Tuesday, August 9, 2022

Feeling Bute-aful

Friday dawns over the Firth of Clyde in western Scotland

Craig every second Tuesday. 

Kia ora and gidday everyone.

I hope your weeks have all started well. I'm feeling refreshed and reenergised after a wonderful weekend by the seaside, attending the Bute Noir festival in Rothesay, the main town on the isle of Bute off the west coast of the Scottish mainland. Having grown up within a short drive of several beaches in New Zealand, and being able to see the sea from my house in my teenage years, or be only a few blocks walk from the waterfront while living in Auckland and Sydney, it was rather magical for me to be back among the squawking seagulls and glistening waters. Living in London, I do miss that quite a lot (as well as being able to see mountains or hills from wherever I am). 

Bute Noir was rather perfect timing, in a way. I'd recently received some pretty rough news from back home in New Zealand - the kind of life stuff we all have to deal with at some point - so it was good for my soul to be amongst nature, by the sea, and mixing and mingling with dozens of cool booklovers for a few days. Great conversations, fun times. It was a terrific weekend, from solo moments strolling along the seaside for many miles at dawn, or through a botanical gardens then woodland trail and up a hill, to being amongst a crowd of several hundred enjoying the sinister sounds  of the Fun Lovin' Crime Writers - a rather fine covers band consisting of British crime writers Mark Billingham, Val McDermid, Stuart Neville, Chris Brookmyre, Doug Johnstone, and Luca Veste. 

The Fun Lovin' Crime Writers rocking Trinity Church on Friday at Bute Noir

I was there to chair a couple of events - Psycho Thrillers with Fiona Cummins, Susi Holliday and Luca Veste on the Saturday and Screen Test with screenwriters and crime novelists Alexandra Sokoloff, Helen Fitzgerald, and Michael Bennett on the Sunday - but I also ended up being 'official photographer' for the festival. So I attended every session before running to catch the ferry on Sunday afternoon, and have a few hundred photos from the weekend on each of my iPhone and my Canon EOS camera (took the latter to take some more professional shots for the festival). 

The panels were all excellent - full of insights into the craft of great writing, the themes into which crime writing can delve, discussions about books, and lots of laughter and fun - but as is often the case it's all that goes on around that which adds to the programme and makes a festival or conference really special. Bute has that in spades. 

So here's a wee photo essay, with a few phone snaps (still sorting the Canon EOS ones), to give you a taste of Bute Noir. If you're the kind of person who loves crime festivals, I'd highly recommend adding it to your calendar in future - or just heading over to Bute sometime to enjoy the island itself. I'll certainly be back, festivals or not. 

The view from my very affordable and very lovely Bed & Breakfast on the first day. 

A hidden gem on Bute - the Ardencraig Gardens, a wee walk outside Rothesay. Free entry, spectacular colour, plus an aviary of finches, canaries, and parrots. 
Lovely to see some Kiwi crime writing amongst the Scottish at Print Point, a cool indy bookshop on Bute that helps organise the festival. Pre-release hardcovers of Māori author Michael Bennett's debut (Michael appeared at Bute Noir). 

An early highlight of the onstage programme: the wonderful Denise Mina in conversation with Mark Billingham. A fabulous chat, full of insights and laughter. 

View of the ferry from a woodland trail partway up a 130m hill behind Rothesay

When you're beside the Scottish seaside - scallops with black pudding 

Northern Irishman Stuart Neville is an outstanding crime writer, and also a pretty amazing lead guitarist - here he is tearing it up on a guitar he'd made himself. 

Window display at Print Point bookshop, showcasing the authors who'd come to the island from all over the UK and far beyond for Bute Noir festival

The wonderful Johana Gustawsson and Ambrose Parry (Marietza and Chris) talking Historical Mysteries in Trinity Church, chaired by Noelle Holten

Our 'Psycho Thrillers' panel at Bute Library: Luca Veste, Susi Holliday, me, Fiona Sussman

Very cool to introduce Māori storyteller Michael Bennett (centre) to Bute. Here's Michael with his UK editor Katherine Armstrong and me in the Discovery Centre Theatre after our Screen Test panel

Even on a drizzly Sunday it was still pretty magical being by the seaside

Have you ever been to Bute, for Bute Noir or otherwise? Are you a fan of crime writing festivals and meeting authors and readers? Please share your thoughts in the comments. 

Until next time. Ka kite anō. 

Whakataukī of the fortnight: 

Inspired by Zoe and her 'word of the week', I'll be ending my fortnightly posts by sharing a whakataukī (Māori proverb), a pithy and poetic thought to mull on as we go through life. This one was used by Michael Bennett onstage at Bute on Sunday, so seems appropriate:

Kia whakatōmuri te haere whakamua

(I walk backwards into the future with my eyes fixed on my past.)

Māori filmmaker and author Michael Bennett exploring Bute's history


  1. Hi - yes it was a fabulous festival weekend, and so good to have it back; 2019 seems an eternity ago! Looks as though you were staying at St. Ebba’s, our next door neighbours (the lovely David and Kristine) - I thought that view from the window looked familiar! Roll on Bute Noir 2023!

    1. I was in the Commodore for the Fri and Sat nights of the festival, but decided to go up a day early so stayed in St Ebba's on Thursday. Lovely, all of it. Looking forward to returning next year.