Harrogate is a truly deserving stage

The exam results season was very kind to our household, as was the summer generally and my annual trip to the Edinburgh Fringe. What a remarkable International Festival it is too. The global range of culture on offer is truly stunning and it really does refresh the soul. I was very pleased to see many of the comedians that were garnering good reviews and being nominated for awards, will soon be paying a visit to Harrogate Theatre for our very own Comedy Festival - do check out the star-studded line up. I also took in a handful of the theatre companies that are programmed here this season, the first of which was King Brilliant Theatre, which exploded onto our stage last week.

On my return from The Fringe, I was welcomed by an equally stunning set for the first offering in our Repertory season, On the Piste by John Godber. The great man himself paid a visit on guest night and gave his customary understated nod of approval. For those who missed the show, the set was a fully functioning ski slope. It kicked started the season in magnificent fashion, followed by Deathtrap and the gloriously witty 39 Steps. All three were well received and thankfully well attended. I am pleased to announce that we are in discussions to bring Rep back for a third consecutive year.

I was walking around the Stray last Thursday, having just attended a parents evening at my son’s school, and for the first time I really got a sense of the scale of what was about to take place in my hometown. The atmosphere was magical as the contractors put the finishing touches to the area. The lights in the fan zone completely transformed The Stray making it even more special, if that’s possible, than it usually is. I was then fortunate enough to be part of the gala celebrations on the Friday night at the Royal Hall, which were superbly put together by Simon Kent and all at the Convention Centre. There can’t be a better venue anywhere to host a black-tie event.

Saturday morning arrived. We all sort of knew a little of what to expect because of Le Grand Depart five years ago, but the sun had decided that we all needed to get out and make the most of it. What a day it was. I spent most of the afternoon absorbing the atmosphere in the fan zone, which by mid-afternoon was packed. There were helicopters buzzing above, food and drink everywhere, I also really enjoyed the party that Simon Cotton laid on outside the Yorkshire Hotel.

From there I returned to the Theatre and our own Culture Hop Festival organised by Rachel Auty. Another magical idea. Pop up bars and performances all around the theatre including a gin bar onstage. I ended the day watching Philip Stokes blistering play Heroin(e) For Breakfast in our studio. Totally compelling theatre with explosive towering performances from all four of the cast.

On Sunday I had a cultural hangover, shall we say. In the afternoon I went for a wander to watch some of the races on West Park. The sun had disappeared, but the high spirits remained. What an extraordinary gem Harrogate is. A truly deserving stage for an international event that made me feel like I was back in Edinburgh. Congratulations to the Borough Council (and all those contributing to this week), they really have showcased Harrogate as a first-class destination. It looks as though we have the Edinburgh weather for the week as well.

 First Published in the Harrogate Advertiser on Thursday 26th September.