Today: Harrogate welcomes world's biggest crime writing festival

Coming to Harrogate - Brenda Blethyn in the ITV crime series Vera.Coming to Harrogate - Brenda Blethyn in the ITV crime series Vera.
Coming to Harrogate - Brenda Blethyn in the ITV crime series Vera.
Such is the success of Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival in Harrogate, it's become almost a crime to miss it.

And this hugely popular annual event, which runs to Sunday, means more than just a host of the world’s most famous crime writers coming together to share the secrets of their craft in front of book fans from across the globe.Presented by Harrogate International Festivals, Europe’s biggest gathering of its kind gives a sizable economic boost to the town.Organisers say that this year this non-threatening crime wave has taken over the town, with around 30 per cent occupancy in affiliated hotels, including 100 per cent occupancy at the Festival’s actual venue, the Old Swan Hotel, a venue forever associated with Agatha Christie, the queen of the crime novel.The festival’s spin-off effects are significant. Hotels bracing themselves for the four-day crime spree include The Crown, Hotel du Vin and West Park.Victoria Ibbertson, literature festivals manager, said: “It is a major event for Harrogate, now in its 15th year. More than 1,200 bed nights have already been taken and we’re expecting to see at least another 15% increase in hotel bookings from the hotels not affiliated with the Festival.”Richard Spencer, CEO of Visit Harrogate, said: “The Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival has built an astounding reputation. It’s an important event for the tourism economy - for hoteliers, restaurants and retailers – creating significant impact and revenue.”Running until Sunday, the guest writers include Dennis Lehane, Lee Child, Ian Rankin, Peter May, Stuart MacBride, Joseph Finder, Arne Dahl, Kathy Reichs, Brenda Blethyn, Robson Green and James Runcie. There will also bspecial one-off event with comedian Sarah Millican with authors Mark Billingham, Lee Child and Val McDermid.As a brand, Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival pushes the name of Harrogate far and wide.This year sees a new media partnership with the Mail on Sunday for the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival’s renowned Crime Novel of the Year Awards, which will be announced tonight by broadcaster, Mark Lawson. The event will welcome major media outlets this year too, with filming from Apple Books and Sky, alongside a documentary on author Lee Child for the BBC.Victoria Ibbertson, said: “We are very proud of the fact it takes the Harrogate brand as a boutique book lover’s destination across the world. Most of the attendees are from London, across the UK and as far afield as the USA, Scandinavia and Australia. “Last year there were over 12 million views of online press alone featuring our Festival, and we’re expecting similar impact for 2017.”Capitalising on the town’s literary past, audiences are invited to attend a free Agatha Christie event.The new exhibition opens today, Thursday, from 9am, and will be on view in the gardens of the Swan Hotel throughout the weekendThe exhibition will explore connections between Christie’s writing, life and publishing career using rare photographs and documents from both the Agatha Christie and Collins archives in a visually led outdoor display. It is part of HarperCollins’ 200th anniversary, and will preview in Harrogate before being housed in a permanent exhibition in Christie’s former home, now owned by the National Trust in Devon.Simon Theakston, executive director of T&R Theakstons and title sponsor, said: “2017 promises a remarkable festival as we mark 30 years of Rebus with Ian Rankin, 20 years since Lee Child introduced us to Jack Reacher, and 15 years since Dennis Lehane released Shutter Island. “I can think of no better place than our festival - amongst readers, authors, and friends - to raise a glass of Theakston’s beer to these giants of the genre.”