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Theakston's Old Peculiar Crime Writers Festival

Updated: Dec 2, 2020

Every year for over 17 years, Harrogate has held the Theakstons Old Peculiar Crime Writing Festival. Sadly this year (2020) the event has been cancelled due to the Corona Virus pandemic but the event is still worth a mention if you are a fan of crime novels and I am sure it will be back with a vengeance next year. This event celebrates the very best in crime fiction and the festival has become a firm date in the UK literary calendar.

The festival is based at The Old Swan Hotel – which featured in the movie Agatha and famous for being the location where the Queen of crime writing, Agatha Christie stayed under the pseudonym of her husband’s mistress whilst a nationwide search for her was going on. It’s obviously no co-incidence that the organisers of the first festival chose this venue!

Over the years the festival has achieved international acclaim for the programming, organization and atmospheres. This reputation allows Harrogate to attract the biggest and best crime writers to the festival both a speakers and Chairs of Programming.

The sponsors are a local Yorkshire brewery based in Masham and have been there since the start – and draw similarities between reading a great novel and appreciating the flavor of their beer!

The Crime Writers Festival draws fans from all over the world and in particular the United States, with many American visitors and authors coming to enjoy the 4 day festival. The festival is famed for its no barriers approach and has a reputation as being the friendliest event on the circuit. Fans, fledgling writers and established authors mingle in the hotel bar, the bookshop and the papakata tents in the hotel grounds.

One of the highlights of the festival is the awarding of the prestigious Old Peculiar Crime Novel of the Year which has been won by both famous and up and coming authors over the years.

Over the years the festival has attracted some big names in literature. Last year’s festival saw visits from James Patterson, Ian Rankin and Jo Nesbo, whilst TV crime drama Line of Duty writer Jed Mercurio also spoke. The year before saw Lee Child and John Grisham attend to speak. The programme is usually announced in late spring, so check for next year’s special guests in 2021.

If you are coming to the festival and want to explore the wider area with a driver guided tour or want to visit some of Yorkshire’s other literary location such at Herriot Country, The Bronte’s and Haworth or Whitby’s inspiration for Bram Stoker’s Dracula visit:


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