Crime fiction is the biggest selling genre in Britain with authors like Ann Cleeves (Vera, Shetland) and Matthew Hall (Keeping Faith) appearing on both bestseller lists and our TV screens. And that huge popularity has had a spin-off in the form of crime fiction festivals designed to bring authors and readers together.
Welsh crime dramas (Hinterland/Y Gwyll, Keeping Faith/Un Bore Mercher, Hidden/Craith) have sold in numerous territories and have paved the way for a new understanding and appreciation of contemporary Wales as not just a beautiful holiday destination but a culture unique within Briain and a suprisingly diverse and inreasingly outward-looking population.
Crime fiction set in Wales is, as yet, not so well known – though the quality of what is being produced by Welsh writers is as high as that anywhere in Britain. Wales is also home to award-winning and bestselling authors (Clare Macintosh, Belinda Bauer and Amy Lloyd to name only three.) It was for this reason that three Welsh crime fiction authors – Alis Hawkins, Matt Johnson (both shortlisted for Crime Writers’ Association daggers) and Rosie Claverton – established Welsh crime writers’ collective, Crime Cymru (https://crime.cymru) in 2017 with three principal aims.
- To support crime writers with a real and present relationship with Wales
- To help in the development of new writing talent
- To promote Wales, Welsh culture and Welsh crime writing in particular, to the wider world
For the first three years of its existence, the collective concentrated on the first of those aims but in 2020, the membership decided to buck the prevailing gloom and move to fulfill the second and third by establishing a new first novel competition and an international crime fiction festival which will make its home in Aberystwyth.
Wales has been crying out for a festival celebrating crime writing. There are currently twelve crime fiction festivals held annually in England, five in Scotland and one in Northern Ireland. Gŵyl CRIME CYMRU Festival will be Wales’s first and Crime Cymru aim to make it one of Britain’s best.
Due to the Covid crisis, the inaugural festival will take place in Aberystwyth in spring, 2022 (29th April 2nd May). Meanwhile, in 2021 we will hold a free, digital festival – Virtual CRIME CYMRU Digidol – (26th April – 2nd May). This online festival will:
- Introduce people to Crime Cymru and Gŵyl CRIME CYMRU Festival to the UK and the wider world
- Showcase the range of brilliant crime writing talent we have in Wales, alongside bestselling household names.
- Showcase Aberystwyth as a venue and build excitement about the real world festival the following year.
Following the first Gŵyl CRIME CYMRU Festival in 2022, we will maintain a biennial pattern. In even-numbered years we will hold a ticketed, ‘on the ground’ festival in Aberyswtyth, while in odd-numbered years we will hold a free online festival. We hope, in this way, to extend the reach of Gŵyl CRIME CYMRU Festival and introduce an international audience to Wales, our writers and the festival.
But we don’t want Gŵyl CRIME CYMRU Festival to be just another crime fiction festival. We want it to be unique. We want it to be recognisably different. We want it to be authentically Welsh. And, above all, we want it to be attractive both to authors and the reading and watching public. Our aim is simple – we want people to think ‘That could only have been in Aberystwyth, it was so memorable and different.’
Our vision is:
- To establish a world-class, biennial international literary festival for Wales in Aberystwyth where:
- crime fiction and crime drama from Wales are celebrated alongside books and TV series from the wider UK and internationally. (Each Gŵyl CRIME CYMRU Festival will feature authors from a guest nation, beginning with Iceland.)
- readers from Wales are afforded the opportunity to meet industry-leading authors who are only seen at major festivals
- authors not yet familiar with Wales will be introduced to our country, culture and language via the extraordinary range of Welsh crime fiction and TV drama they will encounter and by holidaying in the Aberystwyth area before, during and after the festival
- Wales is seen as a confident, outward-looking, multicultural nation with its own culture
- interest and involvement in the festival is broadened, year on year, via Virtual Crime Cymru Digidol, the online version of the festival which will facilitate international reach and further fulfill our aim to be inclusive (see values, below)
- To benefit Aberystwyth and the surrounding area in terms of:
- bringing thousands of visitors to Aberystwyth during the festival (for comparision, Bloody Scotland – Scotland’s premier crime fiction festival – brings more than 10,000 people to the town each year.
- sourcing all materials and services possible from local businesses and suppliers
- offering the opportunity for people of all ages and demographics to get involved at all levels of the festival, not just as attenders
- publicising Aberystwyth, the Welsh coast and Wales more generally not only as a holiday venue but as a cultural and business centre.
- To further the three founding aims of the Crime Cymru collective:
Everything we will do in planning for and running Gŵyl Crime Cymru Festival is underpinned by four founding values:
Our values are reflected in our choice of Aberystwyth as our venue, a choice which has been enthusiastically celebrated by the town council who are offering financial start-up support.
We are now at the stage of seeking more substantial support as we move forward with our plans.