Harrogate Crime Festival Roundup

(Cross-posted on the WriteClub blog)

This year was the first time I attended the Theakston’s Old Peculier Crime Writing Conference at Harrogate (so called because it’s named after the beer brewed by the sponsoring brewery), and a last-minute decision to attend meant I got a day pass for the Saturday, even though the conference ran from Thursday to Sunday.

The Old Swan Hotel


The conference is probably the biggest crime festival in the UK, and is held at the Old Swan Hotel – famous for being the hotel where Agatha Christie holed up when she disappeared for 10 days in 1926. Its connections to the Grande Dame of crime writing, therefore make it a highly appropriate venue for the festival.

I probably did not go to quite as many of the panels as I should have done. It was a fine sunny day, and hanging out in the front terrace seemed to be the place to be to meet interesting people. I chatted with Mark Billingham about e-books. He came to speak to the writing group a few years ago and I’ve met him on a couple of other occasions – I was pleased he remembered me. He’s chairing next year’s festival and said he wants to have more of an emphasis on e-books. I shamelessly took the opportunity to tell him about mine.

Mark Billingham


I talked to a lady who was about to buy a Kindle, and wanted to know about some titles she could put on it. Hopefully she’ll now go out and buy DEATH SCENE!

But I could not sit in the sun indefinitely, and I did go to some panels. The one I enjoyed the most was called The Outer Limits, and dealt with the rising popularity of paranormal elements in crime – a subject close to my heart.

I’d also bought a ticket for the Criminal Consequences dinner, so I got to go to that too. For the uninitiated (and this might be a uniquely British thing), ‘consequences’ is a game you generally play at parties when you’re about 16. You write a boy’s name, then a girl’s name, where they met, what he said, what she said, and what happened at the end. After each ‘turn’ you fold the paper over and pass it on to the next person so they don’t know what you wrote when they write their answer. At the end you read out what you’ve got. The ‘criminal consequences’ game followed the same lines, except we were writing a crime story. We worked on our ‘story’ over dinner, and were told the best entry would win a prize.

Elena Forbes


The dinner was laid out so that each table was hosted by a ‘guest author’. Ours was Elena Forbes. I reviewed her book EVIL IN RETURN for Shotsmag not long ago. I did actually really enjoy the book (you can see my review here). Lo and behold copies of said book were piled up on our table, a free gift to everyone sitting at Elena’s table. It was the paperback version. I was thrilled to see that my review was included. I asked Elena to sign my copy – she wrote “thanks for the great review”. That alone would have made my evening, but as it happened our table won the ‘criminal consequences’ game, and each person on the table got a bag full of booty. Along with the goody bag that I was given on registration, I came away from the festival with quite an impressive haul of free stuff – bookmarks, a Theakston’s festival t-shirt, a mug, a beer coaster, a bottle of Theakston’s Old Peculier, and a huge stack of books. One of the best things about attending Cons is the Free Stuff.

Hubby had accompanied me to Yorkshire for the weekend, but was entertaining himself while I was at the festival (he’s not a big crime fan). He met me in the bar after dinner, and we sat outside on the terrace for rather a long time afterwards, talking to lots of interesting people. Rather longer than we were intending to, actually. Every time we were about to leave, we got talking to someone else.

I had a fab time, and my only regret is I didn’t go for longer. I intend to correct that next year. I have already marked the dates of next year’s conference in the diary.

I’ve already got a rather long list of conferences to attend in 2012. The hard part is going to be deciding which ones to attend. Finances won’t allow me to attend all of them.

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2 comments so far

  1. April on

    Sounds like a blast and such a great learning experience! I need to look for some conferences to attend as well, and soon. You’ve inspired me to take a look right now, in fact!

  2. Rosie Quigley on

    Sounds like you had a wonderful time….and so very interesting.


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