Bute Musuem Column - Playing this year’s festival by the book

Bute Noir 2018 at Bute Museum.
Bute Noir 2018 at Bute Museum.

A museum may seem a strange venue for a crime writing festival but not if that festival is Bute Noir.

The three venues of Print Point, Rothesay Library and Bute Museum are as much a part of the success of Bute Noir as the high-profile authors who take part in the events.

Bute Noir was born one evening in 2015 in Rothesay Library when author Craig Robertson had innocently thought he was merely giving a talk to an interested audience on a small Scottish island and that would be an end to it. The event was hosted by librarian Patricia McArthur and also present was Karen Latto selling Craig’s books, and myself. Afterwards Craig came next door to the museum to catch the end of a jazz night and he was foolish enough to say that the museum meeting room was a great venue and with the library and Print Point, the three could support a crime writing weekend.

That was enough for Karen to doggedly pursue the dream until it became a reality. Three years on and Bute Noir goes from strength to strength.

So, for three days at the beginning of August, the museum finds itself playing host to an eclectic mix of people, many of whom have never visited us before. After-event drinks are served in the galleries, giving people a chance to see the collection while meeting authors and discussing crime fiction.

As this is a great opportunity to introduce a new audience to our stunning and varied collection, for our first festival I chose an artefact to match a book from each author. I hasten to add that it is the words of the title that match the artefact, not the contents. These ‘Bute Noir book meets museum artefact’ photographs and descriptions appeared on the museum website and the Bute Noir website. As they proved a very popular lead-in to the festival, I have continued to do it.

Some authors very thoughtfully provide titles that are easy to match. Chris Brookmyre has frogs and ducks in his titles and Myra Duffy includes Bute place-names. However, new authors with a single book can prove problematic, as can those with single word titles and there are only so many artefacts that can be comfortably matched to death and blood. I have not yet been beaten, although some of the matches are a little bizarre. This year’s ‘Bute Noir book meets museum artefact’ includes a Bronze Age pot, a shelduck, a Victorian beggar’s badge, a midget submarine crest, some sealskin and a miniature of whisky. In other words, a representation of the archaeology, history and wildlife of Bute through the museum collection. There will be 16 this year, as that is how many authors are appearing. They provide information about the events ads well as the artefacts.