We caught up with members of one of Harrogate’s biggest
supporters of the arts as the group prepared for its golden jubilee
IF YOU’VE ever thrown your time and effort into setting up a successful organisation you’ll understand the emotions when reaching a milestone anniversary. For the small business owner, reaching your first full year of successful trading is a cause for celebration and reflection.
Reaching your first decade means you’ve really arrived but
it’s when, as an organisation, you hit your half-century that you’ve really
earned the right to get the champagne corks popping.
This year sees Harrogate Decorative and Fine Arts Group
(HDFAG) achieving that very milestone and the group is celebrating in the Royal
Hall – the historic theatre the group helped to save.
We caught up with the members of the HDFAG committee as they
prepared for Thursday afternoon’s
Golden Jubilee Lecture by renowned art historian and critic Andrew
Looking back, chairman, Gaby Robertshaw, said: “We still
have in our possession the 1967 membership list. Then, as now, HDFAG members
covered a wide area radiating out from Harrogate at a time when not everyone
had access to a car.
“There were no mobile phones,
and communications relied on Royal Mail rather than our committee email, as in
the 21st Century.”
Gaby said that with a ‘young and glamorous’ membership in
the sixties, hats were often de rigeur and sherry receptions took place with an
The group held its inaugural lecture at the Cairn Hotel on
January 25, 1967, under the chairmanship of Chita Hutton-Wilson, attracting a very
respectable 175 attendees.
The event took place following a small advert in The
Yorkshire Post asking for “young and energetic persons to help launch a midweek
study”. What followed was 50 years of like-minded art-lovers meeting up for
lectures, trips and field visits.
In the early seventies, the group became involved in a major
project to put more than 3000 pieces of early Leeds Creamware pottery on
display at Temple Newsam House.
This was HDFAG’s first foray into volunteering and it was a
course that would eventually lead them to The Royal Hall, which Heritage Volunteer
Leader, Val Freeman happened to be driving past one fateful day in 2006.
The Hall was, at this time, in a poor state of repair and
Val remembers seeing a skip outside the venue full of fittings from the
historic theatre. It was at that moment she knew what HDFAG’s next project had
“It was being cleared out before an inventory was taken,”
she recalled. “The Council and the Royal
Hall Restoration Trust allowed me to assemble a team to do just that.
“Measurements and plans had been the careers of four of our
eight volunteers. In the space of five weeks, every pane of stained glass was
measured with surgical instruments, as was every area from the famous
ambulatories to the Grand Circle and Stage.
“It transpired that Heritage Lottery Funding would not have
been granted without our detailed inventory.”
The group’s work proved invaluable in the restoration of the
Royal Hall, as did the
incredible £2.7million raised by HDFAG member Lilian Mina.
Today the group continues its popular programme of lectures
and visits; alongside a flourishing group of Young Arts projects and challenges
for the Church Recorders and Heritage Volunteers.
Tickets for Thursday afternoon’s lecture by Andrew
Graham-Dixon are almost sold out so hurry to
whats-on for more information.
If you would be interested in joining Harrogate Decorative
and Fine Arts Group, contact Joanne Pellow on
01132 037287 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for details.