Hull Noir crime writing festival returns with Inspector Banks creator Peter Robinson, Chris Brookmyre, Ian McGuire and Mark Billingham

This weekend sees the (online) return of crime writing festival Hull Noir. Crime writer and co-organiser Nick Quantrill spoke to Yvette Huddleston.

Crime writer and Hull Noir co-organiser Nick Quantrill. Picture: James Hardisty.

It’s been a while, but this weekend Hull Noir is back.

The inaugural festival took place in 2017, a year when a lot of exciting things were happening in Hull thanks to its tenure as UK City of Culture, and it was a huge success. Crime-loving audiences flocked to talks, panels, film screenings and discussions over seven days.

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The following year Hull Noir hosted an equally popular one-off panel event as part of Humber Mouth Literature Festival. There have been various pop-up events since then and the original intention was for the full festival to return in 2019.

Crime author Peter Robinson on his return visit to Leeds University in 2005. Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe.

For various reasons that was pushed back to 2020 and then the world changed fairly drastically. This, then, is the second full festival which, for obvious reasons, is taking place online.

“We are really excited to present a great programme of fantastic authors,” says Nick Quantrill, crime writer and co-organiser of the festival with fellow writer Nick Triplow and publisher Nikki East.

“People have been keen to appear. We were hoping to attract some big names as headliners and we also wanted to showcase Yorkshire and Northern voices.”

They have succeeded on both counts. Among those on the line-up are crime luminaries such as Inspector Banks creator Peter Robinson, multi award-winning Chris Brookmyre, Booker longlisted Ian McGuire and international bestseller Mark Billingham.

The sizeable Northern presence includes Bradford writers A A Dhand and Liz Mistry, Leeds-based Ali Harper and Hull resident Louise Beech.

The festival kicks off this evening with an in conversation event with Robinson to mark the launch of his 27th Banks novel Not Dark Yet, and continues tomorrow and Sunday. In common with organisers of other literature festivals that have, out of necessity, shifted online over the past 12 months, the Hull Noir team have noted the benefits in terms of reach and accessibility.

“Going digital means that we have got people registering from all over the world; that’s pretty amazing,” says Quantrill.

“It has gone from being a festival for those living in or near Hull to connecting people around the world. It’s certainly given us food for thought for next year. We want it to be an ‘in person’ festival but I think there will also be a digital element.” Quantrill and his co-organisers are all committed fans of crime fiction so putting together the programme has been a pleasure.

“All the authors are people whose work we really admire.”

Crime writers are generally a good-natured and approachable bunch, he says. “Some of the authors write about really dark and gruesome stuff but when you meet them in person they are lovely. It is a very friendly, welcoming genre in that sense.”

Author of the popular Joe Geraghty private investigator novels, Quantrill has kept himself busy over the past few months. “I know some writers have struggled with focus but I feel very lucky to have been able to concentrate. I’ve actually been quite productive – I’m well into the second draft of my next novel and that is down to lockdown essentially.”

Hull Noir, March 19-21, details and to book