which in this case involves Zorbing (for those yet to discover this delight, it’s the gentle sport of rolling down a hill inside an orb); more health and safety forms to fill in. It’s important to hold on to the fun: exploring programming for some possible large scale events in the future – digging out everything I’ve screenshot or saved, wishing I could afford to do it – and sharing ideas with a great group of creative, inspiring people on our festival team and board. And of course remembering why we do it – for you, our audience.

In between the budgets, logistics, angst and flashes of inspiration, a letter lands. One of our regular audience members has died. His wife has sent a small donation to support our Musical Mums sessions because she says, she believes in the power of music.

In a recent interview with John Suchet to promote his appearance at the festival, he said while he was covering the civil war as a reporter in Lebanon, he would listen to Beethoven’s Eighth symphony as a way of putting the world to rights. From weeding to orchestral heights, viva the fever! w

Sharon Canavar is chief executive of Harrogate International Festivals. To find out more, go to harrogateinternationalfestivals.com.

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