Some of the biggest names in crime fiction, a poisoned cocktail party, chilling film screenings and workshops – all this and more will take place in Aberdeen in February as the second Granite Noir festival gets underway.
Ann Cleeves, Chris Brookmyre, Val McDermid, Hugh Fraser and Robert Daws will headline the festival, which runs in venues across Aberdeen from February 23 – 25 next year. This year’s festival is even bigger, with an exciting menu of 32 events.
Organised by Aberdeen Performing Arts, Granite Noir will also welcome Nordic Noir authors who are travelling from every corner of Scandinavia to talk to audiences about their novels. The full lineup for the festival was announced last night (Sunday) at a poisoned cocktail party at His Majesty’s Theatre. At the heart of the festival are talks by authors and industry panels. Other events will include film screenings, workshops for adults and kids, an exhibition of police Wanted posters, and Noir at the Bar. For the first time, selected talks will be available to view around the world thanks to the festival’s new live streaming and pay-per-view service.
APA chief executive Jane Spiers said: “Aberdeen will be in the grip of Granite Noir in February as we bring our crime fiction festival to venues across the city. Our inaugural event earlier this year was a huge success, with multiple sell out events. This year we’re bringing more authors and more variety, with something for people of all passions and ages.
“Brilliant writers from far and wide will share insights into their work in our author talks and panels, while aspiring authors can hone their craft at special writing workshops. We are providing a platform for local authors to share their work with our spotlight readings at The Lemon Tree, and we are holding classic Noir film screenings, a Granite Noir guided walk, our popular Poisoned High Tea and a brand new Poisoned Cocktail Party, as well as crime scene exhibition and a unique words-and-music book launch.
“For those who can’t be there in person, we’ve this year launched a live streaming and pay-per-view service for selected talks, along with exclusive content and interviews.”
Among the headliners is crime fiction megastar Ann Cleeves, who is the only living crime writer to have two different adaptations on television at the same time – the hugely successful Shetland and Vera. Ann will be joined by Dr James Grieve, Emeritus Professor of Forensic pathology at The University of Aberdeen. A frequent consultant to crime writers, Dr Grieves also appears as himself in Ann’s Shetland novels. The event will be chaired by BBC Radio Scotland presenter Fiona Stalker.
One of the biggest and best-loved names in crime writing, Val McDermid’s novels have been translated into 30 languages and more than 10 million copies have been sold worldwide. Her work was adapted for the highly popular Wire in the Blood, starring Robson Green. Among her many awards are the Portico Prize for Fiction, the LA Times Book Prize and the Cartier Diamond Dagger. The award-winning writer has appeared at two of APA’s Culture Café events in previous years.
Next year’s festival will be Christopher Brookmyre’s second appearance at Granite Noir. One of Scotland’s finest, and funniest writers, his headline gig at the inaugural Granite Noir sold out quickly and tickets are expected to fly for February’s event, which will see him share his gift for storytelling as he talks about two of his recent works, Want You Gone and Places in the Darkness.
Chris said: “Last year’s inaugural Granite Noir was a bustling, raucous success, so
I am looking forward to another lively weekend of dark tales and dark ales this February.”
Hugh Fraser and Robert Daws complete the headliners lineup. The pair will appear together in an event chaired by Fiona Stalker, where they will share their experiences of acting and writing. Known for playing Poirot’s sidekick, Captain Hastings, as well as the Duke of Wellington in Sharpe, Hugh Fraser’s written work includes the latest in his Rina Walker series, Threat. Robert Daws has appeared in Midsomer Murders, New Tricks, Death in Paradise and Father Brown, to give just a few of his screen credits He co-created and wrote the long running BBC Radio detective series, Trueman and Riley, and writes the Sullivan and Brock novels, set in Gibraltar.
Granite Noir is produced by Aberdeen Performing Arts in partnership with Aberdeen City Library and Aberdeen City and Aberdeenshire Archives and Belmont Filmhouse, with support from Aberdeen City Council and Waterstones. Freelance writer and interviewer Lee Randall has programmed the author conversation strand of the festival for the second time. Lee regularly appears at book festivals throughout the UK, and has twice been a judge Bloody Scotland’s McIlvenney Prize.
APA’s Head of Artistic Development Lesley Anne Rose said: “We were so pleased with how the inaugural Granite Noir was received earlier this year and we just couldn’t wait to start organising our second festival. We are very excited and proud to unveil our programme, which is the culmination of months of hard work by our Granite Noir team. The festival weekend is packed with interesting, unique and surprising events and activities and we look forward to welcoming crime fiction fans and fledglings alike.”
