Nicola Sturgeon in Conversation at Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival, 2019

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by Sarah Morgan

The Old Swan in Harrogate is no stranger to famous faces. It was, of course, where Agatha Christie was found in 1926 after her disappearance, and Alan Bennett once made a documentary there.

Every year it’s the home of the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival too, where the great and the good of the genre gather to impart their wisdom on their readers. Occasionally other celebrities appear to take part too – in recent years Sarah Millican, Rory Bremner and Richard Osman have all hosted events.

But 2019 welcomed none other than Scotland’s First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, who is a personal friend of Val McDermid, one of the festival’s organisers.

Those in attendance saw her let her hair down too – on Friday night, she performed backing vocals on Sympathy For the Devil during a gig by the Fun Lovin’ Crime Writers, a band made up of, you guessed it, crime writers, including McDermid and Mark Billingham. She also hung out with readers, happily posing for pictures.

“If more leaders read fiction, the world might be in a better state”

Perhaps one of the reasons why Sturgeon felt comfortable enough to let her hair down was the fact that she loves and values reading.

“For me personally it’s one of the most important things in my life,” revealed during the weekend. “It keeps me sane in this crazy political world we live in at the moment. It should be important to everybody because it deepens your understanding of things and opens up world you might not otherwise experience.

“If more leaders read fiction, the world might be in a better state than it is now. I’m not pointing the finger at any one person of country here,” she said while laughing knowingly, “but I do feel reading is that important.”

Would she ever write a book herself in the future?

“I’m tempted, but I’m not sure I’ve got a novel in me. I’d like to think I’ve got the talent t write something that somebody might want to read, but it would have to be when I’ve finished with politics, and I hope that’s a long way off yet.

“I don’t think I’d feel confident to say ‘watch this space,’ but I would say never say never.”

images: Harrogate International Festivals

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