Now Harrogate joins battle to stage Great Exhibition of the North

Harrogate's Royal Hall
Harrogate's Royal Hall
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CIVIC AND CULTURAL leaders in one of Yorkshire’s most popular destinations have claimed staging a landmark event will bring a multi-million pound economic boost and inspire a new generation of entrepreneurs.

Harrogate Borough Council has confirmed that a formal bid has been submitted to stage the Great Exhibition of the North in the spa town in 2018.

The Government has pledged £5m in funding for the event which will showcase art, culture and design of the North, and the bidding process in under way to find a host venue.

Harrogate has now joined a series of other towns and cities including Sheffield, Bradford, Halifax, Preston and Newcastle which are bidding to stage the event.

The North Yorkshire town’s bid team consists of representatives from the Harrogate International Centre (HIC), Harrogate International Festivals, Harrogate Theatre, the Mercer Gallery, and Harrogate Borough Council.

Despite being up against major cities in the North, the team has maintained that Harrogate has the facilities, infrastructure and experience as an exhibition town to host the event, which is due to take place in July 2018.

Sharon Canavar, the chief executive officer of Harrogate International Festivals, said: “The success of the Fire Garden in Valley Gardens proves Harrogate can be a beautiful home for innovative large-scale arts. We welcomed audiences of 20,000 over three nights.

“It showed what the town can achieve, how it can make the most of its assets, and how warm and welcoming Harrogate is as a host town.

“As a festival, we’ve brought the finest international talent to Harrogate for 50 years, it’s a fantastic opportunity to build on that reputation and put the region strongly on the cultural map.”

It is estimated that the staging of the Great Exhibition of the North will cost as much as £12m, but Harrogate Borough Council’s leader Richard Cooper was adamant that the event would bring in even greater financial benefits.

He pointed towards the Tour de Yorkshire cycle race, which had an estimated economic impact of nearly £60m across the region, while the forecasted economic impact of the Great Exhibition of the North for Harrogate alone is estimated at £75m.

If the bid is successful, the main venue will be the HIC, but the exhibition area will potentially encompass two miles to include outdoor spaces, including Valley Gardens and potentially RHS Garden Harlow Carr.

Jane Sellars, the curator of the Mercer Gallery, claimed a new generation of entrepreneurs would be inspired by the staging of the exhibition.

She said: “We are known as ‘The Jewel of the North’ for good reason. This will offer a significant legacy for the town, region and the North.

“Not only will it increase profile and showcase Harrogate as a prestigious international destination, but it will inspire people locally to pursue careers in the arts, digital and cultural sectors, and help stop the brain drain to London.”

Sir Gary Verity, the chief executive of the tourism agency, Welcome to Yorkshire, has been appointed to oversee the project and is chairing a Great Exhibition Board to report to Ministers. The winning bid will be announced later this year in September.