Having come up with the idea when she was working for a chain of hotels in the North West of England, Joy Swift nervously presented the very first Murder Weekend in the world on the 31st October 1981 at The Prince of Wales Hotel Southport. Joy invited local press along to take photos on the Sunday and Joy, the actors and guests were photographed looking very shocked over a ‘body’!
Joy took the Monday off work, knowing she was going to be exhausted and when she returned to work on the Tuesday morning she was staggered at the pile of messages from the national and international press. The New York Times, The Daily Mail, The Washington Post, CBS Television News and most importantly the BBC Holiday Programme, all wanting to come and cover the next Murder Weekend. Joy hadn’t planned a second, but was soon arranging the next Original Murder Weekend and that was the beginning of Joy’s 36 year career in Murder.
Joy performed three more weekends, one of which was featured on page 5 of the Daily Mail, not on the travel pages as a famous investigative journalist was sent to ‘solve the crime’; another was filmed by both CBS and ABC News; and with two film crews and 70 guests, now THAT was one to remember! Lastly we were filmed by the BBC Holiday Programme and its producer Colin Strong told Joy she should go it alone, as once it aired it would be big!
Joy took Colin’s advice and formed her own company and Murder Weekends Limited was born. Colin was right, after the programme was aired in February 1983, sleuthing guests came flooding in and as well as arranging 20 more weekends, Joy took her idea to New York, to the Vista International Hotel, which was built between the twin towers and is sadly no longer there.
The Americans took to Murder Weekends in a big way and Joy received a lot of terrific press and the weekends were a huge success. But not wanting to leave the UK and set up home in the US, as she was advised, Joy left the American market in the hands of the hundreds of imitators that had sprung up all over America almost overnight
Our first Murder Christmas.
Our first New Year Break, which has become a tradition for many.
We worked with P & O for three years with Murder Cruises on The Canberra and The Sea Princess.
Joy worked with ITV and produced a Murder Weekend, which was aired in August over three nights and was watched by seven and a half million viewers!
A weekend was filmed by the ITV programme – Wish You Were Here.
We celebrated Murder Weekends’ 10th Birthday with a massive party at The Prince of Wales Hotel in Southport, a chance for all the actors and some guests to let their hair down and boy did we!!
We welcomed our 50,000th guest.
We performed our 50th plot
We welcomed 125 guests to our super-duper Millennium New Year. Many guests said afterwards that they had spoken to friends who had celebrated the new century in various and in some cases, very elaborate and expensive ways, but our guests knew that they’d had the best time with us – it really was a fantastic celebration.
Another major milestone for Murder Weekends – 100,000 guests entertained.
In October, Joy, the actors, guests, family and friends celebrated our 20th birthday with another terrific party at The Wessex Hotel in Winchester. Our 75th plot was performed.
On 9th November Joy got the biggest shock of her life when she opened a letter from 10 Downing Street asking if she would like to accept an MBE for her Services to Tourism. This was announced in the New Year’s Honours List and Joy had the most marvellous day at Buckingham Palace along with her sister Marilyn and assistant Mal in 2002.
Our first Murder Weekend Charity fund raising event – Joy jumped out of a plane raising over £2,000 for Born Free and Breakthrough Breast Cancer.
The BBC Holiday Programme was aired – the second time we were featured and which can be viewed on the ‘What the Press Say’ page.
The Murder Weekend team took to the hills of Triora, Italy, for four special ‘Italian Job’ Murder Breaks. We celebrated our 25th birthday with another great party at Brandon Hall Hotel. Dancing the night away to an absolutely brilliant band called The Overtures.
The most fun we’ve ever had doing Murder Plots – and the most exhausting!!
Four ‘Death on the Nile’ special cruises from Luxor down to Aswan and back, with two full plots and some fun Murder Games, along with touring all the Temples – it really was the most exciting way to celebrate our 25th anniversary.
Joy published her first book ‘The Joy of Murder’. Joy, representing Murder Weekends, also completed the London Marathon, in aid of Breakthrough Breast Cancer, and amazingly raised £6,300.00 thanks to her friends, family and most importantly guests from weekends.
Our 100th Plot is unleashed on the public!
Joy was asked by the Liverpool Echo to produce a two week interactive Murder Mystery to celebrate Liverpool’s 800th anniversary, so she wrote an intricate historical whodunit, featuring secret societies and hidden treasure, which got the whole of Liverpool sleuthing.
Spurred on by the success of the Great Liverpool Murder Mystery, Joy and the team produced two online Murder Mysteries.
In October we celebrated our 30th birthday with another memorable party at Ettington Chase in Stratford, where Joy hosted an extraordinary Awards Ceremony – The Cock Up Awards!
Geri and all the actors produced a really fantastic Murderously Naked Calendar and raised £10,000 for Breakthrough Breast Cancer Our 8,000th Victim was dispatched.
Joy worked with Japanese Television and NHK to produce an interactive Murder Mystery programme which was aired over three days of a weekend. 150,000 guests have been on our Original Murder Weekends and we thank every one of them for being with us.
Another Murder Weekend Charity Fundraiser – where Joy completed a sponsored slim, and we raised money selling raffle tickets during the HELP charity plot. We raised £1,500 for Tusk and Born Free.
Our 125th plot is launched, spookily in the same year that Agatha Christie, the original Queen of Murder would have been 125 years old; the lady that so inspired Joy when she first invented her amazing idea.
Joy Swift was nominated for The Readers Choice Award in The Independent Travel Awards. Joy just missed out to Michael Palin and Sir David Attenborough.
Murder Weekends were nominated for Best Special Interest Holiday Company in the Daily Mirror Travel Awards.