The historic city of Stirling was packed with crime fans and media at the weekend.
New venue, Trinity Church hall, was host to BBC Radio 4, Loose Ends who got the weekend off to a great start with Janey Godley and Danny Wallace chatting to crime writers Chris Brookmyre, Val McDermid and Abir Mukherjee.
In the afternoon BBC Radio Scotland’s Afternoon Show broadcast live from a buzzing Golden Lion bar interviewing no fewer than eleven Bloody Scotland authors plus the judges for the Bloody Scotland Debut Prize during their two-hour show.
The finalists for both the Bloody Scotland Debut Prize and the McIlvanney Prize went from the opening reception at the Church of the Holy Rude to Stirling Castle to take their places at the front of the torchlit procession.
The fabulous Stirling and District Schools Pipe Band led the 400 strong procession through the cobbled streets to the Albert Halls where the winners of the McIlvanney Prize (debut author Callum McSorley with Squeaky Clean) and the Bloody Scotland Debut Prize (Kate Foster with The Maiden) were presented with their awards by Kenny Tweeddale from sponsors, The Glencairn Glass and interviewed live on stage by Janice Forsyth from BBC Radio Scotland.
However, there was far more to day one than media interviews and the awards presentation. For the first time ever there were eight events prior to the torchlit procession, one during and six afterwards with the final events (CrimeMaster at the Albert Halls and The Darkest Web at The Golden Lion) concluding at 11.30pm with the bonus of a final drink at the always packed Crime at the Coo which finished at midnight.
Highlights of the festival always include the fringe activities. The sun shone for the Bloody Scotland England v Scotland crime writers football match at King’s Park which was won emphatically by Scotland 12-3 and at night the Fun Lovin’ Crime Writers returned to the Bloody Scotland stage ‘murdering songs for fun’.
In terms of sales the most popular event was Rob Rinder and Nadine Matheson closely followed by Val McDermid and Abir Mukherjee and the festival closed on a complete high with an outstanding Pitch Perfect panel which was won by Shane McGinley who had travelled all the way from Dubai to pitch his book.
Craig Russell and Liam McIlvanney headlined the final event in the Albert Halls and a rammed panel celebrating Scottish crime writers took place in The Golden Lion ballroom with J D Kirk, Marion Todd and Colin Macintyre. Their event finished at 2pm and the signing queue was still going an hour later.
Bob McDevitt, Festival Director said: ‘I’m a tired but very happy man at the end of another action-packed Bloody Scotland weekend. The rain didn’t dampen the spirits of the Torchlit parade – in fact, some people said it only made it more atmospheric! It really was such a pleasure to see the streets of Stirling once again taken over by the Bloody Scotland army of authors and readers united in the goal of a rip-roaring and riotous good time.’
Pitch Perfect winner and first time attendee, Shane McGinley said:
‘When Mark Billingham was in Dubai I went to his signing and I asked him for advice on getting an agent. He recommended applying for Pitch Perfect so I Googled it and applied this year. When I arrived in Stirling the staff of Bloody Scotland were so helpful with introductions to authors, press and industry people.
I also spent a good amount of time in the Golden Lion bar and met some lovely crime authors and bloggers. Winning was a total surprise and proves making the 5000 or more mile trip was well worth it.’
Bestselling author, Fun Lovin’ Crime Writer and former England football captain, Mark Billingham said: ‘Bloody Scotland remains one of the pre-eminent crime festivals in the world. Brilliantly organised with an amazing line-up of authors and thoughtfully curated events. It’s an unmissable weekend.’
Stirling Council Leader, Cllr Chris Kane said: ‘The 2023 Bloody Scotland Festival proved to be another success story for Stirling as we welcomed visitors from around the world for one of our much-loved major events. Readers turned out in great numbers at our venues, including Stirling’s Albert Halls, to hear and interact with their favourite authors at a wide range of events, before moving on to our hotels, bars and restaurants to continue discussions of murder, mayhem, suspense and intrigue.
On the evidence of this year’s festival, no cryptic clues are needed to prove that Stirling is a superb setting for major events. A huge thanks to everyone involved in organising such a world-class festival and congratulations to all the prize winners.’
Bloody Scotland International Crime Writing Festival will return to Stirling from Friday 13 to Sunday 15 September 2024.