Stirling was jumping last weekend. Crime writers, bloggers, publishers and readers descended on the historic city for the first fully functioning festival since 2019. Contrary to all predictions and expectations revenue for the 10th Anniversary festival is within 10% of the best ever pre-Covid festival.
The train strike was cancelled at the eleventh hour and crime fiction fans who hadn’t anticipated being able to get to Stirling were able to do so. The death of the Queen was marked with a haunting rendition of Highland Cathedral by the Royal Burgh Pipe Band followed by a minute’s silence at Stirling Castle and a silent torchlit procession down cobbled streets to the Albert Halls.
The festival opened with Denzil Meyrick and a founder of Bloody Scotland, Alex Gray. The winners of the McIlvanney Prize (Alan Parks) and the Bloody Scotland Debut Prize (Tariq Ashkanani) were interviewed live on stage by Janice Forsyth from BBC Scotland and the evening concluded with Ian Rankin interviewed by board member, Abir Mukherjee.
Highlights of the festival always include the fringe activities. The Bloody Scotland England v Scotland crime writers football match at a new location in Kings Park was won decisively by Scotland 6-4. The Crime at the Coo crime writers’ cabaret included musical numbers from festival director, Bob McDevitt and author, Emma Christie with what she terms ‘lesbian acoustic folk’ as well as the usual suspects. In a slight departure from the traditional Quiz, Abir Mukherjee and Vaseem Khan hosted A Red Hot Night of a Million Games which concluded with a mass Britney Spears sing-a-long.
The festival continued in a hybrid format allowing huge names like Janet Evanovitch, Peter May, David Baldacci, Donna Leon and Irvine Welsh to be beamed into the new venue at The Tolbooth which also hosted a Bloody Scotland 10 Year Anniversary exhibition. In terms of actual ticket sales, the introduction of digital ticketing takes the 2022 audience 40% above the audience figures in 2019.
In terms of physical events the bestseller was Ann Cleeves in conversation with forensic pathologist Professor James Grieve and in the slightly smaller venue of The Tolbooth the Agatha Christie homage with Lucy Foley, Tom Hindle and Carla Valentine was also a sell-out.
Bob McDevitt, Festival Director said: ‘I think this was the kindest and most emotional Bloody Scotland yet; from the minute’s silence before the torchlit procession to Pitch Perfect being won by a Ukrainian refugee and to see Alan Parks (a former debut panelist) and Tariq Ashkanani (a former Spotlighter) pick up the prizes. So many people stopped me in the street and in our venues to say thanks for putting on the festival for the past ten years. The authors, publishers, chairs, journalists, bloggers and readers seemed to relish being back together, enjoying something that we are all passionate about. Oh, and Scotland won the football!’
Joe Chacko, Crime in the Spotlight act ahead of Anthony Horowitz said: ‘It’s difficult to believe that Bloody Scotland is organised by just 11 people. It has the feel of a world-class event with the intimacy and welcome of a local festival.’
Bloody Scotland International Crime Writing Festival will return to Stirling from Friday 15 to Sunday 17 September 2023.