Why Derby deserves a crime and romance writing festival of its own

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My revelation comes after a visit to Harrogate Crime Writing Festival which was eye-opening and fabulous

I visited Harrogate last week for its annual crime writing festival.

It was my first time and it was glorious.

Officially titled Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival, the four-day extravaganza - there is no other word to describe it - is filled with crime writing centric events including panels of crime authors sharing their expertise and writing journey.

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I stayed for the full duration, arriving in Harrogate on Thursday, July 20, which was the festival’s opening day, and leaving Sunday, July 23.

If I could compare the two people - me on Thursday versus me on Sunday - the difference would be stark.

I arrived in Harrogate with a spring in my step, excited to meet authors whose books grace my bookshelves at home.

On Sunday, I was a little bleary-eyed; a full roster of 20+ events will do that to you.

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But… I also felt massively invigorated and filled with enthusiasm, because meeting your hero authors and being surrounded by like-minded bibliophiles is dreamy.

It got me thinking… why doesn’t Derby have its own crime and romance writing festival?

If I felt this amazing, this buoyed, after attending a book event, wouldn’t it be fabulous that others can feel the same way too?

Some of the authors whom I was privileged to watch on stage and meet include Clare Mackintosh, Vaseem Khan, Val McDermid, Lisa Jewell, Ruth Ware, Jeffery Deaver, Lee Child and Andrew Child.

These people are crime writing royalty.

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To be in the same marquee as them was honestly exhilarating - and judging by the reactions of other bookish fan attendees, I wasn’t the only one.

My elation after attending one evening at Harrogate Crime Writing Festival is clear - why can’t Derby a festival like this tooMy elation after attending one evening at Harrogate Crime Writing Festival is clear - why can’t Derby a festival like this too
My elation after attending one evening at Harrogate Crime Writing Festival is clear - why can’t Derby a festival like this too

Wouldn’t it be magic to bottle up that feeling you get from being immersed in books you love, and have it on hand for the rest of your life?

As gorgeous as that sounds, it is unfortunately possible.

However, the next best thing would be to try to organise an event, similar to the Harrogate Crime Festival, here in Derby.

Why Derby should have its own crime and romance writing festival

There is already a very good annual event called the Derby Book Festival.

Do we really need another one?

Yes!

You can never have too many books in your life.

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Sian Hoyle, Derby Book Festival co-organiser, said: “Over the past eight years Derby Book Festival has established itself as one of the most successful in the East Midlands with its wide-ranging programme of events aimed at all ages and interests.

“It is now one of the key events in the city’s annual arts and cultural calendar.

“The festival’s success is largely due to the wonderful support from the city’s arts venues, libraries, university and college as well as individual and business sponsors.

“In 2023, the May festival, held over nine days, welcomed over 3,000 visitors to events and reached around 11,000 school children through their education programme, inspiring a new generation of readers and writers.”

Why specifically a crime and romance writing festival?

Why not?

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I still recall a conversation with my careers advisor when I was contemplating my A-levels (yes I am that old).

When I expressed a desire to study English literature and home economics, my advisor at the time said the two subjects are not compatible, because there is no way I would use them together.

Now, the thing with me is that I go with my gut.

Fast forward to 2023, and I am using my writing and cooking nous to be, among other things, a food writer and food critic.

Why not pair two topics together, regardless of compatibility, if they bring you joy?

That is how I feel about crime and romance.

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Yes I love a good psychological thriller, however I also love a cute romantic novel.

This is what a lifetime of watching Bollywood movies will do to you.

Your soul will be imbued with scenes of happily-ever-afters, rain dances (sari clad women usually, not the practical types where one invites the rain pour from the sky) and pretty people running through fields (not a Theresa May wheat field scenario but a lush green one) doing exquisite and sometimes bonkers dance movements.

I think crime and romance are two genres that can happily co-exist with each other and will, I believe to my very core, be the basis of a fun and entertaining roster of events.

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Good for the local economy

I spent one glorious long weekend in Harrogate, plus a boatload of money.

I think I single-handedly inadvertently sponsored next year’s Harrogate crime writing festival, my bank account got such a hammering with all those books that I just had to have.

We drank, dined and shopped in Harrogate.

A number of hotels and boutique shops lining Montpellier Quarter also got in the mood and decorated their shop windows with books, fake crime scene banners and more crime fiction related paraphernalia.

Baltzersen’s is an independent cafe which got in the writing festival spirit and shared booklets of the Child Brothers’ latest workBaltzersen’s is an independent cafe which got in the writing festival spirit and shared booklets of the Child Brothers’ latest work
Baltzersen’s is an independent cafe which got in the writing festival spirit and shared booklets of the Child Brothers’ latest work

It drew me in and countless others too, which means money spent went right back into the local economy.

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Just think if a crime and romance festival happened in Derby, which shops and eateries would also get into crime spirit?

Perhaps Turtle Bay restaurant would dedicate its enviably giant window to a nice book display showcasing Vaseem Khan’s excellent series about The Unexpected Inheritance of Inspector Chopra?

Or maybe The Kitchen on Sadler Gate can get a musician for their amazing mic nights, who plays romantic songs, flanked by a display of cute-as-heck romantic novels by Trisha Ashley who would also be on hand to sign books, meet fans and grab a bite to eat (The Kitchen do scrumptious Mars Bar enveloped in pillowy pizza dough)?

Celebrating the queen of crime fiction, perhaps Milk & Honey deli could host an Agatha Christie-themed afternoon tea (dress up essential)?

See, it all sounds like great fun, doesn’t it?

Who’s with me? If you want to see this crime and romance festival happening in Derby, get in touch, let’s make it happen!

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