By Graham Chalmers
The same two themes have surrounded the story of Harrogate International Centre since the very beginning.
Financial problems and some cracking live acts.
When it opened in 1982, some were already damning it as an expensive ‘white elephant’ even as it hosted that year’s Eurovision Song Contest, with presenter Jan Leeming as host.
In the event, the winning act that year was German entrant, Nicole with the song Ein bißchen Frieden (translation - A Little Peace).
There’s been precious little peace round the HIC since then, though it has attracted a huge number of great acts musical and comedy acts over the years, not to forget awards nights and major concerts by important local arts groups.
So it was a sad day four years ago when most live music and entertainment halted in the 2,000-seat auditorium and the box office closed.
I myself had seen the following on stage in this magnificent futuristic venue which won the first-ever prize for the Best Modern Building in Harrogate competition two years ago - Bryan Ferry, Alan Bennett, Simple Minds, Pentangle with the late Bert Jansch, Michael Nyman, Lenny Henry. . .the list goes on.
It’s really good news that the HIC has announced the return of live music with names such as Jools Holland and his Rhythm and Blues Orchestra with singer Marc Almond already booked to appear in its spectacular main auditorium.
The move has been welcomed by figures in the entertainment industry in Harrogate and beyond.
HIC director Simon Kent said he was keen to see the auditorium return as a venue for major live acts.
“The time has now come to expand and return the Conference Centre’s main auditorium to its place as a venue for spectacular live shows. We are delighted that Jools Holland is the first big name to announce a return. Tickets are already on sale.”
Ticket sales for shows at HIC will now be handled by the box office at Harrogate Theatre.
Mr Kent said: “The addition of HIC’s main auditorium to Harrogate’s live music scene, along with the Royal Hall, Harrogate Theatre, the international festival and the Gilbert & Sullivan Festival, means the town is now punching well above it’s weight in terms live shows and performances.”
Kevin Jamieson, Harrogate Theatre’s executive producer, said: “Having a venue as large as HIC back up-and-running really does make the town a one-stop-shop, with Harrogate able to showcase the best local, national and international talent, from our brilliant amateur and small-scale theatre companies, to huge name comedians and large-scale touring companies.”
Stuart Littlewood, head of the influential Concert Promoter Association, added: “I’m delighted to once again have the venue open to live music and shows.”
Jools Holland plays HIC on Saturday, November 22. For tickets, call Harrogate Theatre box office on 01423 502116 or book online at www.harrogatetheatre.co.uk