The sixth Raworths Harrogate Literature Festival was a resounding success as an outstanding line-up of names from the world of politics, stage and screen descended on the Crown Hotel last weekend.
Ticket sales were up 20% on 2016’s Festival, as audiences welcomed broadcasting royalty, Baroness Joan Bakewell, Dame Jenni Murray and Peter Snow.
Top journalist Martin Sixsmith, whose story Philomena inspired the Steve Coogan adaptation with Judi Dench, offered incredible revelations around researching his latest book, Ayesha’s Gift. Sell-out events included the Yorkshire Shepherdess, Amanda Owen, interviewed by the Sunday Times’ journalist, Karen Robinson. Amanda went from feeding animals in the rain and unblocking a drain before her glamourous appearance in Harrogate, where she could be found walking around the hotel without her heels to avoid toppling over; as well as being a bestselling author, she’s about to model for Burberry.
Zoe Robinson, Raworths Managing Partner, said: “The festival was eye-opening with talks on everything from prison rehabilitation from Jonathan Aitken to touching on Strictly Come Dancing with Ann Widdecombe. Raworths are committed to supporting the arts in the local community and this world-class book festival brings great benefits to Harrogate. The event really brings people together, attracting strong local support as well as visitors from further afield. The diverse line-up engaged, inspired and entertained, all delivered with the friendliness, professionalism and polish you’d expect from Harrogate International Festivals.”
Raworths became the inaugural sponsor of the bespoke literature festival in 2012 marking the law firm’s 125th anniversary in Harrogate. The literature festival has since become a key strand in the diverse festival portfolio.
Author Victoria Hislop attracted huge crowds with a 220-strong audience, and the mountaineer Chris Bonington entertained a full house with the Yorkshire Post literary lunch. Festival staff served over 500 gins in an hour at a gin tasting with gin connoisseur Ian Buxton and Harrogate’s own Slingsby Gin.
There were also intimate and moving talks on autism with the editor of Psychologies magazine, Suzy Greaves, and authors Jem Lester and Keith Stuart, and loneliness and grief with Cathy Rentzenbrink and Gail Honeyman, author of the hit novel, Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine. Actor Denise Welch was candid on issues such as mental health, discussing her new career as a novelist. Marina Benjamin, who spoke on her book, the Middlepause, tweeted: ‘Thank you for the best time, the best interviewer and the best audience’.
Waterstones hosted an on-site bookshop at the Crown Hotel, and media partner, BBC Radio York, broadcast live from the event, with Festival authors featuring in the Daily Express, Sunday Times, Psychologies, History of War magazine, Yorkshire Post and Harrogate Advertiser.
Sharon Canavar, CEO of Harrogate International Festivals, said: “It was a joy to see so much support for this popular event which brings to our town such high-end authors. This is the first year we moved the event from its traditional July slot to October. Having hot-housed the Raworths Literature Festival within our busy summer season it was time for this growing event to move to an independent slot in the autumn season, and the growth in ticket sales shows the move has successfully ensured the Raworths Harrogate Literature Festival had its most successful year to date. I’d like to thank our sponsor, Raworths, for supporting our arts charity and helping ensure Harrogate continues to deliver the very best on the national literature festival circuit.”