A look ahead to Berwins Salon North and the Sunday Series in Harrogate

Sharon Canavar

Sharon Canavar - Credit: Archant

Seek comfort in the arts with the help of Harrogate International Festivals which urges you to explore, discover and experiment

Helen Bagnall, curator of Berwins Salon Photo Charlotte Graham

Helen Bagnall, curator of Berwins Salon Photo Charlotte Graham - Credit: Charlotte Graham

‘Ladies and gentlemen of the class of ‘97, wear sunscreen. If I could offer you only one tip for the future, sunscreen would be it.’ For those in the dark, this is the opening to the classic Baz Lurhmann song, in which he dispenses advice on navigating a life well-lived. There’s no doubt travel is one of the ultimate urges. What are we looking for? Are we escaping? Or chasing a dream? We may not need to worry too much about factor 15 in Harrogate in February, but travel can be more than a physical journey…you don’t necessarily need a plane ticket to Peru.

This year, Harrogate International Festivals’ 50th anniversary year, plays on the theme Explore, Discover, Experiment. And this month is your chance to start the adventure. Our first Berwins Salon North event of the year is on February 25th. It features a woman who knows all about what makes us turn our back on the familiar and set out into the unknown: Juliet Kinsman – the acclaimed travel writer and co-founder of the world-famous Mr & Mrs Smith.

Berwins Salon North is one of the most ground-breaking events we deliver. It’s a cabaret-style night featuring three expert speakers – philosophers, neuroscientists, psychologists – in this revolutionary movement for the heart and mind, dispensing advice on life.

As founding editor of Mr & Mrs Smith, Juliet has cultivated a unique appreciation of boutique travel, writing for The Times, Louis Vuitton City Guides and Conde Nast Traveller amongst many. No doubt, Harrogate will be a destination she’ll love. As the happiest town in the UK, it has its fair share of incredible hotels, many of which we host our events from.

Juliet Kinsman, co-founder of the travel company Mr & Mrs Smith.

Juliet Kinsman, co-founder of the travel company Mr & Mrs Smith. - Credit: ©2013 Rachel Juarez-Carr/Countessian.com

Berwins Salon North is at the 300 year-old Crown Hotel, and of course, our Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival in July is hosted at Agatha Christie’s old haunt, The Old Swan Hotel, in all its Victorian splendour. Hosting the festival in Harrogate’s finest hotels is a great partnership for cultural tourism.

As well as a time of year when we yearn to escape the post-January blues, February also features of course Valentine’s Day, when we’re preoccupied with affairs of the heart. Another speaker at Berwins Salon North is the author, Olivia Laing. She’ll be speaking about her new book, The Lonely City: Adventures in the Art of Being Alone. As someone who lived in New York, she inhabited loneliness daily, and began to explore this state by the way of art. The book explores solitude and in so doing, makes us feel less alone. That’s the power of art.

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From literature to music; this month also sees our Sunday Series continue at the Old Swan Hotel, which features internationally-renowned classical musicians in an intimate space. What I love about it, is it brings together old friends and new, as music lovers gather and meet like-minded souls. Once more, you don’t have to travel to Vienna or New York to experience the finest culture.

In England, 51per cent of all people over 75 live alone and two fifths of all older people say the television is their main form of company. Loneliness is a comparable risk factor for early death as smoking 15 cigarettes a day, and is worse for us than well-known risk factors such as obesity and physical inactivity.

Author Olivia Laing Photo Johnny Ring

Author Olivia Laing Photo Johnny Ring - Credit: Archant

Researchers have shown classical music can in fact reduce blood pressure. In recent years we’ve learned that listening to classical or participating in music-making activities is good for pretty much everyone – from teenagers (whom it makes more intelligent) to older people (it combats loneliness and isolation), and even dementia sufferers (whom it helps connect with carers and each other).

And so, this February, whether you are seeking solace in art, the desire to escape, or an affair of the heart, Harrogate is the town to Explore, Discover and Experiment.

Sharon Canavar is chief executive of Harrogate International Festivals