Ladies and gentlemen, it is a remarkable institution here, the Harrogate International Festival. So I must just say on this occasion how enormously proud I am to have been associated over the last several years with this, it has become a national treasure really I think.

For both of us, my wife and I, it has been such a treat to join you here this morning to celebrate the 50th anniversary of something that is clearly so very special and means an awful lot to so many people.  Clearly I am going to have to organise myself far better in the future, which I keep trying to do, in order to reach Harrogate in July, which would be a great deal more convenient to everybody I suspect, so that I can at least see a great deal more of the wonderful things that the festival does.

For both of us this morning it has been fascinating to hear about the extent of all the different aspects of life that are covered here, I was so intrigued to hear about the crime writers aspect of the festival and so many other remarkable things that make such a huge difference to the arts and culture in this very, I think, special part of the world.

We've also heard this morning just what this international festival means to those young performers, having a chance to make their name, here in Harrogate.

So I just want to use this occasion, above all else, to congratulate all those who play such a vital part in making sure this great institution continues, particularly all the volunteers who I know give up so much of their precious time to make such a difference every year. Above all, the sponsors who make it all happen and seem to come back every year for more, I think we owe them an enormous depth of gratitude. And also of course to all those staff and those people who are permanently helping and organise each years events.

So having said that many many congratulations to all of you on this special 50th anniversary and may there be many many happy returns. I hope you all keep it going for hundreds of years.