Harrogate International Festivals

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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.

Opportunities

We have a host of volunteer and Festival Assistant roles available to support us at events over the summer. Please get in touch with ellen@harrogate-festival.org.uk for more information or call 01423 562303.

Meet the Team

Sharon Canavar
Sharon Canavar Chief Executive
People have a wry smile when you say the arts are life-changing, 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 for a job in the Local Authority – which was the moment I realised I didn’t have the patience for some of the decision making – before happily ended up at the Festivals.

This year, I’m most looking forward to creating events in the amazing spaces across Harrogate and the district, without the challenges of distancing – I still have dreams about capacities! This summer will be full of fun.

Clemence Roux
Clemence Roux Literature Festivals Manager
I moved to England 12 years ago to follow up my dream 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.

Sophie White
Sophie White Literature Festivals Co-ordinator
I first started volunteering at arts and literature festivals whilst at university, and I found I loved seeing an event come together and how the audience reacted to it.

I’m from Leeds, so just down the road, and whilst Harrogate is a much smaller place, I think there is so much on offer here, and I’m happy to be a part of that and work with such a great team!

I’m most looking forward to the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival – it’s a lot of planning but it sounds like it’s going to be a great weekend!

Emma Lloyd
Emma Lloyd Marketing Manager
Art can bring together people from all walks of life and from all corners of the globe. It’s the artist’s job to make the memorable moments, but it’s my job to get people there to enjoy them.

I grew up in the country’s no man’s land that is the midlands and moved to Nottingham to study Fine Art. I’ve moved around working for many arts organisations and many different art forms from contemporary dance, theatre, visual art, literature, and opera – and fell in love with the countryside on my journey.

What I love most about a really good festival is the ability to combine all art forms, bring together audiences and create an everlasting atmosphere. I’m looking forward to seeing Harrogate come alive this year, and I hope you are too.

Lisa McKiddie
Lisa McKiddieDigital and Communications Coordinator
The arts are joyful and enlightening, challenging us 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.

I’m most excited for #TheakstonsCrime this year – the enthusiasm from our social media communities is infectious!

Ellen Fletcher
Ellen Fletcher Administration and Box Office Assistant
After growing up in Harrogate, I moved to Sheffield for university, 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.

On our Festival line-up this year, I am most excited about the Spiegeltent, which will be showcasing an array of diverse performers and creative events, bound to engage and immerse all our audiences.

Rosie Gilbertson
Rosie Gilbertson Events Coordinator
I grew up in Harrogate but haven’t lived here for about ten years. 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.

I think the arts bring people together, and that’s what I’m most excited about this year – collective experiences for communities. I’m also incredibly excited for a dance in the Spiegeltent!

Pauline Empson Finance Assistant
Originally from Cornwall I moved to Yorkshire in 2005 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 Freelance Producer and Programming Associate
The arts can be lifechanging for so many people in so many ways – 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.

This year, I am most looking forward to the return of the Spiegeltent to the Crescent Gardens – it is always such a vibrant mix of entertainment that really brings the town to life!

Karen Sweeney Freelance Admin Support
Lived in Yorkshire now for over 30 years and married to a Yorkshireman so consider this my “home”!

Travel is another 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!