You can’t have failed to miss the fact that there’s a new crime festival in town. In London town, to be precise, taking place from 26th to 28th September in the Grand Connaught Rooms in Central London. The festival programme is certainly very impressive, with leading crime and thriller creative makers attending. Capital Crime is welcoming some of the world’s favourite authors and filmmakers to London, aiming to bring the best of everything crime and thriller to fans.
The programme reads like a who’s who of crime and some of the panel sessions are really imaginatively put together. I’m personally looking forward to the Killer Women panel on Is Crime Fiction a Problem for Feminists? with Julia Crouch, Sarah Hilary, Amanda Jennings, Colette McBeth and Kate Rhodes in conversation.
I’m also genuinely thrilled that Don Winslow is going to be chatting to Ian Rankin – that’s one to get any crime fan’s heart beating faster.
You can see the schedule here.
But what I’m really interested in is what this festival is doing differently. I’ve heard a lot recently about Capital Crime’s inclusivity and accessibility and I wanted to probe under the surface of that a little bit and find out what that means. After all, a crime festival in a rather grand setting with tickets that started out at £200 for a weekend pass doesn’t exactly scream inclusive.
Well, the setting may be grand, but the best thing about it is its accessibility, as Lizzie Curle, Festival Manager told me. “London as a city comes with its own challenges, especially at a basic accessibility level,” she told me. “Venues often say that they are fully accessible, but they have steps into the main entrance, or you can reach all the conference rooms but not get to the bar.” (which really would be a disaster). As someone with mobility issues who has experienced exactly this problem before, I am delighted just knowing that this has been at the heart of Capital Crime’s thinking. So what Capital Crime is lucky to have at the Grand Connaught Rooms is not only a fully accessible venue, even though it is an old venue. There are lifts onto every floor and ramps onto the main building. So finding a venue that all readers can come to, and celebrate crime and thrillers is a really positive step.
That’s the starting point for this year. There are further aspirations, for example to bring in an on-site signer, and that’s very much top of their minds for future years.
I asked Lizzie about Capital Crime’s pricing structure, bearing in mind that the tickets have now reduced in price, something that was always an aim. Lizzie told me that in many ways the festival was competitively priced on a comparative basis, but that perhaps as a new festival, they hadn’t got the history behind them to command such an outlay. Fortunately, they have managed to secure sponsorship which has enabled them to reduce the ticket price to £150 for a weekend pass and £80 for a day pass and that has enabled them to offer tickets at the level they feel is more affordable. The ticket sales reflect that position now, and as Lizzie says, with a new festival it was always going to be a bit of a learning curve.
All the way along though, Capital Crime has been thinking about how inclusive they can make their pricing. So they set aside 25 reduced priced tickets for librarians; those quintessential book lovers and book promoters who are so important to authors and readers alike. The idea was to give back to those who do so much to celebrate books. These sit alongside carer tickets; 25 tickets set aside for those on a low income, bringing the cost of a weekend ticket to £50 and some blogger passes, too, representing a considerable commitment to inclusivity, making the festival a truly accessible, mass participation event.
For new festival goers, or those who are on their own, there will be a team of ‘Introducers’, ready and willing to help people understand what’s on offer, where it is and to help them feel at home. That’s friendliness on the doorstep, designed to make you feel welcome as you arrive.
Capital Crime Social Outreach Initiative
What really excites me though, is the initiative that Capital Crime has taken with schools this year. Both David Headley and Adam Hamdy, the festival co-founders, come from working class backgrounds and they want to give back to those who perhaps don’t have great access to the opportunities that others have. They understand how opaque the publishing industry can sometimes look from the outside. Though the industry itself is changing a lot, David and Adam were really keen to see what they could do to help make the industry accessible to new and diverse voices.
So Capital Crime started by reaching out to 10 state schools, each carefully chosen to ensure a geographic and diverse reach. They offered two places per school to sixth form students who were either interested in writing or wanted to go into the publishing industry. The idea was to inform these students about how publishing works, what kinds of jobs are available – offering them some basic information about the industry to demystify it and make it more of an accessible choice. By opening doors, and introducing them to some of the industry’s influential ‘movers and shakers’, they would feel a little more clued up and supported.
These 20 students and their teachers attended a seminar evening in April with some fantastic speakers. Ali Land, James Swallow, David Headley and Adam Hamdy all spoke and the students had the opportunity to hear from authors and publishing professionals and to understand how they might be able to pursue careers in writing or publishing.
Arising from that event, Hachette offered the opportunity for students to come and look around the Hachette building and a couple of weeks ago available students went to the Hachette building, met with the Director and had a hands on tour of what life in a publishing office was like. Lizzie Curle says that was really helpful. “They could see themselves there”, she said. “It’s often a question of making people feel confident and comfortable in these surroundings and that no-one need feel excluded. The intention is to give these students the confidence to seek out the careers that they really want, and not just those that they have been told they can have.”
Lizzie tells me that some of the students have been applying to Universities and have mentioned their Capital Crime experience to date in their applications.
Those 20 students have also been given complimentary day passes to attend Capital Crime on Saturday 28th September with full access to all the panels and the opportunity to meet established authors and publishing professionals.
I think this is such a brilliant initiative and one that shows true generosity of spirit and a real intention to affect change in a concrete way.
It’s clear that a lot of good thinking has gone into Capital Crime and that as well as being a brilliant crime and thriller festival, it’s also putting its heft to excellent use for the future of the publishing industry.
First and foremost though, Capital Crime is a festival for readers. As Lizzie told me; “when you speak to authors, they tell you about the book that made them want to write. That’s what we want to harness and celebrate”.
I can’t wait.
For more information and to purchase tickets, visit the Capital Crime website.