Few festivals are expanding their horizons in the current economic climate.
Yet not many are in such rude health as Granite Noir, the Aberdeen-based extravaganza of crime which has mushroomed in popularity since its launch in 2017 and attracts thousands of fans from all parts of Britain and further afield.
Ben Torrie, director of programming and creative projects at Aberdeen Performing Arts, is in his element when he’s discussing its success and revealing how more than 15,000 people attended last winter’s packed programme.
And that sparked the decision to extend the length of this year’s Granite Noir from four days to six – February 20 to 25 – with the early indications suggesting that, once again, aficionados of Poirot and Holmes, Rebus and Morse, will be travelling to the north-east for a flirtation with the murderous and the macabre and the science of deduction.
Diverse offering at Granite Noir
It is a complex festival with more than 70 writers, hosts and performers and Ben spoke about the eclectic nature of what is on offer.
It has never been just about crime and authors, but a miscellany of what makes a killer, what poisons he or she might have used, what their mugshots looked like and how the authorities have clamped down on those who have taken the law into their own hands.
And, once again in 2024, there is a rich diversity on offer to audiences.
For starters, there are more than 30 writer talks, panel discussions and workshops, which feature traditional crime fiction but also explore ‘noir’ in its widest sense – the darker side of life on the page, involving genres and themes such as thrillers, horror, gothic, psychological, suspense, the surreal and the fantastical.
But what does Ben recommend for those unfamiliar with this Noirish treat?
Aberdeen is a character in the festival
He said: “We welcome established writers at the top of the industry such as Lisa Jewell and Louise Welsh, international crime authors from Norway and Iceland, and brand new, debut writers.
“The programme includes film, theatre, music and exhibitions on a related theme, and it is really important to Granite Noir that Aberdeen is a character in the festival.
“One of the real successes is the exhibition and accompanying talk derived from our local, UNESCO-recognised archives – and this year, it is exploring criminal tattoos from Victorian Aberdeen.
“Beyond this, we have theatre productions including a new commission called Scared to Death which will be produced by local theatre company Ten Feet Tall and tells the story of an infamous murder from Aberdeen and the pivotal role of forensics in solving it, all staged in the perfect setting of the Anatomy Rooms.
There’s plenty of the Queen of Crime
“There will also be a stage adaptation of Twelve Angry Men at HMT and a production called CSI: Crime Scene Improvisation where the audience create the murder.
“We are thrilled to be welcoming beloved actor David Suchet [who is widely considered the best Hercule Poirot] and to feature a talk and film premiere by the author Sophie Hannah, who was selected by the Agatha Christie estate to continue the Poirot stories.
“And in a new initiative this year, we have established a short story competition offering local writers the opportunity to see their work in print.”
There were a few gasps when Ian Rankin appeared at a previous festival and, asked about his favourite Christie novel, replied honestly that he hadn’t read any of them.
But it remained a warm occasion with a hearty atmosphere and a convivial crowd.
That’s another part of Granite Noir’s appeal – it’s bloody good fun!
Further information is at: aberdeenperformingarts.com/granite-noir/