Welcome to Off the Shelf Festival of Words

Sheffield's Off the Shelf Festival of Words is 23 this year!

Running from 11 October – 1 November and with some pre festival and post festival specials, the festival has grown into one of the UK’s most popular and exciting events attracting some of the best known names in literature and the media. The festival offers a wide range of events for audiences of all ages including author events, workshops, debate, exhibitions, talks, , poetry, competitions and more.

This year’s festival includes events with Kirsty Wark, Allan Ahlberg, Arne Dahl, Yotam Ottolenghi, Paul Merton, Wendy Cope, John Lydon, Viv Albertine, Julian Cope, John Julius Norwich, Patience Agbabi, Digby Jones, Alan Johnson, Viv Groskop and Francesca Martinez to name just a few.  We do hope that you are able to enjoy an Off the Shelf event this year.

“By far and away one of the best festivals in the UK” Clara Wormersley Random House

“One of the most pleasant and enjoyable festivals I have attended – and I’ve been to one or two.” Sir Michael Parkinson

No Fixed Abode – Celebrating 20 Years of the National Fairground Archive with Professor Vanessa Toulmin

The Auditorium, University of Sheffield Students Union, Western Bank, Sheffield 10
Tuesday 4 November at 7.30pm 

Tickets £8/£6.50 (cons) from Sheffield City Hall 0114 22 33 777 and University of Sheffield Students’ Union box office


Director and founder Professor Vanessa Toulmin tells the history of the National Fairground Archive in a talk illustrated by beautiful images.  The NFA is a unique collection of material covering the culture and history of travelling fairs, circus and entertainment from the 1800s to the present day.  From its beginnings in a basement in the University, the archive now has an exhibition space, a reading room, dedicated staff and a rich collection of books, films, playbills, journals, posters and more.   The photograph above was taken at a Sheffield fairground. 

Professor Vanessa Toulmin is the author of 14 books for the NFA including Pleasurelands: All the Fun of the Fair, Decade of Delights and Electric Edwardians.    

In collaboration with the University of Sheffield Public Engagement with Research Team – Gold Sponsor

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Rhyme and Reason

Rhyme and Reason will provide bookstalls at festival events.  If you are unable to attend an event in person, Rhyme and Reason can organised signed copies for you.  Tel. 0114 266 1950 or e-mail