The Bloody Scotland crime writing festival had an attendance of over 10,000 for the first time.
McIlvanney Prize winner, Manda Scott, set the tone for the weekend when she announced that in the spirit of cooperation reflected by the climate protests she wished to abandon rivalry and share the prize with her fellow finalists – Doug Johnstone, Denise Mina and Ambrose Parry (Chris Brookmyre and Marisa Haetzman). All five then went on to lead the torchlight procession with David Baldacci who was resplendent in full highland dress.
Manda invited them all to join her on stage on this day of climate protest and said: ‘This is the proudest moment of my life.
‘We need to change if we’re going to get through this moment of climate and ecological crisis and we need to change the way we do things – this starts with abandoning rivalry. We need to cooperate. We need to share. I would like this to be a grain of sand in a tide that sweeps us to a new way of being.’
The climate theme continued on Saturday afternoon with a protest outside the Albert Halls arranged by Crime In the Spotlight author Jackie McLean. Manda Scott, Denise Mina, Chris Brookmyre, Marisa Haetzman and Lin Anderson were joined by numerous crime writers bearing signs saying ‘I’m with crime writers for #ClimateStrike @BloodyScotland’ in front of the vast crowd queuing to see Alexander McCall Smith.
In addition to the famous crime writers and rising stars we were joined this year by Richard Osman whose enthusiasm was hugely appreciated. In spite of not having his debut crime novel published until next year he presented the debut prize at the opening reception, joined the panel for the live podcast of Two Crime Writers and a Microphone, participated in the annual Quiz and had his own sell out event with Mark Billingham.
One of the highlights this year was the play, You The Jury, written by Douglas Skelton in association with the Faculty of Advocates which was staged at the Sheriff Court and involved the audience as the jury. It was so popular that a third performance had to be added to the programme and also sold out. Requests are already coming in for the film of the performance to be shared with those who missed out on tickets.
The other sell out events were the Crime Writing Masterclass and Ian Rankin with First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, who revealed an encyclopaedic knowledge of Rebus and was clearly extremely relaxed in front of a 700 plus audience of crime fiction lovers.
An unseasonably sunny weekend led to a record turnout for the annual Scotland v England crime writers football match with spectators lounging on the grass sipping Bloody Scotland cocktails courtesy of Stirling Gin. The score (ahem 3-0 to England) was almost incidental and great fun was had by all with the teams captained by Chris Brookmyre and Mark Billingham.
The new ‘Killer Ceilidh’ went head to head with the ever popular ‘Crime at the Coo’ where the Fun Lovin’ Crime Writers fresh from Glastonbury took to the stage with individual performances from Chris Brookmyre, Mark Billingham, Stuart Neville and Luca Veste. Steve Cavanagh’s satirical take on Brexit brought the house down.
Val McDermid who is in New Zealand at the moment was much missed but made her presence felt by collaborating on a short story with Chris Brookmyre, Ian Rankin and Louise Welsh to promote the Festival which was published as an exclusive in the Sunday Times.
She said: ‘The Bloody Scotland team tried to get rid of me by sending me to New Zealand but my friends rallied round to make sure I’d be there in spirit with this fun collaboration.’
Next year the Bloody Scotland Festival will run from Friday 18 – Sunday 20 September. Bob McDevitt will stay on as director in 2020 supported by PR and marketing team Fiona Brownlee and Tim Donald and digital supremo, Laura Jones (referred to by Margaret Atwood as ‘one of the 12 women shaping the world’ in the Sunday Times), who is also on the board along with Jenny Brown, Lin Anderson, Gordon Brown, Craig Robertson, Abir Mukherjee, Muriel Robertson and Catriona Reynolds.
Bob McDevitt, festival director added: ‘I’m feeling broken, emotional, but very happy with a new bunch of memories from chatting with David Baldacci about working with Clint Eastwood, listening to Ian Rankin and First Minister of Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon, about the political allegiances of Rebus, hearing Richard Osman read his favourite Bad Sex in Fiction Award entry, and witnessing a unique sharing of the McIlvanney Prize. Already looking forward to 2020 – but might take a few days off before thinking about that.’