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Lin Anderson and Alex Gray at Bloody Scotland 2014.

It has become something of an urban myth but it really is true. It was the second bottle of prosecco that did it…

Lin Anderson, Alanna Knight and I were attending a Crime Writers Association conference in Lincoln some years back and after a very nice dinner Lin and I were enjoying that (second) bottle and putting the world to rights, as one does. Well our world at any rate, the world of crime writers and our own place therein. We reflected on the fact that we have so many fabulous Scottish writers and yet we had to travel from Scotland to south of the Border to attend crime writing festivals like Harrogate. “Why not have our own festival?” we thought. And so the little seed of an idea was sown and when the three of us were travelling back north we talked and talked about the possibility of hosting a brand new crime writing festival in Scotland.

Why not call it Bloody Scotland, I quipped, imagining crime writers propping up the bars at various venues around the globe. (‘Are you going to Bloody Scotland this year?’ They would ask.)

As we all had the wonderful Jenny Brown as our agent it made sense to ask her to be the chair of our project. And who better to advise us than the lady who had been there at the start of the world-famous Edinburgh International Book Festival?

Another source of advice came from fellow Scot, Val McDermid, who had been in at the start of Harrogate and who offered some sound practical tips as well as agreeing to be one of our headline authors. And the Scottish crime fraternity and sorority supported us wonderfully, folk like Ian Rankin, Chris Brookmyre, Denise Mina and Stuart McBride all being eager and willing guests.

That first festival did take some years of preparation and the help of willing volunteers in our committee. To put on a big festival takes time and money and we were blessed with some sponsorship and funding help, plus a big effort from fellow authors and friends who put their talents to our use.

However the hard work was well worth it when in 2012 people flocked to Stirling to enjoy a brilliant weekend with home-grown as well as international names on the programme. The feedback was extremely positive and we ended up being awarded a VisitScotland Thistle award for the best cultural event in our region. What a success!

Building on that first year we invited more authors and in 2013 people including Lee Child and Jo Nesbo came to join us in Stirling with audience numbers rocketing by about thirty per cent. We had found a special formula for success, Lin and I. We would do things differently, we had decided at the outset. Quirky, original, mixing things up… and it worked!

By 2014 we were holding a Scottish v English crime writers football match (Scotland won!) and helping audiences enjoy a specially commissioned play in the Stirling Sherriff courthouse as well as putting on panels of authors and offering both debut writers and aspiring writers a chance to showcase their work.

If Lin and I had had a crystal ball to see what was in store for us we would not have believed the success that Bloody Scotland would become. Nowadays we have a full time festival manager in Dom Hastings and a superb team in the members of our committee and Directors.

I remember the sheer joy that attended the close of that first festival in 2012 and I know that will stay with us both for the rest of our lives!

Nowadays seeing the pleasure that this Scottish International Crime Writing Festival has brought to so many people is a wonderful reward for the years of hard work and preparation. But I do warn other folk at dinners: mind that second bottle of prosecco~ you never know where it might lead you!

Bloody Scotland wouldn’t exist without the support, generosity and goodwill of so many people. You can join them to become a Partner in Crime – our name for our Patrons who support Bloody Scotland to continue and grow.

Find out more about becoming our Partner in Crime.