Mari Hannah, author of DCI Kate Daniels novels, tells us about her experience at the 2015 Carlisle Crime Weekend. 

I love crime festivals and welcome any opportunity to engage with readers. A few weeks ago, I attended Carlisle’s Crime Weekend, the first of its kind in Cumbria. The three-day event showcased the work of thirty-three authors from across the UK in the town’s new arts and entertainment centre at the Old Fire Station – and what a brilliant venue it was!
The festival was the brainchild of fellow author Martin Daley who also works for the City Council. In the early stages of development, he wrote to me asking if I’d be up for a ‘no-obligation, in-principle agreement to appear.’ I jumped at the chance, especially when I found out that authors were to be accommodated at the Crown and Mitre in the centre of the town, a hotel that once played host to Sherlock Holmes’ creator, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
The festival took place during National Crime Month in June. Coming on the back of Newcastle Noir and Crimefest in May, it filled a gap perfectly in the run up to July when authors and readers of crime fiction make their annual pilgrimage to the mother of all such events – Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival, Harrogate – leaving just enough time for our livers recover.
The hospitality shown to authors during Carlisle Crime Weekend was amazing, something writers can’t always count on. We were not only paid, we were fed! Yes, writers need food occasionally, as well as the opportunity to relax and chat before and after our events. So, for me, Carlisle is right up there with festivals like Glasgow’s Aye Write, Huddersfield and Harrogate who excel in looking after authors. Would that all festivals were like this.
It was obvious to everyone how much thought had gone into planning the event. Not only had the organisers created a terrific website and logo, they had secured the support of the CWA and scheduled a diverse range of panels with an impressive line up of top authors, many of them from the north and Scotland. They arranged hotel bookings, sent directions, provided a green room, all very important to those taking part.
It was great to meet reader development officer Helen Towers from Carlisle Library that weekend, and to see independent bookshop (Bookends of Carlisle) as a festival partner. The bookstall, run by Gwenda, had a great stock of authors’ books, including backlists. She’d even managed to get hold of my new paperback Killing for Keeps a month ahead of its publication date: 15 July. Thank you Pan Macmillan.
I really enjoyed my panel with David Mark, John Dean and participating moderator, Matt Hilton. It was fun sharing our thoughts on crime ‘Fact v Fiction’ and we made sure that any blood spilled was forensically removed before we left. Thanks to all who came along. Roll on Harrogate.