Harrogate Crime Writing Festival

Citizens of Harrogate, brace yourselves for a crime wave as the Crime Writing Festival rolls into town…

Crime obviously pays. In 2003 the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival hit Harrogate and immediately gripped the literary world. In the 15 years since its inception, it has become the biggest celebration of the genre in Europe. In 2016 the event sold out, with 14,000 individual ticket sales in four days, and it was praised as one of the UK’s top literary festivals in The Guardian and Elle magazine.
According to The Times newspaper, the festival is now firmly established as the ‘Hay-on-Wye of the crime world’ and has contributed towards putting Harrogate on the national and international festival maps. It is hosted at the Old Swan Hotel, where Agatha Christie was found dancing in the ballroom after her disappearance triggered a nationwide manhunt in 1926. The film Agatha about her vanishing act starred Vanessa Redgrave and Dustin Hoffman and was filmed at the Old Swan in 1979, so the hotel has a long association with the queen of crime fiction.

“It is hosted at the Old Swan Hotel, where Agatha Christie was found dancing in the ballroom.”

The Crime Writing Festival is run under the stewardship of Harrogate International Festivals, now the north’s leading arts organisation. To what does CEO Sharon Canavar attribute its success? “Our experience matched with the industry know-how of the programming committee has proved incredibly successful over the years.”
The festival’s headline sponsor is Simon Theakston, Executive Director of T&R Theakston Ltd, the brewery based in Masham. He says, “We’ve supported the festival almost since the start, and every year it surpasses already high expectations. It is a delight to be part of such an iconic annual event on the north’s literary calendar.” Sharon agrees. “We’ve had consistent support from Theakstons. We are thrilled with their on-going sponsorship.”

This year Elly Griffiths – creator of forensic archaeologist, Dr Ruth Galloway – takes over the helm from Peter James as Programming Chair of the Crime Writing Festival. She won the 2016 CWA Dagger in the Library prize, her latest novel is The Woman in Blue and her ninth book in the series is due out in 2017. She has lined up a who’s-who of crime fiction for Harrogate audiences, including author talks, debates, workshops and celebrity panels. As a taster, here are some highlights of the weekend.
Lee Child has sold an astounding 100 million books and created a billion-dollar brand with his ‘Jack Reacher’ series, adapted to film by Tom Cruise. He long ago decamped to New York and says, “The Crime Writing Festival is just about the only reason I return to the old country.” He’ll be back to talk about his work on Friday 21 July at 9:00.
Scottish author Ian Rankin celebrates the 30th anniversary of his first Rebus book at the festival with an author discussion on Saturday 22 July at 10:30. Dennis Lehane is one of the US’s greatest crime novelists and many of his novels have been made into films, including Shutter Island with Leonardo DiCaprio and Mystic River starring Sean Penn. He speaks about his writing on Saturday at 17:00, while Peter May of ‘The Lewis Trilogy’ fame and fellow Scot Stuart MacBride, who created Detective Sergeant Logan McRae, debate their work at 20:30.
Star of the screen Brenda Blethyn appears on Sunday 23 July at 10:00 with ‘Vera’ author Ann Cleeves, who was the festival’s first-ever Reader in Residence back in 2003. She has sold 1.5 million copies of her books and joins Brenda on stage to talk about their partnership in the detective series.

Tickets are now on sale for the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival and are selling out fast. All events take place at the Old Swan Hotel on 20-23 July. Prices range from the Weekend Rover at £225 to £14 for single events. Ring the box office on 01423 562 303 or go to www.harrogateinternationalfestivals.com/crime for more details of the schedule.