Staged in the town’s Royal Hall, the sell-out dinner and awards ceremony was organised by the Harrogate Hospitality & Tourism Association (HHTA), and hosted by Simon Cotton and David Ritson.
The arts charity carried off the gong for last year’s Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival whilst facing major challenges in organising - and delivering - the four-day event due to constantly changing Covid restrictions.
The literary festival, which was cancelled in 2020 due to the pandemic, is the world’s largest celebration of crime fiction and each year attracts thousands of fans of the genre – plus a host of top authors – to the spa town.
In its submission, Harrogate International Festivals said that having lost 2020 it was determined not to lose 2021 despite the financial risks if it was unable to proceed. The arts charity also had the full backing of sponsor, Simon Theakston.
One of the biggest challenges was balancing act between reduced incomes from tickets and sponsorships due to capacity, and the need for increased investment in infrastructure to ensure a safe event could take place.
Key elements of the event were adapted to effectively run a safe yet enjoyable Festival for all. The team ‘turned the inside out’, created a tented village for the whole of the Festival, created a new auditorium, a digital lounge and invested in additional cleaning, swabbing, and managed queues and crowds across the site. No-one caught Covid at the Festival in 2021.
Just four days after ‘reopening’, Harrogate International Festivals created four days of crime and events magic at the Old Swan Hotel.
The submission added: “The success of the festival was also due in no small part to the commitment of our team – only one of whom had worked on the Festival in previous years.
“HIF went from an operational team of 13 plus freelancers to a team of two with additional freelancers. With a new team, and new challenges due to government guidelines and restrictions, it was a learning curve for all concerned.
“We also owe a special thanks to David Ritson and his team at The Old Swan Hotel – with changes to guidelines happening all the time, they worked with us throughout to make sure we were able to hold a safe and enjoyable Festival.”
Harrogate International Festivals Chief Executive Sharon Canavar said: “We are thrilled to have won this award and it’s a testament to the hard work, creativity and can do approach of ‘Team HIF’.
“Going ahead with last year’s Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival was a massive gamble, but one that paid off. And for those authors and festival goers the sheer joy of attending a live event again was immeasurable.
“Had it not been for the full support of our sponsors, T&R Theakston Ltd, and in particular Simon Theakston, none of this would have been possible. The brewery has been our headline sponsor for 19 years, and Simon never doubted our confidence in being able to deliver a fantastic festival, one that would live up to all expectations, safely and within all government guidelines.”
“The feedback we received was incredible, and for many it was the best Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival they had ever been to.
Sharon added: “This year’s Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival is just around the corner, and forms a key part of our Summer Programme; and we can’t wait the curtain to go up on the first day.”
Further information about Harrogate International Festivals and this year’s Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival is available from its website: https://harrogateinternationalfestivals.com/