29 March 2021

Noirwich - the home of crime writing

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    The Noirwich ecosystem advances the practice, pedagogy, and perception of crime writing as a serious form of literary expression that can address major contemporary concerns.

    It’s underpinned by the creative and critical research of Professor Henry Sutton, Dr Nathan Ashman, and Tom Benn. 

    60% of Noirwich Crime Writing Festival attendees surveyed between 2016-2019 said it had changed their perception of the genre. The most common change concerned the genre’s importance in ‘reflecting the state of the world’.

    In 2017, 33% surveyed agreed ‘how essential the genre is for social commentary’ and ‘thought more about crime fiction tackling societal issues’.

    Growth of this ecosystem through developing innovative crime writing training and the Noirwich Crime Writing Festival has impacted on a new generation of writers, higher education institutions, publishers, public perception – and on the City of Norwich. 

    Major archive donations from leading crime writers reflect the position of UEA as a home for crime writing research established by Noirwich.

    Pedagogy: training the next generation of crime writers and impact beyond UEA

    Research conducted by Professor Sutton, Dr Ashman, and Tom Benn underpins innovative crime writing training at and beyond UEA. There have been 794 participants in taught crime writing courses and workshops created at UEA by Noirwich, between 2014 and December 2020. 

    The Creative Writing MA Crime Fiction is the first stand-alone course of its kind in a UK university and has been fully subscribed since it launched in 2015. The online dimension of MA teaching makes the course accessible to mature and international students and has brought its pedagogical expertise to a wide range of ages and nationalities.

    The UEA programme is training a new generation of highly acclaimed writers, benefitting them artistically and economically through awarding prizes and lucrative publishing contracts. Graduates have achieved publishing deals totalling over £350,000, publishing in translation across more than 25 global territories.

    Noirwich has also had a pedagogical impact beyond UEA, influencing the development of masters-level courses at other universities, and attracting prestigious research funding. It also encompasses an online screenwriting course designed by Tom Benn that has had over 120,000 users since launching in 2015, and a public Creative Writing Online Crime Fiction course Professor Sutton started with the National Centre for Writing in 2018, which takes 30 students per year.

    Noirwich crime writing festival: transforming perception of the genre

    Noirwich Crime Writing Festival was co-founded by Professor Sutton in 2014 to bring advances in crime writing practice and research to public audiences. Organised with and co-funded by the National Centre for Writing, it brings researchers at UEA in areas such as forensic science, environmental science, law, and psychology into dialogue with crime writers to provoke deeper understandings of the genre. 

    Renowned authors like Lee Child and Yrsa Sigurðardóttir and emerging voices, including Leye Adenle, Oyinkan Braithwaite, Sara Collins, Winnie Li, and Imran Mahmood give writing, screen adaptation, and translation workshops and interviews. The Festival has grown in size and importance since its inception, offering a key counterpoint to more commercially-oriented festivals. 

    The Festival also gives the public access to writing, translation, and TV/film adaptation workshops with leading practitioners, and 343 people participated in workshops between 2014 and December 2020.

    In September 2020, the online version of the Noirwich Festival attracted 5,421 attendees

    The Noirwich Lecture delivers current thinking on crime writing to the public. In 2018, Val McDermid examined gender and violence. In 2019, BBC journalist and writer George Alagiah spoke on the power of fiction to illuminate facts around post-colonial natural resource exploitation. In the wake of Black Lives Matter protests, US crime writer Attica Locke delivered the 2020 Noirwich Lecture, contributing to the global conversation on issues of race, power, prejudice, and white supremacy. The Lecture was attended by 1,969 people via livestream, YouTube and podcast, and was published in the Guardian. 

    Archive donations: industry recognition and support for future writers

    Noirwich has transformed the perception of crime writing by giving it a home in higher education. 

    Writers and their estates have donated archives to UEA to support future research and practice, which now is the largest crime writing archive in a British university. In 2018, Lee Child donated his crime writing archive to UEA’s British Archive for Contemporary Writing to support research and practice in the genre. Donations such as these will hopefully help inspire a new generation of crime writers.