Beer and books have proved the perfect partners in crime as Theakston announce extension to their headline sponsorship of the The Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival and its core Crime Novel of the Year Award.

At the London launch of the 2016 Festival programme on April 19 , Simon Theakston, Executive Director of brewers T&R Theakston Ltd. announced a further extension of the their award winning headline sponsorship of what is now the biggest celebration of the genre in the world.

Hosted at Browns in Covent Garden the programme launch saw 2016 Festival Programming Chair, Peter James, joined by authors including Val McDermid, SJ Watson, and Laura Wilson, as well as over 150 stellar names from the industry including publishers, agents and press.

Simon Theakston, Executive Director, T&R Theakston, said the award-winning arts and business partnership has given ‘huge benefit’ to both Theakstons and the Festival. He said, “Our support gives the long-term foundation and confidence to the Festival organisers to build and develop the Festival even further for the future.  We’re so proud to support the Arts in the community in which we live and work. In turn the sponsorship enables us to reach a completely new audience of potential customers, and helps the Theakstons name travel all around the world. Within the portfolio of Theakstons brands Old Peculier is completely unique; its provenance and history and its recipe – so we needed to have a unique vehicle to help market the brand. The crime writing festival was the perfect fit. The name Old Peculier is a tribute to the Court of the Peculier in Masham a Court established in medieval England to deal with criminal matters in Masham, so there’s an obvious link to crime.”

The legendary Theakstons Old Peculier beer recently underwent a rebrand. The re-designed label underpins the status of Old Peculier as one of the country’s most popular and instantly recognised premium bottled ales. The new-look features the official seal of the Peculiar of Masham, who oversaw the diocese on behalf of the church in the Middle Ages.

Last year saw 60 million opportunities to read about the Festival in print media alone, with a PR and marketing campaign worth over £2.7m, and the Festival attracted 80% of its die-hard fans from outside Yorkshire.

The Festival began in 2003 co-founded by crime author Val McDermid, agent Jane Gregory, and the arts charity, Harrogate International Festivals. Theakstons became title sponsor 13 years ago.

The 14th Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival takes place at Agatha Christies’ old haunt, the Old Swan Hotel in Harrogate, from 21-24 July this year with over 90 authors, and is expected to sell 14,000 tickets to crime aficionados from all over the world.

Over the years the Festival has featured iconic names including Ruth Rendell, PD James, Frederick Forsyth, JK Rowling writing as Robert Galbraith, Lee Child, Kate Atkinson and Jo Nesbo.

2016 sees Val McDermid join Special Guests Martina Cole, Jeffery Deaver, Linwood Barclay, Tess Gerritsen, Gerald Seymour and Luther-creator, Neil Cross.

Programming Chair, ‘King of the police procedural’ Peter James recently won the Crime Writers’ Association’s highest honour, the CWA Diamond Dagger award. His Brighton detective, Roy Grace series has been adapted for theatre with The Perfect Murder starring Shane Richie and Jessie Wallace.

The launch party featured a seaside theme, bringing Brighton to Harrogate via London, transporting Brighton beach deck chairs to the West End to celebrate the programme James has helped mastermind for Harrogate in July.

The Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival is ranked as one of the top three literary festivals in the UK by The Guardian, and featured in The Independent’s ‘The 50 Best Festivals’. Behind the Festival atmosphere, the event is one of the most important in the literary calendar, with publishers, agents, publicists and authors attending.

Sharon Canavar, CEO of Harrogate International Festivals, said: “Our experienced organisation matched with the industry know-how of the Programming Committee has proved an incredibly successful partnership over the years. The consistent support from our sponsor has been instrumental and has been a relationship destined for success.”

The Theakstons name has been so entwined with the crime genre the beer even featured one year in an episode of NCIS Los Angeles in 2011.

Sharon added: “The success of the partnership shows the huge impact business can have when it comes to supporting the Arts. Having the power of a title sponsor to help promote the event nationally, and even internationally, shows how intelligent brand alignment can really deliver results.”

The Festival also delivers the most prestigious of crime fiction awards, the annual Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year.

Crime fiction is a global phenomenon. The top three most borrowed library books in the UK in 2014/15 were by Lee Child, Peter Robinson and Robert Galbraith. Statistics from Nielsen Book show that crime is the second-largest genre behind general and literary fiction. The crime sector is estimated to have increased last year to a record volume of over 25m copies sold – including ebooks – with psychological thrillers such as The Girl on the Train, coined “grip lit” – helping drive the growth.