Events are designed for readers and writers alike, and fall into seven categories: Most Wanted (headline events); In Conversation sessions; Granite Noir Workshops; Crimewatch (film screenings); Young Criminals (family events); Unusual Suspects (other Fringe events) and Late Night Noir. Locals in the Limelight runs alongside the festival, offering aspiring local writers to share their work in front of audiences. This year APA is also partnering with SPECTRA, Aberdeen’s Festival of Light, to present a panel discussion based around the role of literature and writers in defining place and cultural identity. His Majesty’s Theatre will be transformed with a special light show thanks to a joint commission between Granite Noir and SPECTRA, and for the second year there will be a special edition beer available throughout the festival – Granite Noir IPA – a black IPA from Fierce Beer.
Lee Randall added: “The second Granite Noir will plunge audiences headfirst into the dark recesses of the human psyche, asking what motivates people to do their worst. The aim of Granite Noir is to showcase the best of Nordic Noir as well as Scottish and national writing talent, and we will be welcoming bestselling authors from Iceland, Norway and Sweden, telling stories guaranteed to send shivers down your spine.”
The full programme will be available to view on the APA website from Sunday. Events will take place in city centre venues including The Lemon Tree, Aberdeen’s Central Library, The Town House, The Belmont Filmhouse, His Majesty’s Theatre and 1906 Restaurant, and Seventeen on Belmont Street.
The festival will open with an In Conversation event: The Truth is Out There – Or Is It? with authors Matt Wesolowski and Michael J Malone. This will be followed by Breathtaking Thrillers, with Icelandic and Irish writers Lilja Sigurdarottir and Catherine Ryan Howard. May The (Police) Force Be With You welcomes back author, reviewer, blogger and Scandi crime aficionado Sarah Ward, talking about her new DC Connie Childs novel, A Patient Fury. For this event Sarah will be joined by probation officer-turned crime writer Mari Hannah, whose award-winning novels are now in development with Stephen Fry’s production company. Jorn Lier Horst completes the trio and brings insight into his successful William Wisting series, which follows Wisting’s police career.
Sarah said: “I’m delighted to be returning to Granite Noir in 2018. This dynamic and thought provoking event is fast becoming a favourite of mine, attracting a wide range of authors.”
On Friday evening, the queen of crime writing Val McDermid will take to the stage in The Lemon Tree Lounge to share tales from the tenth book in her Tony Hill and Carol Jordan series, Insidious Intent.
Saturday’s schedule kicks off with a Granite Noir Workshop – How to Get Ahead in Publishing, delivered by powerhouse publisher Karen Sullivan, founder of Orenda Books. Karen will give a masterclass for aspiring writers about how the publishing industry works, how to pitch, what to expect if a publisher asks to see your work, whether you need an agent, and what happens after a book is accepted for publication.
Karen said: “Granite Noir is not just an imaginative, hugely well organised and entertaining showcase for some of the world’s best crime writers, but possibly the best way to spend a chilly weekend in February. This year, we’ll be returning with fabulous authors from Iceland (Lilja Sigurdardottir), France (Johana Gustawsson) and Norway (Thomas Enger), and some homegrown talent in the form of Matt Wesolowski, Sarah Stovell, Louise Voss and Michael J. Malone, and we cannot wait.”
Publish and Perish brings together three authors whose stories are set in the cut-throat world of books. Louise Hutcheson, Lucy Atkins and Sarah Stovell will speak about their work and inspirations in this event chaired by festival author Sarah Ward. Three authors will again take to the stage for Here’s Looking at You, Kids. Melanie McGrath, Colette McBeth and Sanjida Kay will talk about their novels, where children at the heart of the crime. Next up, discover how two authors juggle work as novelists and screenwriters, and how those disciplines compare and contrast. MJ Aldridge, who writes the bestselling DI Helen Grace thrillers, and Sweden’s Stefan Ahnhem are our authors for Page and Screen on Saturday afternoon.
The second Granite Noir Workshop – How To Plan Your Novel, will take place on Saturday afternoon, with author and former BBC TV news correspondent Colette McBeth. This class demystifies the process of novel writing, helping writers break their story down into manageable chunks. Storyboarding techniques, outlining, character arcs and how to weave suspense into the tale will all be covered.
Granite Noir’s Most Wanted for the Saturday afternoon are Hugh Fraser and Robert Daws, followed by Chris Brookmyre’s headline appearance in the evening.
Saturday will be wrapped up with Late Night Noir in the form of Folk – a new musical play which unites multi-disciplined artists Annie Grace, Alan McHugh and Morna Young with director Dougie Irvine. Co-written, composed and performed by the artists, this is a contemporary folktale – a story of faith and love – exploring human existence in our modern world.
