As Morecambe & Vice prepares for its third outing this September, festival organiser Tom Fisher tells us about the journey so far.
When you think of ‘crime festivals’, you probably picture big conference rooms where authors discuss their work in front of hundreds of their adorning fans, who have assembled together for a weekend dedicated to criminal activity. The UK is home to many well-established crime festivals, that you’ve no doubt heard of: Bristol’s ‘CrimeFest’ or Bloody Scotland in Stirling. What you may not have heard of is a little crime writing festival on the North West coast that is making quite a splash.
This is Morecambe & Vice: claiming to be the UK’s ‘quirkiest crime writing festival’, it was dreamt up by Tom Fisher & Ben Cooper-Muir of Attic Door Productions, a theatrical production company based in Morecambe.
“Before us, there was no crime writing festival in the North West” says Tom, “so rather than wait for someone else to start one, we decided to bring one to the North West, and we couldn’t think of anywhere better than our hometown of Morecambe!”
Just a stone’s throw away from the Lake District, you’d be forgiven for thinking the little seaside town of Morecambe is past its heyday. Jump back to the 1940s and Morecambe would be packed full of holidaymakers enjoying a traditional seaside holiday. But nowadays, you might be fooled into thinking that the cracks in Morecambe’s crown are showing. Underneath the surface, however, Morecambe is on the up and up. A multi-million pound investment by Eden Project has been agreed, which would bring a contingent of Cornwall’s Eden Project to Morecambe; ITV’s ‘The Bay’ is returning to Morecambe for a second season; and, Morecambe’s several festivals throughout the year are continuing to increase in popularity, from Vintage By the Sea to the Morecambe Carnival in the Summer.
Morecambe & Vice debuted in 2017 at the Morecambe Winter Gardens on a weekend in September. “We honestly had no idea how the first one would be received,” says Tom, “would people come all the way to Morecambe for a crime festival?” But, as the saying goes, if you build it they will come. And they did. Morecambe & Vice proved popular enough for a second outing in 2018, again at the Winter Gardens. “We had to up our game for Year 2. We decided to focus on the theme of ‘entertainment’: we’re a theatrical production company based in the phenomenal Winter Gardens, it just made sense. We had screenwriters, theatre producers and even stage and screen legends Robert Daws and Hugh Fraser – it was excellent!”
So, what’s in store for this year? “First off, we’ve moved! We’re trialling this year’s festival at the iconic art-deco Midland Hotel. The theme for 2019 is, rather aptly, ‘Bring Me Sunshine” – we’re shedding some positivity on to the world of crime fiction.”
A bit of positivity couldn’t come sooner for Morecambe who, in January 2019, was the subject of a BBC News article claiming that school children were ‘so hungry they were eating from bins’.
“It’s no secret that Morecambe has been the victim of some bad press recently. But, despite all this negativity, there is a lot being done to bring Morecambe back to the tourist haven that it once was. This year’s festival is part of that movement.”
But what of the larger, more established crime festivals like Bloody Scotland, Theakston’s Old Peculiar Crime Writing Festival, or the flagship CrimeFest in Bristol? How can Morecambe & Vice compete with them? Tom claims “When we started planning the very first M&V, we were adamant that we weren’t just going to create ‘Morecambe Noir’ or simply a carbon copy of any other crime festival. We wanted to create a festival that people would enjoy, they would remember and, most importantly, they would want to come back to. Last year, we had authors singing, cocktail-making and even fire-eating – we’re pretty sure we’re the first crime festival to have an author fire eat on stage in front of an audience!”
It would appear as though Morecambe & Vice has the right amount of literary discussion for it to be called a ‘crime writing festival’, and just the right amount of fun and frivolity for it to warrant a trip by the seaside.
Morecambe & Vice will be held at The Midland Hotel, Morecambe, over the weekend of Saturday 28th and Sunday 29th September.
Headline guests include best-selling author Lin Anderson and Lancaster University’s own Professor Dame Sue Black.
Full line up and programme, tickets range from £5 to £40 and are available through the Morecambe & Vice website, www.morecambecrimefest.co.uk
Follow Morecambe & Vice on Twitter – @MorecambeVice
Like Morecambe & Vice on Facebook – /morecambecrimefest