Where to begin to write about the Theakston Festival 2014? The outstanding and well organised venue? The fun and informative panels? The addition of a beer tent? The book tepee? The chance to chat to dozens of crime readers and writers at the bar? All of the above and much, much more is what makes Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival one of my favourite times of year. This year it may even bump Santa off the number one spot.

I’ve picked five highlights from the festival to tell you about, not an easy task, but I’ve struggled on. Five is a direct correlation to the number of hour’s sleep I had whilst at the festival and the number of days it has subsequently taken me to recover.

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‘The Venue. How good does that look?’

1. The new beer tent.

These items are in no particular order, honestly. It just happens that the one connected to beer is first. An addition to the festival this year (The festival just keeps on getting bigger and better) was the beer tent. This allowed for minimum time spent queuing for a beverage. It also became a superb place both to get some shade from the scorching sun and shelter from the occasional storm. Here I could put on a wig and have my photo taken as part of a promotional book give-a-way and summon up the courage to approach my favourite authors.

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‘Wig is for the promo photo, not to ‘glam it up’ to chat to fellow crime writers, honest.’

2. Seeing old friends and making new ones.

Three years ago I bought my first weekend rover ticket to the festival. This is an access all events and accommodation package (Highly recommended). At this time I knew no one. If this is you, don’t be afraid. Crime readers and writers are so welcoming and friendly you won’t have a moment to yourself. I now have friends I meet there on an annual basis and keep in touch with throughout the year.

 3. Breakfast with Ann Cleeves.

My rover package included accommodation at the Old Swan Hotel which is where the festival takes place. This is also where a lot of the authors stay. A couple of friends and I were lucky enough to be asked by Ann Cleeves to join her for breakfast. Ann was keen to hear our thoughts and feelings on the festival and ran her thoughts and ideas for future festivals past us. It was great to be made to feel that our opinions mattered. Ann is a wonderful and generous lady and it was a delight to share a pot of tea with her.

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‘Beer and crime writing. Does it get any better?’

 4. The panels.

There were far too many good panel discussions to possibly mention them all. With great difficulty, and yet no difficulty at all, I have chosen “Keeping It Real” the Sunday morning panel hosted by David Mark with Stav Sherez, Chris Carter, Stuart Neville and Tim Weaver, as one of my highlights. It was a thought provoking discussion about the differences between real life crime and crime fiction. It included ideas such as ‘real life murders are often biennial and pointless, in fiction they can’t be’ and ‘fiction has to make sense but real life doesn’t’.’

Second to this was “In Space, No-one Can Hear You Scream” on Saturday afternoon. Hosted by Steve Mosby with Lauren Beukes, Sharon Bolton, James Smythe and Lavie Tidhar it looked at crime writing that crosses genre, which is something I am very interested in. Here was the message to write the book you want to write, or would like to read, and worry about the genre later. If your book is good enough people will want to read it.

 5. Leaving the Fan Girl behind (Almost) to become the writer (Almost).

This is the first year at the festival I won’t have been spotted standing open mouthed with awe at the edges of the bar known only to stammer, ‘oh my god it’s Mark Billingham, Val McDermid, Denise Mina, Steve Mosby, Chris Ewan, David Mark, Tom Wood, Craig Robertson …’ and so on. Not quite as much anyway. I openly pitched myself as a writer, which I am. I am a ‘baby writer’, having only been writing seriously for a year. As I approach the toddling stage I am pleased to say I did far less stammering and far more actual conversation.

Hot tips for next year –

Take more photos. Pack less (It will allow more room for all the books I accept I will buy/be given. Sleep lots before the weekend and rest the liver well. Read, read, read and write, write, write.

I head back to the day job with renewed vigour and enthusiasm for my writing. I know there is a superb network of support out there wanting me to succeed. Thank you to this years chair, Steve Mosby (If you haven’t read his books you really should) and all of team crime 2014. I look forward to seeing what 2015 has in store.

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  1. Mike Craven says:

    Excellent post Lucy

  2. Jim says:

    Loved the Harrogate post. Well done