The final day of the festival begins bright and early with Petrifying Psychological Noir. Torkil Damhaug, author of the bestselling Oslo Crime Files series, was a psychiatrist and brings specialist knowledge to his taut thrillers. He is joined by Louise Voss, who has been writing psychological thrillers, police procedurals and contemporary fiction for 18 years.
What follows is two Granite Noir Workshops – Crafting Compelling Characters in the city’s Central Library and Crime in Medieval Aberdeen, in the Town House. Learn how to develop convincing characters and how to avoid the most common character pitfalls with bestselling author and co-founder of Killer Women, Melanie McGrath. Meanwhile, at the Town House, William Hepburn will lead a workshop on historic crimes in the city, including how crime was tried in Aberdeen’s courts 500 years ago, and what kind of punishment people faced if found guilty.
Sunday’s headline event comes from the creator of Shetland and Vera, Ann Cleeves, followed by When Bygones Aren’t Bygones – a panel discussion delivered by Johana Gustawsson and Clare Carson. French native Johana co-authored the bestselling On se retrouva, which drew more than 7 million viewers when it was adapted for television in 2015. Clare, an anthropologist and international development specialist working in human rights, is the daughter of an undercover policeman which brings a special insight to her latest novel The Dark Isle.
And what could be more inviting on a chilly Sunday afternoon than a plate piled high with scones, pastries and dainty sandwiches… but beware! Poisoned High Tea is an event with a twist. Dr Kathryn Harkup, author of A is for Arsenic, will be there to remind us that in the hands of queen of crime Dame Agatha Christie, everything on the menu could become a lethal weapon.
For The Write Investigator, audiences will meet two authors putting fellow writers front and centre to solve crimes. Will Dean, who has lived in Sweden for the past five years, offers a unique take on Scandi noir in his acclaimed debut, Dark Pines. Eva Dolan’s newest book, This is How it Ends, is a gritty standalone thriller that places an idealistic blogger and a seasoned campaigner at the heart of the action.
Who Do You Think You Are? Features two of the most talked-about recent debuts which feature protagonists with unstable identities. Stuart Turton’s The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle, has been called “Gosford Park meets Inception, by way of Agatha Christie”, while Felicia Yap has been named one of The Observer’s Rising Stars of 2017.
Rounding off the festival are four brilliant Late Night Noir events and a Poisoned Cocktail Party, where guests can enjoy specially concocted cocktails, all made using ingredients inspired by Agatha Christie’s penchant for poison. Dr Kathryn Harkup, who is also hosting the Poisoned High Tea, will be on hand to divulge expert guidance on the ingredients and how things could go awry should they get into the wrong hands in a Christie novel.
A Criminal Mastermind Pub Quiz gives people the chance to pit their wits against some of Granite Noir’s authors, while Words and Music Scandi Style will be a unique evening hosted by Norwegian bestseller Thomas Enger, who will play some of his original piano compositions, as well as talking about his writing. Thomas said: “The inaugural Granite Noir was a blast with a splendid mix of brilliant authors and fabulous moderators. I can’t wait to do it all over again in 2018.”
Finally, it’s Noir at the Bar, an informal gathering of festival and local talent for a night of reading and hijinks. Last year’s event, which offered a chance to get up close and personal with festival authors, quickly sold out.
Also throughout the festival is an expertly guided Granite Noir Walking Tour through Aberdeen’s dark underbelly, an exhibition of Crime Scene Photographs and an Exhibition of Police Wanted Posters.
There are four Young Criminals events for young people and their families: a Writing Workshop with award-winning children’s author Elen Caldecott; Steve and Frandan Take on the World with poet, playwright, novelist and former Edinburgh Makar Ron Butlin and Magic, Mystery and Mayhem with Meg McLaren. There is even a SFX Make-Up Workshop with theatre make-up artist specialist and teacher Raymond Wood, for ages 16+
There are three Crimewatch Film Screenings at Belmont Filmhouse: Double Indemnity, The Big Clock and The Big Easy, as well as Locals in the Limelight. Jane explained: “We’re proud and delighted to offer a stage to North-east writers for our second Granite Noir. Five of the region’s most talented authors will read extracts from their noir fiction in front of audiences at The Lemon Tree, and there will be pop-up readings by these authors in the Central Library café throughout the weekend.”
All week at HMT (until Saturday) will be Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic thriller starring Phil Daniels.
Events are individually priced and tickets go on sale on the evening of Sunday, November 26. Tickets are available from aberdeenperformingarts.com or by phone on 01224 641122. From Monday (November 27), tickets will also be available in person at the Box Office at HMT and The Lemon Tree. Discounts apply for certain group purchases and festival passes are available (excludes some events). Please check the programme or website for more information.
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