What to expect from the ‘Noirwich’ Crime Writing Festival

PUBLISHED: 14:45 14 August 2014

Author and creative writing tutor, Henry Sutton, who is co-organiser of the Noirwich Crime Festival.
Photo by Simon Finlay.

Author and creative writing tutor, Henry Sutton, who is co-organiser of the Noirwich Crime Festival. Photo by Simon Finlay.

Archant Norfolk.

The new crime festival is a celebration of the depth and diversity of the popular genre, which has various sub categories, including the noir thrillers referenced in the event title.

Logo for 'Noirwich' crime writing festivalLogo for 'Noirwich' crime writing festival

It was partly said in jest but almost as soon as the word “Noirwich” had been voiced, members of the organising committee knew it was a keeper.

“We all laughed when Noirwich was first suggested, thinking ‘oh no’ but then it grows on you and it soon became ‘oh yes’. It’s fantastic. People won’t forget it,” said Henry Sutton, a senior lecturer in creative writing at UEA and an award-winning crime novelist who is co-founder of the festival.

The event, which runs from September 10 – 14, is a collaboration between UEA, the Crime Writers’ Association (CWA), Waterstones and Writers’ Centre Norwich.

The crime fiction and thriller market currently represents more than a third of the fiction sector, making it the largest genre by far.

“The idea is that we are starting small but this is just the beginning,” he said.

“What we have with the programme is a very broad showing of what the genre has to offer.”

The best-selling Scottish author Val McDermid, who recently swapped from interviewee to interviewer to quiz J K Rowling about her plans to pen more crime thrillers, shares top billing with the Cambridge-based writer Sophie Hannah. She was set the challenging task of writing a new Hercule Poriot mystery – almost 40 years after he was last featured in an Agatha Christie novel – which is published shortly before her Norwich talk.

Chris Gribble, chief executive of Writers’ Centre Norwich, said: “We also have Tom Benn, Eva Dolan and Oliver Harris who are really good up and coming writers. And at the other end of the scale we have Simon Brett and John Harvey who are writers that people already love and have read for ages.”

Megan Abbott, an American author, who is causing much excitement with her latest novel, also joins the author lineup.

“It’s exciting to get the old and the new and the UK and the US together,” added Chris.

The festival sees events held across the city at The Playhouse, Waterstones in Castle Street, Norwich Cathedral Hostry, Cinema City, Norfolk and Norwich Millennium Library, the Writers’ Centre Norwich and Frank’s Bar in Bedford Street. Chris said: “Norwich is a UNESCO City Of Literature so we wanted it to also be about the place rather than just the writing. We are trying to get people to explore the atmosphere and places of Norwich, which is why the venues are all in the city centre and they all have really great stories attached to them.”

The festival kicks off with a celebration of the award winning Norwich-born writer S T Haymon, who is relatively unknown today despite her success, by Agatha Christie expert John Curran.

As well as the author talks, the list also includes a crime writing workshop and a masterclass together with The Golden Age of Nordic Noir, an event dedicated to exploring “the all-pervading influence of the Scandinavian wave”.

A free screening of the film The Killer Inside Me, starring Casey Affleck, Jessica Alba and Kate Hudson is also part of the line-up.

Henry, who is co-director of UEA’s world-renowned creative writing masters degree, is leading one of the writing workshops.

He said: “I am looking at the psychological thriller angle, the ‘whydunnit’ rather than the ‘whodunnit’, and the innovative literary techniques which are used to create what is happening in the genre now.”

Through a series of practical exercises those attending will learn the knack of creating real suspense and the art of the ‘twist’.

“The workshops are designed for people who have been writing and who are writing or want to write in the crime genre,” he added.

While there are many writing festivals – including several highly popular crime-themed events – organisers believe the “boutique” nature of Noirwich will add to the appeal for crime fiction fans from across the country.

Chris said: “Ultimately we want it to be really enjoyable, we want to raise the profile of the city and the writing that goes on in it and put on an event that is fun for everyone.”

• For the full line-up, tickets and more information about Noirwich, visit

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