As September approaches, there’s always a back-to-school feel in the air. Kids are busy choosing their new pencil cases, trying on school shoes and complaining about the impending start of term. But it’s also the time when there are lots of new adult education courses starting in Harrogate.
If you’re no longer in full-time school, college or uni, but you fancy expanding your horizons and learning new skills, there are all sorts of opportunities available. So we bring you The Locals’ Guide to Adult Education in Harrogate.
As well as hundreds of teenagers pouring through its gates every day, Rossett School welcomes adults from the local community for its daytime and evening classes. In the last academic year, an incredible 3,500 people signed up for one of the 380 courses, led by 120 expert tutors, making Rossett the largest provider of adult education in Harrogate.
These are no run-of-the-mill belly dancing or holiday French courses – although you can sign up for those if you want. Rossett offers everything from smart phone and tablet workshops to help technophobes learn new skills, to first aid training aimed specifically at young people babysitting for friends and neighbours.
This September, the courses on offer are more varied than ever. Sport Psychology, run by a tutor who has previously worked with professional teams including Harlequins and Arsenal Ladies, is ideal for runners, cyclists, triathletes and other amateur athletes who want to understand how to motivate and perform effectively. Based in the neighbouring Rossett Sports Centre, it combines both classroom and practical work, and would also be useful to coaches with local sports teams.
Meanwhile, an expanding programme of Politics, Philosophy and Economics (PPE) courses is proving popular among those who want to engage their minds with the issues of the day. This term’s options include studying modern political parties, looking behind the headlines of the last week, an examination of the Cold War, and studying the 20th century through the Olympic Games.
Rossett has a thriving language school, covering widely-spoken European languages as well as Polish, Greek, and Latin. It also runs The Rossett Lectures, a series of weekly talks by local experts – this term’s topics will cover Harrogate’s Russian connections, Fountains Abbey, the evolutionary history of bees, Blind Jack and 18th century Knaresborough, animal behaviour, George Bernard Shaw, and Christmas in the Royal household.
When it comes to self-improvement, adult classes aren’t the only option – joining a club or group can also be a great way to learn. If music is your thing, or perhaps you’d like it to be, you could join a choir. Rock Up and Sing! is one of the biggest choirs in the local area, with more than 400 members and a thriving youth choir, too.
The adult choirs are split into four groups for rehearsals – three in Harrogate, one in Skipton – and they all meet on weekday evenings. As well as getting together for regular, huge concerts, often in support of local good causes and charities, they perform smaller concerts throughout the year. However, there’s no need to perform if you don’t want to: some members just enjoy learning the songs and singing as part of a group in rehearsals.
The choirs are led by former professional singer-turned-teacher Rhiannon Gayle, who has bags of energy and is never afraid of a challenge. As a result, the choirs have performed at prestigious venues in the UK and across Europe, recorded albums at Abbey Road, and been part of the official Tour de France Gala Dinner for VIPs in 2014. They’ve also sung for a world record attempt and been part of a Christmas Toys R Us advert (yes, that song!) in the last couple of years, and before that they sang On Ilkla Moor Baht ‘At on Ilkley Moor itself, with a helicopter circling overhead to film them, for a new version of the classic song featuring both Lesley Garrett and Brian Blessed. That song wasn’t typical of their repertoire: think Meatloaf, U2, Led Zeppelin, Nirvana and Bon Jovi and you’ll have the rock side of things, though they do turn their hands to ballads as well, including Adele, John Legend and Whitney Houston.
If you want to sign up, there’s no need to have experience or be able to read music – and as a community choir, they don’t have auditions. Just contact them to find out whether there are spaces available and pop your name on the waiting list if not. To get a flavour of how this family of choirs works, and why they’re so popular, go along to one of their concerts – there’s a full list of upcoming dates on the website.
British flower enthusiast Jo Banks launched Harrogate Garden and Flower School a couple of years ago to give those who wouldn’t necessarily call themselves gardeners the confidence to have a go. Jo’s passion for gardening began when she was still a toddler watching her Dad in the garden tending his rose beds, and as a teenager she recalls deriving as much pleasure from weeding as partying. Now she has finally realized her dream of being able to share her knowledge and enjoyment with others by running her own garden and flower school in Harrogate. She holds regular monthly classes on Tuesday evenings and Friday afternoons as well as one-off workshops at her home, which is just off Leeds Road in Harrogate.
Jo has plenty of regular garden class members but this September she is launching a brand new class for beginners. Jo is a member of the British flower growing network Flowers from the Farm and works hard to promote and support home grown flowers – and show people how to add colour to their own plots. She is also very aware of the heavy clay soil that is typical of Harrogate gardens and has plenty of advice on choosing plants that will do well in these conditions.
The classes are friendly and informal and a great opportunity to ask questions about your own garden. Learn the basics of horticulture along with practical skills and direction for the month ahead in your garden in a fun and relaxed atmosphere over tea and cake. Evening classes run from 7-9pm and Friday afternoon classes from 1-3pm once a month. Cost is £20 per class and numbers are limited to 8 per session. Upcoming workshops include Christmas wreath making in December. Full details are available on the website.
If painting is more your thing (or you think it could be), Harrogate artist Sarah Charneca runs a variety of art workshops for all ages and abilities in the town and surrounding area.
A trained fine artist, graphic designer and typographer, Sarah has previously worked as a furniture painter and gilder, and an art conservator. She describes herself as a ‘general enthusiast for all things arty’, and spends much of her time running art sessions for elderly residents and dementia patients at care homes in the area. She also paints, sells and exhibits her original, vibrant watercolours, as well as running group and private sessions for budding and more experienced artists.
The start of the new school term marks the launch of some new watercolour workshops with Sarah, which will be held at Jespers of Harrogate, just a few doors down from us on Oxford Street. Ideal for beginners but suitable for all abilities, the sessions run from 10am to 12.30pm and 1pm to 3.30pm on Saturday 9th September, Wednesday 27th September, and Thursday 12th October. All materials are provided and there’ll also be complementary tea, coffee and biscuits. Classes cost £20 each, or £35 for a full day of two sessions.
Sarah also offers private one-to-one workshops, as well as day and evening classes for groups of family or friends. For more details, contact Sarah via her website.
Tucked away on Princes Street in the centre of Harrogate is The Sewing Sanctuary, a calm space dedicated to all things fabric and needlework. Whether you’re hoping to learn the basics of sewing, you want to develop your skills, or you just need some ‘me time’ and an activity to take your mind off the pressures of life, this is a great option.
It is run by former high school textiles teacher Christine, who cites BBC programme The Great British Sewing Bee as one of the causes of a revival in enthusiasm for sewing. She still offers one-to-one tuition and small group events for people looking for something bespoke, but there’s plenty of choice in her workshop programme too.
Absolute beginners can join a three-week course to help them master the basics of routine sewing projects on hems, pockets, buttonholes and more. There is also a course introducing learners to sewing machines, and a beginners’ dressmaking course. Meanwhile, for those with some experience, there are courses covering more advanced dressmaking, skirts, curtains, blinds and cushions. There are after school classes for younger sewers too, and courses running through the school holidays, or you can book a private party (for adults or children!).
If you’re just looking for somewhere to sew with company and support from an expert, The Sewing Sanctuary runs Sewing Saturdays twice a month, along with Crafternoons every Wednesday. You can bring your own project to work on with some company and a cup of tea, or take inspiration from patters in the workshop, buying the materials you need from The Sewing Sanctuary.
To make it even better, there are vouchers available for workshops, so you can treat a friend – or encourage your friends and family to treat you. For more details, visit the website.