The UK's best crime writing festivals

08 July 2016

By Pan Macmillan

Louise Millar, author of City of Strangers and co-founder of the crime-writing collective killerwomen.org, tells us why she loves crime writing festivals and we share our pick of the best events for crime thriller fans. 

Don’t tell my husband, but my favourite idea of a weekend away of getting up to no good is heading off by myself to a crime festival.

Like many crime authors, I’m also a crime fiction fan, and for me, there simply is no better way to meet up with like-minded (bloody-minded) friends, writers and readers to pull apart the nitty-gritty of what makes a good crime novel.

Most crime festivals offer a packed programme of panels, where writers discuss all elements of crime writing, and answer audience questions. How far is a twist too far? Where do we get our ideas? Do we do painstaking forensics research or make it all up? 

Increasingly, crime festivals offer interactive events, too. So if you want to take part in a murder mystery, read the first chapter of your own crime novel out to professional agents or be on the ‘jury’ of a live enactment of a crime story, this is the place to be.

Book signings often follow panels, so you can meet your favourite writers. (This is me at Harrogate shortly after I leapt over the desk to have my photo taken with my own crime-writing hero, Arnaldur Indridason, who luckily didn’t seem alarmed.) The crime fiction community is famously friendly (the theory is that we get all the bad stuff out on paper) so once the day is finished, you’ll find many of us in the bar.

Crime festivals are held all over the UK, from Stirling to Shetland (that me on stage at last year's Shetlandnoir), Harrogate to Bristol, Brighton to Norwich. And this year, I’m excited to announce there will be a new festival in London on October 15th, staged by me and my band of crime-writing colleagues Killer Women (killerwomen.org). If you can make it to London, please come and join us for a day of exciting panels, with huge names in crime fiction, the odd famous face from TV, and real-life crime experts, all finished off with our very own Killer Women cocktails.

See you in the bar!


The UK's best crime-writing festivals 

Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival

Old Swan Hotel, Harrogate
 
The granddaddy of UK crime festivals, now in its 14th year, Yorkshire’s four-day celebration of crime writing continues to draw the biggest names from around the world, from J.K. Rowling to Linwood Barclay to Martina Cole, every July.
 
Killer Women Crime Writing Festival
Shoreditch Town Hall, London
 
London’s first ever female-led crime festival will take place this October.
A celebration of women’s crime writing, spearheaded by award-winning writer and journalist Melanie McGrath, it already features a raft of high-profile authors on the roster including Ann Cleeves, Martina Cole, Mark Billingham and Val McDermid.
 
Bloody Scotland
Albert Halls, Stirling
 
Scotland produces some of the best crime writers in the world so it only seems right that it should have it’s own crime writing festival. It’s not only Scots that flock to the medieval city in September though, you can see the likes of Martina Cole and husband and wife writing duo, Nicci French, alongside regulars like Malcolm Mackay, Denise Mina and Val McDermid. 
 
Noirwich
Dragon Hall, Norwich
 
A four-day celebration of crime fiction held in Norwich each September. The festival mixes together author talks and Q&As with crime superstars, such as Peter James, Ann Cleeves and Ian Rankin, with masterclasses for aspiring writers.
 
CrimeFest
Marriott Royal Hotel, Bristol
 
This friendly crime convention, held in May each year, attracts passionate crime fans as well as aspiring authors and always puts on a wide range of talks by well-known authors.

Louise Millar's City of Strangers is out now. Read an extract here. 

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