Author Neil Broadfoot on the importance of the Bloody Scotland crime fiction festival to him as a writer and a crime fiction fan
I suppose we should be used to it now. It started with the inevitable cancellation of Newcastle Noir then, like the virus itself, it spread, taking down Aye Write!, Lyme Crime, Theakstons Harrogate, Bute Noir and even the Edinburgh International Book Festival. These normally vibrant events were, like all of us, forced indoors and online, the organisers showing a resourcefulness and resilience that has been one of the hallmarks of the response to the pandemic which has reset what normal life means.
Another month, another annual festival pilgrimage thwarted by the pandemic…
So, I suppose, the virtual Bloody Scotland this weekend should be more of the same. Another festival run virtually, another trip not made. Yeah, it should be routine by now. But this one isn’t.
I owe a lot of my career to Bloody Scotland. My debut novel, Falling Fast, was nominated for the Deanston Award (now the McIlvanney Prize) back in 2014, giving my work a profile I never could have dreamed of and welcoming me into the crime writing community. More recently, Stirling has served as the inspiration for my Connor Fraser novels, the first of which was nominated for the McIlvanney last year. And while I’ve probably not made too many friends at the Stirling tourist board, basing a crime series in and around the city has allowed me to develop a deep appreciation for the area.
I’ve been at the festival, either as a participant or a fan, for the last six years. I’ve chaired panels, marched through the town with flaming torch aloft, played the back end of a pantomime horse and a maid with Carry On Sleuthing, made a story up on the spot with the Four Blokes In Search Of A Plot (see the top image!) and even helped mark out the pitch for the annual Scotland writers v England writers football game. I’ve done a lot at Bloody Scotland, and Bloody Scotland has done a lot for me. And that’s why not heading for Stirling this weekend to see some friendly faces and down a few beers hits a little closer to home than the other cancellations this year.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ll be online this weekend. I’m taking part in The Never-Ending Panel on Sunday, and I’ll spend my weekend tuning in to panels featuring the Fun Lovin’ Crime Writers, Lee Child & Val McDermid, Ian Rankin & Lawrence Block, and checking out the Crime In The Spotlight participants. And of course I’ll be keeping an eye on Douglas Skelton, who last year created the play You The Jury especially for the festival. This weekend there will be a screening of one of those performances, and afterwards, Douglas and some of the real-life lawyers, forensic scientists and court staff who brought it to life will discuss it.
It promises to be a full weekend. But I’ll still miss being there. I’ll miss the march through the town, torches aloft. I’ll miss squeezing into the Coo for a night of songs, poems, craic and whatever else those attending decide to do on the night. I’ll miss taking part in panels and catching up with friends. And yes, I’ll even miss the hangovers…
But we’ll be back, Stirling. Just you bloody wait.
Neil Broadfoot worked for 15 years as a journalist on local and national titles in Scotland before moving into communications, in both the public and private sectors. He is the author of six books across two series set in Edinburgh (featuring Doug McGregor and Susie Drummond) and Stirling (focused on Connor Fraser). He has two daughters and three collie dogs, and lives in Dunfermline.
Full information on this weekend’s Bloody Scotland programme is available at www.bloodyscotland.com and follow the festival on Twitter for updates at: @BloodyScotland Tickets are available for each day’s events and are free, apart from the masterclass workshop and panel on Friday which cost £35 for the two events. (I wrote about the festival programme here.)
Do pop over and check out my reviews of Neil’s Connor Fraser series: No Man’s Land, No Place To Die and The Point Of No Return. All three are available in print, ebook and audiobook in bookshops online and offline. His first three novels, Falling Fast, The Storm and All The Devils, featuring journalist Doug McGregor and cop Susie Drummond, are available as ebooks from Amazon.
You can also see my feature on online book festivals – which includes thoughts from Neil Broadfoot, plus Jacky “Dr Noir” Collins and Paddy Megrane, organisers of Newcastle Noir and Lyme Crime respectively – over here, including lots of links to panels that remain online if you want a flavour of those festivals.