Friday, 26 August 2011

St Hilda's crime and mystery weekend

This year I attended the St Hilda’s conference for the second time. As last year, the papers were of excellent quality and very exciting: the theme was The Anatomy of Justice. The conference opened with Ayo Onatade who talked about her day job in the Royal Courts of Justice (which she doesn’t do enough of, but I understand it is not something you can discuss with everyone all the time!) and Val McDermid talking about how to make the law work for authors. This was followed by an interesting discussion which also included the recent rioting in London and the penalties handed out to those found guilty.

All speakers gave fascinating talks: some particularly interesting for me were Frances Fyfield’s paper which discussed unusual trials (of animals and objects) carried out in the Middle Ages, with excerpts from a documentary she did for the BBC World service (you can listen to it here), while Cath Staincliffe talked about the moral and practical difficulties involved in assisted dying – and left me with a big lump in my throat. Penny Evans discussed how women’s ‘nagging’ has been considered a provocation in some murder cases (thankfully that loophole has now been closed!) which was truly astounding.

An excellent and more detailed summary of the event is on the Shots blog. The event was a real success and I discovered more about a number of attending authors and books, including the guest of honour Professor Bernard Knight. Natasha Cooper did a brilliant job of chairing the conference and attendees were very friendly.

The conference was well organised and the speakers’ styles and topics were very diverse, giving the event a good variety of themes and approaches. The questions and discussions were thought-provoking and the environment not intimidating. I only wish there was a website for the conference and more ‘social networking’ presence which would make it easier for new people to get to know those who have been at the conference for a number of years.

Next year’s event will be held between 17 and 19 August and its theme is Stop, you’re killing me: humour in crime fiction. Contact if you are interested in attending. I am already looking forward to it!

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