Friday, November 6, 2020

Guest post: Announcing a new international crime fiction festival for Wales...and the WORLD!

Alis Hawkins here, co-Chair of Crime Cymru. I'm happy to have been invited to write this guest post today by Paul D. Marks (via Cathy Ace, our "inside agent").

Until now, there has been no established crime fiction festival in Wales. But, if you’re keyed in to UK-based crime fiction social media, you’ll know that’s about to change. In spring 2022 – when, hopefully, we’ll all have learned how to live with the Coronavirus – Welsh crime writers’ collective, Crime Cymru, is launching the country’s first international crime fiction festival Gŵyl CRIME CYMRU Festival.

The just-revealed logo for our festival, the winner of a competition run throughout schools in the Aberystwyth area. This winning design was created by the talented Glain Jones - she's a pupil at Ysgol Gyfun Gymunedol Penweddig. 

The inaugural three-day festival will take place from April 30th to May 2nd 2022 in the lovely West Wales coastal resort and university town of Aberystwyth.

Picturesque Aberystwyth, setting for the new festival

In case you aren’t familiar with Crime Cymru, the collective was founded in 2017, with three very simple aims:

·         To support crime writers in and of Wales

·         To support the development of new crime writing talent in Wales

·         To promote Wales, Welsh culture, and Welsh crime writing in particular, to the wider world.

(See for more information and members.)

Over the last three years, we’ve been concentrating on the first of those three aims, building up a supportive community amongst our members and appearing in other people’s festivals. Now, we’re ready to launch our own.

The Crime Cymru panel at CrimeFest 2019
(L to R: Rosie Claverton, John Lincoln, Cathy Ace, Alis Hawkins, G.B. Williams)

In 2021, as a warm up to Gŵyl CRIME CYMRU Festival, we’re going to put on a free, digital festival - Virtual CRIME CYMRU Digidol –  to introduce people from all over the UK (and the world – such is the beauty of online festivals!) to the brilliant crime writing talent we have in Wales, as well as showcasing some of the UK’s crime fiction household names as they’re interviewed by Crime Cymru members. And, during our digi-fest, we’ll be doing our bit to support those who support us – booksellers. Each of Virtual CRIME CYMRU Digidol’s events will be partnered by a bookshop from which we’ll be encouraging Zoom audience members to order panel members’ books if they’ve been excited by what they’ve heard.

2021 will also see the launch of the Crime Cymru First Crime Novel Competition which will be launched at Virtual CRIME CYMRU Digidol. The winner will be announced at a champagne reception as part of Gŵyl CRIME CYMRU Festival ’22 the following year.

We’ve decided to break the mould and make Gŵyl CRIME CYMRU Festival a biennial event, with a digital festival in the interim years. Running a digital festival every other year means that readers who can’t travel to Aberystwyth will still be able to enjoy the fantastic line-ups of writers on offer, and it will also allow us to continue supporting bookshops with our partnership arrangements.

Welsh-set crime fiction panel at Crime and Coffee 2018 (run by Crime Cymru in partnership with Cardiff Central Library) L to R: Sally Spedding, Katherine Stansfield, B.E. Jones, Cheryl Rees-Price.

As far as Crime Cymru is concerned Gŵyl CRIME CYMRU Festival will be a not-for-profit festival but we want it to be of financial as well as cultural value to Aberystwyth – and Wales more widely. So we’re committed to a festival that’s:

·         Collaborative – we’re already collaborating with organisations and businesses in Aberystwyth and we’ve run a competition in local secondary schools to find our festival logo.

·         Inclusive – we want Gŵyl CRIME CYMRU Festival to have a welcoming, family feel and to encourage people who wouldn’t ordinarily see themselves as the sort of people who go to literary festivals to come along and see what we do. And, as Wales has two official languages – English and Welsh – we’ll be making sure that there are events in both languages. 

·         Sustainable – we want our festival to be as environmentally responsible as possible and to keep our carbon footprint to a minimum. This means we’ll be doing things like using QR-code downloads so we can reduce the number of printed programmes, and encouraging people to come to Aberystwyth by public transport.

·         Authentic - as Wales’s first national crime fiction festival we’re thrilled to have the chance to give festival-goers a real taste of Wales in Aberystwyth – a vibrant, multicultural town.

So, what will Gŵyl CRIME CYMRU Festival offer festival goers?

We’ll open our inaugural festival on Friday evening with a big community event – a dragon lantern parade starting in the town centre and finishing at Aberystwyth castle in its commanding position overlooking the town and the sea. Later that evening, we’re planning a quiz in the festival bar where festival-goers can compete against authors – and only one round will be on crime fiction!

On Saturday night people will be able to experience a traditional Welsh Noson Lawen with entertainment from selected authors who’ll be displaying their lesser-known talents. The event will feature food from some of the fantastic local producers of everything from smoked fish to cheese, bread to beer. The Noson Lawen will be festival-goers’ chance to chat to participating authors in an informal atmosphere.

Sunday evening will see Crime Cymru and sponsors throwing a champagne reception to mark the award of the inaugural Crime Cymru First Crime Novel Prize. 

And, all weekend, festival-goers will have the chance to see household names from the worlds of TV crime drama and crime fiction talking about their work as we run panel events throughout Saturday, Sunday and Monday morning, as well as free meet-the-author book signing events in Aberystwyth bookshops.

In line with Crime Cymru’s aims, aspiring authors will be catered for, too, with a pitch-the-agent session, and we’re looking into the possibility of running workshops on how to write crime fiction and thrillers.

To learn more about the festival – including headliners and special guests as they are announced:

Follow us on Twitter @GwylCymru2022, Instagram at GwylCrimeCymruFestival and like our Facebook page ‘Gŵyl Crime Cymru Festival’. 

And keep an eye on our website –– for more information and details of how to book tickets for Virtual CRIME CYMRU Digidol next year.

We hope to see you in Aberystwyth in 2022!


Two of Crime Cymru's three founder members (and festival organising group members) Alis Hawkins and Matt Johnson representing Crime Cymru at Wales Week Berkshire 2019

Alis Hawkins, Co-chair, Crime Cymru



Brenda Chapman said...

This sounds like a wonderful event - Congratulations and I wish you every success.

Matt Johnson said...

I noticed a number of attendees at out launch event yesterday were from the western side of the Atlantic Ocean. Fantastic we are attracting this interest and exciting to think some of you may join us. Diolch yn fawr!

Cathy Ace said...

Indeed, Brenda, this is exciting news for Wales, and you know how keen I am to get folks to think about Wales, and to learn more about it...great way to do it is to combine a love of crime writing and travel (because we all know that's what we really want to be planning to do!).