Knaresborough prepares for the world stage

A town is planning two weekends of celebrations during a world cycling event – including a “Party in the Castle”, talks at the cave of a 13th century hermit, a “fake festival”, film screenings and plethora of other entertainment.

UCI preperations in Knaresborough

Knaresborough will be showcasing its heritage and community spirit during the two weekends of the UCI Road World Championships, which is returning to the UK for the first time since 1982 and is expected to attract a television audience of more than 250 million viewers.

The celebrations begin on Saturday, September 21, when the Yorkshire 2019 Para-Cycling International takes place. The riders will start from three different locations along the same route, which all pass through Knaresborough and finish in Harrogate. 

North Yorkshire County Council, one of the major partners of event organisers Yorkshire 2019, has published details of the road closures which will be taking place in Knaresborough and elsewhere in the county. They can also be found on Yorkshire2019.

The paracyclists are due to pass through the town’s High Street between 2pm and 4pm and Knaresborough Chamber of Trade has organised a day of entertainment to welcome the race.

It includes displays of historic and classic vehicles in Market Square, along with food and drink stalls, a special farmers’ market and children’s entertainment.

There will also be free entertainment with a cycling theme at Knaresborough Castle from 11am until 9pm. The Party in the Castle will feature a “Fake Festival” in the evening featuring tribute acts, Chasing Mumford, Jackson Live and a “Dancefloor Divas” tribute from Shelly Stevens, who appeared on Britain’s Got Talent.

Bill Taylor, secretary of Knaresborough Chamber of Trade said: “This is set to be a great celebration with something for everyone. We have planned the event with accessibility in mind to ensure it’s a fully inclusive celebration and welcomes both disabled and able-bodied visitors.”

The following weekend Knaresborough Autumnfest will take place in the town from Friday, September 27 to Sunday, September 29, organised by a group of volunteers with Renaissance Knaresborough. It will coincide with the final two days of the global cycling event, which will be shown on large outdoor screens in the town.

The Autumnfest will be a celebration of all things Knaresborough. It will feature the town’s rich history in a ‘pop-up museum’ at the COGS centre near Gracious Street and the Market Place. This includes exhibitions of Knaresborough artefacts borrowed from local people and collections from across Yorkshire.

There will be guided walks throughout the weekend, featuring the town centre, Nidd Gorge, Sustrans Greenway, Abbey Road, St Roberts Cave, and Staveley Nature Reserve.  Other highlights of the weekend include an open air Tai Chi session and ‘The Vampire Experience’ at the castle, as well as music, dance and art events. There will also be live music in local pubs, film screenings and history talks. In addition there will also be discussion about a sustainable future for Knaresborough and a model railway on display featuring the entire town in miniature. 

North Yorkshire County Councillor for the Knaresborough ward, Cllr David Goode said: “Knaresborough will have something for everyone during the UCI Road World Championships, visitors and residents alike. From showcasing its colourful and significant heritage to live performances and inspirational walks through the town’s beautiful scenery.

“Residents and businesses have risen to the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity presented by this race and are keen to showcase this beautiful town to a world audience.”

Bill Rigby, from Renaissance Knaresborough, said: “There will be big screens so cycling enthusiasts can watch the race on Saturday and Sunday, but we have other entertainment and activities on across the town,” he said.

“One of the themes of the festival will be sustainability and we will be promoting cycling as a means of transport. We will be working with a company called Get Cycling who provide ‘wobbly’ bikes for under-sevens, rickshaws, bike buses and free bike maintenance among other things.”

The festival goes some way to reviving the town’s once-famous Water Festival, which was once the highlight of the town’s calendar and centred around both banks of the River Nidd and featured boat races and fireworks on the viaduct.  

Bill said: “This event stopped forty to fifty years ago but people want it back. We cannot repeat the water carnival because the river has changed - the banks are under different ownership and have more tree cover – but it was always held in the last weekend of September and so the Autumnfest fits nicely at this time. 

“It was also the 800thanniversary of St Robert last year - a hermit who lived in a cave at the end of Abbey Road in Knaresborough. So we’re reviving his story and will also be looking at the other characters who were part of Knaresborough’s history. We want to do something around his heritage and Knaresborough’s heritage right up to the present day.”

For more information, visit; Renaissance Knaresborough.

This story was published 5 September 2019