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Say hello to murder most foul as Granite Noir welcomes people back to Aberdeen

Granite Noir Aberdeen
Jane Spiers, chief executive of Aberdeen Performing Arts which organised Granite Noir.

Two things are vital when it comes to murder most foul – people and place.

Those elements are certainly essential when it comes to hosting an award-winning crime writing festival like Granite Noir, according to Jane Spiers.

Which is why the chief executive of Aberdeen Performing Arts is delighted to have the celebration of all things criminal returning as an in-person event from Thursday February 24 after being staged online due to the Covid pandemic.

Jane said: “Last year we had a virtual Granite Noir and we made loads of new friends, with 24,000 views in 70 different countries and we kept the spirit of Granite Noir alive.

Granite Noir Aberdeen
Jane Spiers in the Music Hall in Aberdeen which will host many of the big Granite Noir events.

“But the essence of Granite Noir is about people and about place, and it is such a great feeling just to be back in person.

Aberdeen is a big character in Granite Noir

“Aberdeen itself has always been a big character in Granite Noir. It’s about our stories and our history and our heritage. It’s a destination festival, it’s about inviting and welcoming people to Aberdeen and showcasing the best we have in Aberdeen and the north-east.”

Granite Noir, now in its sixth outing, is also about showcasing the art of crime fiction, in its myriad forms, with a host of big-name writers, workshops and performances, ranging from author talks to exhibitions on historic crime, film noir to fun escape rooms.

Ann Cleeves, the author who created Jimmy Perez – played by Douglas Henshall in the BBC TV series Shetland – will be one of the authors at Granite Noir.

Jane said: “Even within that crime genre we have something for all crime fans. So there’s historical fiction, procedurals, there’s true crime, there are psychological thrillers.”

Among the authors joining Granite Noir, which runs until Sunday February 27, are big hitters, such as home-grown writers, Louise Welsh – introducing her latest book The Second Cut – Ann Cleeves, creator of popular series such as Jimmy Perez as featured in TV series Shetland and Denise Mina – who delves into Scotland’s grim past with the murder of Rizzio.

Amazing authors coming to Aberdeen

There are also thought-provoking events with world-renowned forensic anthropologist Professor Dame Sue Black and Professor Andrew Doig coming together in an exploration of The Mysteries of Life and Death.

Stuart MacBride is the ambassador for Granite Noir.

Jane said: “The line-up for this year is absolutely fantastic. I can’t believe that year on year we manage to attract so many amazing authors to Aberdeen. Partly what Granite Noir is about is celebrating Scottish authors on a world stage.”

Front and centre will also be north-east crime writer Stuart MacBride, who is the festival’s ambassador, along with a host of Nordic crime writers as part of Granite Noir’s celebration between the crime fiction of Scotland and Scandinavia.

Jane said: “I’m currently reading one of the Nordic writers, Anders de la Motte – he’s called the Swedish Val McDermid and, honestly, I can’t put it down, it’s a complete page-turner.”

Away from the written word, Granite Noir also boasts a stage version of Hound Of The Baskervilles at His Majesty’s, the BBC Big Band play “criminal tunes”, like James Bond, The Pink Panther and Mission Impossible, at the Music Hall, as well as a film noir series at The Belmont.

Granite Noir Aberdeen
BBC Big Band will be playing Criminal Tunes as part of Granite Noir.

Granite Noir will bring life – and death – to venues across the city ranging from the Music Hall to Cowdray Hall, the Lemon Tree to the Central Library.

Thrilling Witch Hunt in the Mither Kirk as part of Granite Noir

And there is one venue which Granite Noir is taking over for the first time this year.

Jane said: “We are really excited about being in the Mither Kirk this year. We have a site-specific piece which Ten Feet Tall have created for us called Witch Hunt, which is inspired by the Aberdeen witch trials of the 16th century. That’s completely sold out, but we’re looking to see whether we can increase capacity.”

Witch Hunt, to be staged in the Mither Kirk, will be part of Granite Noir.

With other events also selling out, Jane hopes all of this will create a buzzing atmosphere in the heart of Aberdeen – vital as the city starts the long road to recovery post-pandemic.

“I feel there’s a huge role for the arts and culture going forward in terms of creating a dynamic, reimagined city centre. Spectra showed the way last weekend,” said Jane, referring to the festival of light which had thousands of people thronging the streets of the city centre.

“It felt very positive and it feels like there is an appetite for people coming out again, as we did back in the days before Covid.

Granite Noir Aberdeen
Author Denise Mina will be delving into the past in Granite Noir.

How to find out more about Granite Noir

“Fundamentally Granite Noir is about bringing authors and audiences of all ages together just to share that love of books and reading, so we just want people to come along and say hello again.”

Jane’s passion and pride for Granite Noir is unmistakable, but this year there is a tinge of sadness to her enthusiasm. This will be her last one at the helm, before stepping down as chief executive of APA.

“I have immense pride in Granite Noir, but I’m looking forward to coming back to Granite Noir next year as an audience member. I will definitely be there.”

To find out more about Granite Noir, visit granitenoir.com


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