Friday, July 25, 2008
The Crown of Crime - Part 1 - The Sofas, The Place and The Champagne Room
Walking into the lobby of The Crown Hotel in Harrogate is like greeting an old friend. The handshake is warm and familiar, the time since you last saw each other folds in on itself, and you can't wait to retire to the bar for a few quiet ones and a catch up.
Last Wednesday, as I entered The Crown and walked past the sofas in the middle of the lobby, heading to reception to check into my room, I was overcome with a sense of kinship with the old hotel, which, in only its second year, has become synonymous with The Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival.
The layout of the hotel is overly familiar even though I've only been here once before. During the festival last year, I covered almost every inch of its hallowed ground in different states of euphoria, awe and sobriety. I know it like the back of my hand.
The sofas in the middle of The Crown’s lobby, reduced to two this year in order to make room for the Festival Reception area, are akin to home base. It is the location for long nights of chatting with fellow BTZ forum members, authors and the occasional party crasher. The bar is where it all happens in the early hours of the morning, but the sofas are your saving grace, where you get a chance to recharge.
Facing the hotel reception desk with the sofas on your right, there is a long corridor to the left, leading down half the length of the hotel and ending at the hotel's restaurant "The Place". This is the location for pre and post festival meals and the occasional brewskie if the other bar isn't open.
There is a side door within the restaurant leading outside to numerous chairs and tables set up along the pavement, large umbrellas shielding aspiring writers from the pouring rain. More often than not, this is where Sarah, Dean and I, amongst other authors in the making, retired to between events, if the bar area wasn't humming with fans and authors. It was freezing outside, but Sarah was beaming enough with excitement to keep us warm. Her little "baby" was in the hands of an agent and things were looking good. Dean and I listened intently; we were there alongside her, going through the ups and downs, absolutely stoked for her and her potential career launch.
Back inside, through The Place and back along the corridor, there is a large room to your right, where Creative Thursday took place. A day of discussions and workshops about honing the craft of writing, with such teachers as Greg Mosse, Val McDermid and Hilary Hale passing on their wealth of knowledge. Iain was there too, an already successful writer from the BTZ forum, who had popped in for a couple of events and Creative Thursday. He was the first in a number of cases of a catch up way too brief.
This room also held the book launch of Simon Kernick's Deadline and the celebration of Peter Robinson's 21 Years of DI Alan Banks. Holding a glass of champagne in one hand during the Deadline launch, I was pleased to speak briefly with the likes of Chris Simms (who was looking forward to participating in the upcoming Damaged Heroes panel), Stuart MacBride and the man himself, Simon Kernick, who also brilliantly chaired the festival this year.
Leaving this room, you turn right back towards the lobby, passing a small room where the Festival team were often spotted working feverishly to ensure the weekend ran smoothly in all its aspects, Erica leading them through the trenches, delivering the goods and solving problems with the customer’s satisfaction and enjoyment of the festival always in mind.
Arriving in the reception area, you are able to give another longing look towards the sofas where, more often than not, you found Jo, Stuart and Helena, hobnobbing it with fans and authors alike. Another reason why those sofas are considered home base - Jo (another aspiring writer and a blogging good one too) has exuberance that is contagious, Stuart has plenty of stories to tell, including his run in with a Sat Nav, and Helena has entertainment value, which increases as the night goes on.
Pulling yourself away from the sofas, running parallel to the bar, you'll find yourself at the beginning of a well tread corridor . . .