A North-East based literary event has been shortlisted for Event of the Year in the UK’s FutureBook Awards.
Virtual Noir at the Bar (VNatB), hosted by writers Simon Bewick and Vic Watson, is
one of six online events up for the new award category after being nominated by
writers and publishers.
The FutureBook Awards are part of the annual FutureBook Conference, which is
usually a one-day event in London, but this year it will take place online across five
days and run from November 16 to 20.
Due to the coronavirus pandemic organisers have decided to put the 2020 awards
into five ‘Best of Lockdown’ categories including book, campaign, event, retail and
start-up and Vic and Simon are delighted to have been shortlisted.
The announcement comes off the back of a triumphant Halloween special featuring
Ian Rankin and local author Matt Wesolowski, and the pair are wasting no time in
planning their Christmas special, which will be broadcast via Zoom on December
During its 22 week run, VNatB had more than 4,500 audience members, hosted
over 230 writers at varying stages of their careers, from unpublished to the biggest
names in crime fiction including Ann Cleeves, SJ Watson and Linwood Barclay.
Previously, Vic hosted Noir at the Bar in Newcastle and Harrogate but had to get
creative when lockdown hit in March.
She says: “When the UK went into lockdown in March 2020, many of us found
ourselves with cancelled plans. Whether it be our favourite festival, a book launch
we’d been looking forward to or the next Noir at the Bar, everything disappeared in
the blink of an eye. Having chatted with many writer friends, my heart went out to
those whose books had just been or were due to be released, particularly debut
Vic set about trying recreate the atmosphere of her live events via Zoom, allowing
readers to connect with one another as well as the writers appearing. Having met
Simon Bewick, a writer and marketing consultant, at the last Noir at the Bar in
Newcastle, the pair set about making VNatB as professional as possible – despite
having no budget.
“The ethos behind Noir at the Bar, which was started by Peter Rosovsky in
Philadelphia in 2008, is that it’s free to attend and is not-for-profit so we relied on
donations from our audience to pay for the platforms we used and the generosity of
the authors who appeared for free. It wasn’t just authors, however: musicians – both
local and international stars, gave permission for the pair to use their music as part
of the weekly show.
Simon adds, “Our aim was to make the event as easy as possible: for the audience,
many attending online events for the first time, to authors – a lot of whom were
nervous about presenting virtually. The fact we’ve had attendees tell us it became
the highlight of their week, and many authors from big publishers telling us it was
the most professional and fun event they’ve been a part of, proves that with some
creativity you don’t need huge amounts of money to put on a good show.”
In addition to the twenty-two weeks shows, Simon also published a charity
anthology – Noir from the Bar – featuring short stories from thirty authors with the
profits going to NHS charities. The book, published in just six weeks, debuted in
Amazon’s Top Twenty chart and continues to raise money.
Vic added: “We have had so many messages throughout our run, and since the
FutureBook shortlist was announced, from people who have enjoyed the events,
saying that VNatB was the highlight of their lockdown or that we stopped them
feeling quite so isolated as what we have built is a community. We are so grateful to
the people that nominated us and absolutely delighted to be on the shortlist.”
Shortlistees will showcase their entries at the FutureBook conference where a live
audience will vote for the winner. VNatB is up against the Cheltenham Festival, The
Stay-At-Home! Literary Festival, #DrawWithRob, Borderless Book Club and
Presentations will consider innovation and creativity, audience engagement,
execution and results. Winners will be announced live on Friday, November 20 at
To find out more about the FutureBook Awards visit www.thebookseller.com/futurebook-conference/shortlists and for more information about Virtual Noir at the
Bar follow @VNatB1 on Twitter.