One of UK’s biggest literary festivals returns to Sheffield

One of UK’s biggest literary festivals returns to Sheffield

10 September 2019

One of the UK's largest literary festivals will return to Sheffield in October thanks to an innovative partnership involving the University of Sheffield.

Off the Shelf features a diverse programme of more than 150 events and will host world-renowned names in fiction, non-fiction, poetry, politics, journalism, music, history and science.

Off the Shelf, which runs from 5-26 October 2019, is the only UK literary festival curated by two universities – the University of Sheffield and Sheffield Hallam University. Both universities are proud to run the festival and will continue to ensure that it remains true to its roots, bringing creative content and insights from their wealth of academic expertise.

For the first time, the festival will travel beyond Sheffield into Barnsley, Rotherham and Doncaster.

Professor Vanessa Toulmin, Director of City and Culture at the University of Sheffield, said: “We are delighted to present such a relevant exciting and challenging programme reflecting the ideals of the city, our fantastic researchers and our diverse population.”

Dr Niamh Downing, Head of Humanities at Sheffield Hallam University, added: “It’s a privilege to work on such a collaborative festival, bringing the best new voices to Sheffield, and showcasing the fabulous homegrown talent of our city, our students and our researchers.”

The festival starts and finishes with a New York theme, including the only northern appearances by acclaimed authors Zadie Smith and André Aciman.

A ‘working class voices’ theme has been curated by Dr David Forrest, from the University of Sheffield’s School of English.

Dr Forrest said: “The ways we write about and experience class have changed fundamentally in the last 50 years. Now, we might think of class as operating alongside and within other forms of identity: gender, race, and sexuality - we must look to our writers to speak from and give voice to the margins, wherever they might be found.”

An ‘environment’ theme has been curated by festival director Dr Niamh Downing and Dr Harriet Tarlo from Sheffield Hallam University who said: “Environmental change affects each and every one of us, whether it’s declining insect life in our gardens, air pollution in our city centres, or climactic events at a planetary scale.

“Each one of these writers and performers addresses environmental change. It has never been more important for us to hear their voices.”

Inspired by the 50th anniversary of the Moon Landing, writer Nat Loftus and artist Miriam Stayte have created an animated poem to be read in ‘phases’ like the moon. This enchanting digital artwork can be viewed online and digitally as part of Off the Shelf. The first transmission will be launched on multiple screens simultaneously across the city at 11am-1pm on Monday 7 October 2019, reminiscent of people everywhere tuning into the televised Moon Landing in 1969.

Barry Hines’ classic book A Kestrel for a Knave will be read out loud in full to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the film Kes. The text will be read by different readers at DINA for listeners to drop in at any time and stay for a chapter or the whole book (Friday 18 October 2019).

David ‘Dai’ Bradley - famed for his role as Billy Casper in Ken Loach’s critically acclaimed film Kes will be interviewed by Professor Vanessa Toulmin in the University of Sheffield’s Drama Studio about his iconic role after a showing of the classic film (Saturday 26 October 7pm University of Sheffield, Drama Studio).

Off the Shelf offers a diverse and wide-ranging programme of events. Guests this year include David Baddiel, Katy Brand, David Suchet, Toria Garbutt, Jack Monroe, George Alagiah, Henry Blofeld, Mark Radcliffe, Jeffery Boakye, Louise Doughty, Michelle Tea, Vanessa Kisuule, BOSH!, Brett Anderson, and local talent including Helen Mort and Otis Mensah – the current Sheffield poet laureate. They will talk about life stories, current affairs, design, comedy, poetry, film screenings, cookery, Yorkshire, and more. 

Off the Shelf is supported by Arts Council England and values the contributions from its supporters including the University of Sheffield, Sheffield Hallam University, Sheffield BID, The Moor, Hospitality Sheffield, True North Brew Co., the Alumno Group/Béton House and South Street Kitchen, as well as contributions through its popular Friends scheme.

See the full festival programme and buy tickets at: