Harrogate celebrates a decade of crime - a look ahead to the Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival

festival audience

festival audience - Credit: Archant

Harrogate will be alive with the sound of music and murder this month, as Jo Haywood discovers

Don’t be surprised if you bump into actress Brenda Blethyn tucking into a fat rascal or comedian Sarah Millican browsing the rails in a Montpellier Gardens fashion emporium this month. You’re not having a funny turn – although both women are hilarious – it’s just that Harrogate is going to be the place to be this summer.

This usually genteel North Yorkshire town is celebrating a Decade of Crime, which is not something many communities would brag about, but in this case is definitely worthy of a toast or two. Harrogate hosted its first ever Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival in 2003 and now, ten years later, is set to welcome myriad special guests of national and international acclaim including co-founder, original programming chairwoman and best-selling author Val McDermid, who’s been tempted back into the programming chair for the 11th annual event.

‘When I was persuaded to chair the programming committee for the first festival all those years ago, what tempted me to take it on was the prospect of helping to showcase the range and quality of contemporary crime writing,’ she explained.

‘I know my passion for this genre is shared by thousands of readers who have attended our events, and we’ve all had some memorable encounters with those writers who have given us so much delicious, disturbing terror over the years. This year will be no different.’

Festival-goers are invited to join the world’s most celebrated crime authors in conversation, in action and in the bar from July 18th to 21st.

Among the numerous special guests this year are Susan Hill, who penned the iconic Woman in Black, Jackson Brodie creator Kate Atkinson and doyenne of the whodunits Ruth Rendell, who will be interviewed on stage by her friend and fellow author Jeanette Winterson.

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American bestsellers Charlaine Harris, whose Southern Vampire Mysteries inspired TV’s True Blood, and Lee Child, author of the famed Jack Reacher series, will be questioned by Sarah Millican.

Rebus creator Ian Rankin will also be in town to question award-winning crime novelist and poet William McIlvanney. And there will a series of panel discussions and debates (occasionally heated) on TV’s Vera, with author Ann Cleeves and star Brenda Blethyn, social media as a tool for success or suicide and, the big question on everyone’s lips, will the Scandi crime-wave be superseded by an invasion of German sleuths? The crime writing smorgasbord is just one part of an exciting series of events that make up Harrogate International Festivals. Richard and Judy (yes, that Richard and Judy) will be joining ex-Python Michael Palin, Strictly stalwart Ann Widdecombe and those delicious Fabulous Baker Brothers at Raworths’ Literature and Lecture Series from July 11th to 14th.

‘We’re so delighted to be bringing a line-up of such brilliant calibre to town,’ said Sharon Canavar of Harrogate International Festivals. ‘It’s an eclectic mix – there’s really something for everyone.’ n

For more details and to book tickets for any of the events call the box office on 01423 562303 or visit harrogateinternationalfestivals.com.