Alibis in the Archives at Gladstone’s Library

There are times when writing seems a doddle, and other times when all you want to do is sit down and write, but these other things get in the way …

I was very grateful to be invited to the annual Alibis in the Archive event, part of Gladfest at the Gladstone Library. For one thing, I had an increasing workload, and getting away from the desk for a weekend was appealing, but also because I had heard so much about the Gladstone Library, and this was an opportunity to have a look at it.

The journey up was rather more eventful than I would have liked. I checked with Google, and discovered that the trip would take at least four and a half hours. Hmm. Well, I thought I had better leave no later than noon, in that case. I took the dogs for a good six mile walk, packed a bag, and left at half past eleven. Plenty of time. And all should have been well. Except for other drivers, naturally.

The first incident was a little shunt somewhere near Taunton. Not too bad. We queued for about fifteen minutes, and set off again. The Sat Nav didn’t seem overly bothered. As I watched it, the arrival time moved from about four to four thirty. And then it slipped to four forty five. Then five. 

Hold on! An extra hour? The Sat Nav happily informed me of a serious incident not far away. Would I like an alternative route?

You bet. That diversion added over an hour and a half. Then there was another queue, and … well, I reached the Library at gone six. Just time for a bite to eat, and I was into the first event, a splendid period crime puzzle written by Ann Cleeves, with a cast of four foul players! After that, with the festival well and truly open, everyone repaired to the sitting room and bar, and participants, speakers and readers alike, chatted about crime, writing, and Gladstone.

Next morning I was up at a sensible hour and into the main library where we had a series of fascinating speakers (and me).

First up was Simon Brett, with a play called A Crime in Rhyme. Always entertaining, Simon took on all the parts – and everyone enjoyed his simulation of croquet balls being struck. Oh, and yes, the whole thing was in rhyme. Since I find it impossible to construct two lines of poetry, my awe for Simon increased no end. 

After Simon we had Andrew Taylor, who spoke about the three legal cases that inspired much of his writing in a witty and amusing talk. Then there was Martin Edwards speaking about collecting crime books, before Sarah Ward who gave a great talk about Derbyshire and the crime writers who have made use of the county. After her there was Ruth Dudley Edwards on her irreverent attitude towards most popular opinions, before I spoke up in favour of historical crime stories. After me there was an excellent history of forensic science by James HK Grieve, Emeritus Professor in Forensic Medicine at the University of Aberdeen. 

Finally we had a panel discussion with all seven participants that day, and then a meal, closely followed by a visit to the bar again. 

Sunday, unfortunately, I couldn’t stay. The length of the journey, added to a couple of family issues, meant I had to leave after breakfast – which was made considerably more delightful by the company of The Puzzle Doctor, whom I have wanted to meet for some time. I have to thank him for two particularly unkind questions during the panel event, as well as the photo.

It was deeply irritating, though. I had to miss Jessica Mann talking about the Female of the Species. Martin was also speaking about the British Crime Writing Archives. All the documents owned by the CWA and Detection Club are now stored securely at Gladstone’s Library, and he was giving some plans for their future.  Finally, Peter Lovesey, the winner of so many prizes, was speaking about his own career.

If you get a chance to visit the Library, I can recommend it. It not only hosts many events, it has rooms on site, and the food was excellent. Alibis is a popular and growing festival under the direction of Martin Edwards, the current Chair of the Crime Writers’ Association and President of the Detection Club, and the wonderful Louisa Yates, who has more energy than seems entirely fair! I was really delighted to meet old friends, and make some new ones too – Leo McNeir, Sarah Ward and The Puzzle Doctor all spring to mind. Because that is the delight of Alibis in the Archive. It’s about crime writing, but it’s a festival where the speakers are mingling all the time. We get to meet readers, rather than being closeted away in a green room somewhere. 

And now, there is one little comment to make. 

So often, when I mention that I have been speaking, people ask, “Was it recorded?” Lots of people are interested in events like this. But sadly, not too many can attend. The Library is not enormous, and it is not too easy for visitors from America or Australia to find their way there for a weekend.

But, as I mentioned, Louisa Yates is a person of boundless energy, and her colleague, Amy Sumner, is a wizard – I won’t say witch – with a microphone and recording system. That means you can hear the speakers from the weekend. All you have to do is click  here for the whole lot!

Many thanks to Louisa, Amy, Gary and all the others at the Gladstone Library who helped make this such a memorable weekend.

4 Responses to “Alibis in the Archives at Gladstone’s Library”
  1. jashrader says:

    Michael: have the videos been discontinued? Thanks sooo much for the audition link! Cheers! Kleaspop

    Liked by 1 person

    • No, just paused for a while. I relied on my daughter to film and edit. Now she’s doing exams so I’m having to work out how to film without her. Normal service will resume!


  2. Lindsey Russell says:

    Gosh that was some trek. Did a quick google – looks an amazing venue.


  3. Jack Eason says:

    Reblogged this on Have We Had Help? and commented:
    Michael holds court (amongst others) at the Gladstone Library..


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: