Literary and classical music stars become new Vice-Presidents

Harrogate International Festivals is delighted to announce the appointment of three brilliant new Vice Presidents – world famous crime writer Val McDermid, classical music icon Julian Lloyd Webber and renowned literary agent Jane Gregory.

All three have forged close ties with the Festivals over the years and will continue to support the charity in their new honorary roles.

Val McDermid and Jane Gregory were among the key figures at a planning meeting in Harrogate back in 2002 that led to the creation of the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival, which is now one of the biggest literary festivals of its kind in the world.

McDermid has published more than 40 books during a career spanning more than 35 years and sold over 18.5 million copies worldwide. The Scottish crime writer helped establish the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival’s New Blood Panel, featuring four debut crime writers, which became a platform for launching new talent in the crime fiction world.

McDermid said: “I’ve been involved with Harrogate International Festivals for more than 20 years, and watching the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival grow to become the leader in its field has been one of the most satisfying experiences of my career. I’m proud to continue that association and delighted to accept the invitation to become a Vice President of the Festivals as we go from strength to strength.”

Retired literary agent Jane Gregory, who represented McDermid, alongside numerous other bestselling crime novelists including Minette Walters and Mo Hayder, joins her as a new Festival Vice President.

Gregory said: “What an incredible journey it has been and how the Festival has grown under the steady guiding hands of Sharon and her team. I am so very pleased to have played a small part in creating this wonderful festival and now am delighted that I have been asked to continue to be involved as a Vice President – thank you Harrogate Festivals – this is a very real honour.”

Julian Lloyd Webber, whose links to Harrogate stretch back more than 50 years, will also become a Festival Vice President. The acclaimed cellist made one of his first public appearances when he performed in a Beethoven bicentenary concert at the town’s Royal Hall in 1970 at the age of 19.

He returned the following year when he starred in Harrogate Music Festival’s Young Musicians series and it was in Harrogate, too, that he recorded Elgar’s Cello Concerto with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by the legendary Yehudi Menuhin.

Lloyd Webber said: “I am so delighted to become a Vice President of the Harrogate Festivals! Ever since my first appearance in its Young Musicians series through to an unforgettable performance of Elgar’s Cello Concerto under the baton of Sir Yehudi Menuhin, Harrogate Festival has played such an important part in my life as a musician. Every time I return it feels as if I am coming back home and I look forward to enjoying an ever-increasing association with this hugely important international Festival!”

Sharon Canavar, Chief Executive of Harrogate International Festivals, said: “We are delighted and hugely honoured that such renowned cultural figures as Val McDermid, Jane Gregory and Julian Lloyd Webber have agreed to become our Vice Presidents.

“Val and Jane played an integral role in establishing the crime writing festival and have been unwavering in their support ever since. Julian, too, has forged a close bond with the Festivals and as a longstanding champion of young musicians and live music, he shares our passion for the arts.

“Together they will help raise our international profile even further as we continue to attract new audiences with our world class programme of cultural Festivals, concerts and events.”