Last weekend I was lucky enough to attend Noirwich – one of the UKs best and fastest growing crime writing festivals. I was going to write about how much I loved the festival owing to being a wannabe crime writer and general fan of literature. However, instead I want to focus on Norwich as a whole and specifically why you should come to Noirwich festival even if you’re not a crime writer as the festival content and location is truly fantastic.
1. The Location
Noirwich took place predominantly at the Norwich Arts Centre this year; a beautiful independently run arts venue on one of my favourite streets in the city – St Benedicts. St Benedicts houses the best independent restaurants and tea houses that Norwich has to offer, proving that you don’t have to walk far from the centre of Norwich city for incredible eats. Between festival events you can pop for coffee at The Stray Cat or House Café (also famous for it’s cake and breakfasts). For lunch or dinner try Farmyard, B’nou or The Bicycle shop – all cooking with local ingredients and providing 5 star food and service. Not forgetting those of us that might like a cheeky drink, The Plough, The Mash Tun and The Ten Bells offer a fantastic selection of gins (Norwich is rich in gin bars). Platform 12 offers cocktails and jazz in a vintage setting and the Rumsey Wells can offer delicious home made pies and local beers. You could eat every meal of the week on this street and never get board.
2. The History
The history of Norwich is something often overlooked. As the first UNESCO city of literature, many students flock here to revel in what Norwich has to offer. The first woman to publish a book in English was from Norwich in 1395 and in the 11th century Norwich was the same size of London and could have been the capital of the UK. Want more facts? Well, Norwich cathedrale has the second tallest spire in the UK which my grandad climbed up and tied his scarf around the cock (ahem) and my mother was once Miss Norwich, Candy Queen (the prettiest girl at Mckintoshes chocolate factory) and eventually Miss UK so we breed some interesting types. If you stay in Norwich and like a bit of fun with your history (who doesn’t right and it’s a good way to deceive the kids into learning) then try one of the historical challenge games or go on a spooky ghost tour.
Our market has recently one awards owing to the sheer quality and variety of items they have on offer. Gone are the days of selling dodgy brand free CD walkmans and in come great food stalls. The likes of Churros and Chorizo, Fig Bar and Bun Box and traditional bacon roll and fish and chip stalls. If food isn’t your thing (said nobody ever) then there are vintage clothing stalls, henna tattoos, crystals, beer, jewelry – you name it, you’ll find it.
4. Noirwich isn’t just for writers
The crime festival does have many attendees that want to be the next Martina Cole, but so many people there are simply fans of reading. This is a chance to find out about new crime books before they hit the shelves, network with likeminded people and make new friends. The social side of the festival is fantastic. I made lots of new friends by having a glass of wine or a coffee between lectures and the guys that run the events are wonderful, with so much knowledge of the city. If you didn’t go this year then make sure you sign up for next years events and keep a look out for other events that The Writers Centre organise. Oh and if you’re nervous going alone, feel assured that most people there are riding solo – writers and readers tend not to travel in packs!
5. Noirwich festival gives inspiration to ALL writers, not just crime
Regardless if you write crime, history or romance, you’ll get to learn from experts how to structure a novel, plan characters and get published. I always come away from the festival with 101 new ideas to action. So many people I have met over the years have gone on to publish books and screenplays thanks to the contacts and tips they made at the festival (as well as their exceptional talent).
6. You get to meet your heroes
Over the years I have met writers that I have idolised and had that weak jelly leg moment when face to face with them. Putting a face and personality to the person behind the words is quite rare as us writers celebrate our introversion, only coming out of our caves when we have to, so this is a great opportunity. I’ve met Martina Cole, Lee Child, Val McDermott to name drop just a few. And, I am the proud owner (as is my crime loving father) of so many signed books and memories of some wonderful advice from authors I admire.
7. You get to be ahead of the curve
Noirwich will allow you to get your hands on new crime novels before they hit the shelves and learn about brand new authors breaking on to the scene. I’ve met some fabulous ‘Fresh Blood’ authors who have gone from strength to strength such as Ruth Ware. Being part of an authors journey is something really special.
8. Norwich has some beautiful places to stay
Forget the faceless big brand hotels, try a cute independent like the Gatsby inspired St Giles House or the haunted Maids Head Hotel in the centre of the city. If hip and happening is more your thing then The Georgian Townhouse offers a country style house with a bar restaurant for all the cool kids.
9. You’re nearer to the coast than you think
Yes you’re in a city centre but within half an hour you have the North Norfolk coast which has inspired many a great novel. Visit Wells, Lowestoft, Great Yarmouth or Sheringham and treat yourself to sugary doughnuts and fish and chips.
10. Norwich rocks the afternoon tea scene
Norwich has some fantastic traditional tea rooms in the shape of Biddys, The Assembly Rooms or Harriets where you can have a traditional afternoon tea and a cheeky Prosecco on the side.
Whether you’re a writer, fan of literature or simply fancy an excuse for a weekend away in a fabulous city the I urge you to give the Noirwich festival and Norwich as a whole a try. Crime and nourishment at its very best.