The UK cultural landscape has changed beyond recognition over the last six months and 2020 has been a year like no other for Harrogate International Festivals.

We cannot survive without income, yet our most vital revenue streams disappeared overnight.

Incredibly sad decisions have had to be made. Following consultation, over half the HIF team has been made redundant, reducing our already small core to 4. There will undoubtedly be further difficult decisions ahead.

As a registered charity, and even before Covid-19, we were responsible for raising 98% of our income through ticket sales, sponsorship, collaborations and donations. That constant challenge has meant we have always worked within a strong business framework to raise these less than robust income streams, but the sheer scale of the pandemic and its repercussions have left the festivals sector reeling and we are not immune.

Fiona Movley Chair of Harrogate International Festivals said: “Whilst we are often recognised as an extremely resilient organisation, agile and adaptable for over 50 years, times are still extremely challenging and HIF unfortunately did not qualify for the recent emergency Arts Council England grants that have been reported in the media.”

“Between March and August this year, HIF took a hit of £850,000 through lost revenues, ticket sales, hospitality closures and sponsorship. It is clear as we look ahead to the coming months, and see no signs of change for our arts charity, it is now, perhaps more than ever before, that we turn to our sponsors and supporters to continue this vital work.”

Over the coming months we will need to raise funds that can support us as we plot a route forward and to secure our future; whilst continuing to find new ways to connect writers, readers, musicians and audiences.

In March, our world turned upside-down due to the pandemic, as we saw our entire summer season of events cancelled. For Harrogate International Festivals, this did not mean an end to our delivery, but instead a reinvention to ensure survival and the continuation of our charitable aims.

Despite these dark times and the strain on our finances, we have used our reserves to deliver programmes that supported individuals and the wider creative community.

We added broadcaster to our skills, bringing the Festivals to life online. We launched a podcast that reached number 43 in the UK arts podcast charts, delivered the biggest award in crime fiction: The Theakston Old Peculier Crime Novel Of The Year Award, ran online book clubs, community arts campaigns, family music workshops. We commissioned and produced a world premiere, created vital paid work for hundreds of authors and musicians, and brought the power of the arts to tens of thousands of people. All this was achieved without any ticket income and delivered by less than half of our usual team.

Sharon Canavar CEO of HIF said: “Community has long been at the heart of what we do. We’re agile, we have embraced change and faced the challenges of the last year whilst ensuring that we continue in our charitable aims. Our priority over the last seven months has been ensuring delivery of the arts to local Harrogate people bring the light of the arts into the darkness.

We are more than a series of events; we are at the heart of Harrogate’s cultural life and have been a magnet and income generator for local tourism for more than 50 years.

We remain optimistic that Harrogate International Festivals can and will continue to provide the highest quality events online, until such a time we can personally share more cultural experiences together. In the meantime, if we are to survive we urgently ask for your continued support and appreciation of Harrogate International Festivals and its crucial role in our town’s cultural, economic and social future.”