Sunday, 14 June 2015

Carlisle Crime Writing Festival

I've returned from attending the inaugural Carlisle Crime Writing Festival - a thoroughly enjoyable week-end, for all sorts of reasons. The Festival was the brainchild of Martin Daley, an author of historical crime fiction, and the Festival had the backing of Carlisle Borough Council. Now, local authorities come in for their fair share of criticism, but the first thing to say is that I believe this was a very well-organised and successful venture, the first step, perhaps, on the journey of putting Carlisle on the crime fiction map.

I do hope the festival becomes a fixture in the calendar, because the city is a terrific destination, the gateway to Scotland if one is heading north, and to the Lake District if heading south. One of the spin-off benefits of a successful festival is that local businesses benefit, and among those that certainly deserve to benefit is the local bookshop, Bookends (which also has a branch in Keswick.) In addition, the owners run a second hand bookshop, Bookcase, which has extensive and impressive stock and  is also well worth a visit.

A word, too, for the Crown and Mitre Hotel, where we stayed and were well looked after. On Thursday evening I had a chance to catch up over dinner with Rebecca Tope, with whom I shared a platform on Friday morning, along with a newish author, Graham Smith. The connecting theme was that we all write books set in the local area, although we have contrasting approaches to writing and our books are quite different. Martin Daley hosted this session, and did so very professionally.

In the afternoon, as well as looking around the city, and the cathedral, and visiting Bookcase, I enjoyed a panel featuring the Scottish trio Lin Anderson, Alex Gray, and Alanna Knight. Then it was time for the evening event - a rare outing together for all six members of Murder Squad. This was a fun session, ably organised by Cath Staincliffe, and it's fascinating to think that the Squad has been together, with only limited changes of personnel, for close on sixteen years. And we are all still speaking to each fact there was much convivial conversation over dinner afterwards.

All in all, a great event, and special thanks go to Martin and his team for all their hard work. Getting a festival like this off the ground is far from easy, but they did  great job. As for me, I had a fantastic trip, with excursions to other parts of Cumbria before and after the festival. And I even met a real life King. More about this shortly!  .

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