Harrogate International Festivals

Team & Vacancies



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Harrogate International Festivals relies on enthusiastic and hardworking teams of volunteers to deliver its acclaimed programme. People of all ages, interests, backgrounds and walks of life generously give their time to help us make these festivals possible.

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Our Team

Harrogate International Festivals is the flagship arts Festival for the North of England. A charitable organisation, our passion and ambition maintains our position as an arts organisation delivering Festivals of national importance and dramatically increasing the cultural opportunities for Harrogate and the wider region.

Our small but perfectly-formed team support one another to ensure the delivery of our wide ranging programmes of the highest quality.

No two days are the same, from lighting up Harrogate with outdoor events to dealing with national sponsors, publishing houses and artists. Working in a fast-paced festivals charity can be challenging at times, but the varied day-to-day role is something that we celebrate and support within the team.

Meet the Team

Sharon Canavar
Sharon Canavar Chief Executive
…but they really can be. They create opportunity, change emotions and can enhance lives in myriad seen and hidden ways. That’s what I love the most about Harrogate International Festivals.

I’m from Harrogate originally, grew up here and had the benefit of the Festival offering me BB King, the Halle and a host of world famous artists on my doorstep growing up. Did the obligatory decade away for uni and worked in the travel trade running music tours across the world before returning north to set up the North Yorkshire Youth Music Action Zone, before happily ended up at the Festivals.

Rosie Gilbertson
Rosie Gilbertson Music and Events Manager
….I moved to Brighton, Cornwall, New Zealand, and then Scotland. After finishing my masters at the Glasgow School of Art I moved back down and here I am!

I’ve got a background in events and hospitality management. I love that the arts can be whatever you need them to be – deviant, disruptive, joyful, uplifting, vibrant, comforting.

Clemence Roux
Clemence Roux Literature Festivals Manager
…of working in Hospitality after finishing my degree (and to prove a point to my then English teacher who told me I would never be able to speak English).

I joined the Festival in 2021 as I found it was a great way to combine my passion of customer service and my love of events, and to work alongside a fantastic team to bring great events to Harrogate – my second home.

I find the arts make you Feel. From reading a book and being able to connect with the protagonists and escape to a different reality, to putting on a song or piece of music that can bring tears to your eye or make you remember a found memory. As a lover of history, I also enjoy Renaissance architecture and will do my best to visit Royal Palaces across Europe.

Lisa McKiddie
Lisa McKiddieDigital and Communications Manager
…to see the world from new perspectives. I love the way festivals bring people together to celebrate this.

I was born in Wakefield but migrated South when I left school, eventually making my way back to Yorkshire via London and Bristol. I’ve lived in Harrogate for three years with my husband and young family, enjoying the best of both worlds with the dales on the doorstep and all the town has to offer.

I come from an agency background, having worked in CRM, print fulfilment and media evaluation and planning for clients ranging from small charities to global tech giants.

Ellen Fletcher
Ellen Fletcher Communications and Box Office Coordinator
…then to Saltaire and now back to Harrogate to start my events career with Harrogate International Festivals.

Art and culture can create connections between individuals, groups, and communities in unique and engaging ways. I think it has the power to enrich lives in deeply personal ways and can create space for enlightenment. For these reasons I decided to study Arts and Cultural Management at university. I particularly became interested in women in the music industry which was the focus of my studies.

Hayley Allanson
Hayley Allanson Literature Festivals Coordinator
it challenges, stimulates, provides joy, and cultivates communities – sometimes all at once and often in a short space of time. I’m Leeds born and bred but moved to Harrogate in 2017 in search of change. Little did I know the fountain of history and culture this town holds. My background is in Hospitality and Retail Management and most recently, Bookselling.

Being an avid reader and theatre lover from a young age, I went on to study English Literature and Theatre at The University of Birmingham, where I found particular passions for Gothic literature and immersive theatre. And whilst I continue to be enthralled by both, I have since broadened my interests, and am passionate about storytelling at its core – whatever the medium.

Juliet Hawkins
Juliet HawkinsEvents Coordinator
at my happiest with a paintbrush in my hand or in the midst of a new creative venture. I studied Time Based Media at UWE, Bristol, and loved learning everything that goes into producing a piece of work. I am a visual person that appreciates all the many variants of the arts; music fills my house;  I love to be stimulated by unusual and provocative exhibits in all the differing forms they appear.

My background has seen me work over a decade in the media, working in Paris for a large advertising firm and back to the UK in the north working in broadcasting. More recently, I have taken time out to be with my children, however I am excited to return to work at the Festivals here in Harrogate and look forward to next step!

Pauline Empson
Pauline Empson Finance Assistant
…and to Harrogate in 2018. I am a widow with two grown up children and one grandson.

I have a very diverse taste in music and love to attend live concerts and gigs, whether it be modern or classical. I also have a love of the written word and enjoy reading crime fiction, historical novels and autobiographies. I also enjoy writing and in the last year or so have started writing a novel, which one day I hope to finish and get published.

I have worked for HIF since January 2019 with a two year break because of Covid, but I am now back and loving every minute of it.

Marc Dunleavy
Marc Dunleavy Freelance Programming Associate
…I know they have been for me – so it is wonderful to be part of a team that brings music, literature, art and immersive experiences to communities of all ages and backgrounds in Harrogate.

I have worked with Team HIF in various guises since 2015, from supporting teenage mothers and their children through Musical Mums to dealing with the tantrums of some of the world’s most famous artists – you’ll need to buy me a beer if you want to hear those stories!

Although I am not from Harrogate, (I currently live in Huddersfield), it is always great to deliver events in such a beautiful town that is filled with friendly and welcoming audiences.

Karen Sweeney
Karen Sweeney Freelance Admin Support
…married to a Yorkshireman so consider this my “home”. Travel is love of mine and planning road trips – including Yellowstone National Park, Novia Scotia and New England. As well as soaking up the Florida sunshine!

I have worked in hospitality and events around the Harrogate district for more years than I want to admit to and went freelance in September 2019 – started off well and very busy – then Covid hit in March 2020, so that was an interesting time!! I spent a huge amount of time during the first lockdown doing free online courses and learning pilates! (Not at the same time!). Happy to be back being busy again and working in several different areas of hospitality, events and of course, with Team HIF!