I like the original name for Harrogate’s Royal Hall : Kursaal. It means ‘Cure Hall’ in German and was a popular format for public entertainment venues of the sort, in Victorian times – particularly in Spa towns. This was changed due to frayed Anglo Germanic relations and the Kursaal concept never really caught on in England, but the word is still fairly well known around the town.
Looking at some photos I got back the other day, I realised I actually have quite an attachment to it. It’s recently just completed a huge restoration project and it’s fantastic to see every detail has been lovingly restored. There’s been the backlash or it costing £8M of Harrogate’s money, but I think well worth it. I’ve seen her, at her worst. I was doing some work there in 2005 at the very last event before it closed fully for 2 years and it was a very sorry sight. I’ve been to every corner of the building and know it really well – up in the Gods, back stage, the Perambulation route which goes behind back stage – I’ve even been in the weird catacomb type rooms under the floor. I’ve not been down the tunnels that go between there and the Royal Baths (Viper Rooms) but I’ve seen where they are. Safe to say – I know the building and I’m honored to do so.
I’m also honored to have spent time with a woman who without whom, the restoration work probably wouldn’t have happened; Lilian Mina who was chair of The Restoration Trust. We actually had the privileged of an invite to her private residence to meet her and her husband, whilst doing some stuff for PLUSH magazine. She was a marvelous lady who sadly passed away just 5 days before the official reopening of the hall in 2008. Since then, the work has continued to the point where you could say that today, it’s finished – it’s back to it’s former glory – if not better, thanks to the technical advantages the hall now has, over it’s former self. Lillian was also instrumental in the Harrogate Civic Society – an organisation who’s function is to “enhance the character and amenities of the Town while protecting and preserving all the best of the past“. I remember the meeting though ended on a slightly sour taste, as we didn’t see eye to eye, when it came to the Knab’s Ridge Windfarm, which she was campaigning against.
I spotted a public notice invite to a meeting whilst I was there – inviting people to ‘have their say’ in the selection of entertainment the hall should offer. I was fairly disappointed, because a./ I’d not noticed it before and b./ the mid-day, mid-week, short notice format, meant that I couldn’t attend. I probably would have suggested something frightfully inappropriate anyway. The very best thing in my opinion is to keep it’self as a place for the very special events. I think it does need to attract some big spitters though, or just any spitters at all would be good – at the time of writing the events page has nothing on it. This is either a technical or workflow error, or a massive shame. I really hope we’re not just going to let this jewel in the crown gather dust, now it’s shining so brightly.