Writer aims to safeguard future of libraries with murder mystery evening and kids’ writing group

Writer Susie Wilde has organised two Chichester events aimed at putting libraries back at the centre of the community.

A murder mystery evening at Chichester library will be followed the day after by the start of a writing group for children – all with the aim of safeguarding the future of the town’s libraries in general.

“I am a huge believer in libraries,” Susie says. “I am the only daughter of a single mother in Portsmouth, and without Milton library, I would not have had the career I have had. The library was like a child-minder. My mum worked six days a week until 6.30 in the evening, and I would walk across the park to Milton library. That’s where I learnt to love books, and that’s what I want for others now.”

Susie admits the fear is people will switch on to libraries just as they are losing them: hence her double pre-emptive strike.

Event number one offers a murder mystery evening on Friday, February 27, at 7.30pm in Chichester library.

The tale comes from author Ann Cleeves who has been offering libraries free materials for staging Murder in the Ravenswick Hotel. Her story is set in a fictional Shetland hotel and invites an audience to solve the murder of Hanna Bayford, found in a pool of blood in the hotel library with a poker nearby...

“People who have enjoyed Ann’s Shetland TV series and her Vera Stanhope series will enjoy this,” Susie promises. “What I am hoping is that it will attract people who might not otherwise be going into libraries, people who have enjoyed the current TV series but perhaps are not currently library members.

“I have got four actors, and I will be telling everyone how it is going to work. People will listen to their witness statements, and then there will be an interval in which they will be able to study a crime scene police report. The actors will simply be talking to them like they are Ann’s detective Jimmy Perez so that the audience become the detective. In the interval the audience will have the chance to think about it all, and there will be discussion.

“During the interval, I will hand the murderer his or her statement because until that point none of my four actors know who has done it. That happens in a lot of the TV dramas; the murderer won’t know they are the murderer until the final episode... And so then in the second half, people will come back and there will be the reveal. The murderer will step forward and say why he or she has done it. If lots of people get it right, I will have to have some sort of tie-breaker.”

The winner will receive a signed Ann Cleeves book. Cleeves has written more than 25 novels and sold more than one million copies worldwide. In 2012, she was inducted into the CWA Crime Thriller Awards Hall of Fame.

Tickets are £5 from Chichester Library in Tower Street, to include a glass of wine. Call 01243 777351 for information.

The following day, Saturday, February 28, back at the library, Susie launches her new Story Makers group, aimed at children aged seven to 11 years old, for an hour from 3pm and continuing over subsequent Saturdays at the same time.

Again, tying in the idea of promoting libraries and their place in the community, Susie is offering the sessions as a way to get children actively involved in the story-telling process. The children will be directing the story which Susie aims to take through to publication.

The event is free, but there is a limited number of places, so people are advised to book in advance.