Off the Shelf Festival of Words 7-28 Oct 2017

Off the Shelf Festival of Words 7-28 Oct 2017

13 September 2017

Sheffield's Off the Shelf literature festival returns this October and the 2017 programme includes an astonishing array of international, national and local talent who represent diverse, exciting and thought provoking interpretations of the written and spoken word.

Now in its 26th year, the festival has established an enviable reputation of attracting household names and literary heavyweights from all over the world. 

The roll call of guests this year includes; Lee Child, Robert Webb, Brian Blessed, Mark Haddon, George Monbiot, Robert McCrum, Laurie Penny, Stephen McGann, Tariq Ali, Harriet Harman, Hollie McNish, Philip Kerr,  Sunjeev Sahota, Clinton Woods, Michael Rosen, Kate Summerscale, Simon Jenkins, Melvyn Bragg, Jenni Murray, Henry Blofeld, Chris Difford, Tim Dowling, John O’Farrell, Peggy Seeger and many more.   

Off the Shelf 2017 is concentrated into three weeks and, as well as a wide range of interest and themes, there are three main strands: Radicalism, India and Crime. Sheffield’s two Universities are proud to be running the festival and will continue to ensure that Off the Shelf remains true to its roots whilst adding content from their wealth of academia.

 Professor Vanessa Toulmin from the University of Sheffield comments: “Off the Shelf is the jewel in the crown of Sheffield. As a vibrant cultural society, we as a University, are delighted and proud to help shape, curate and showcase the best of our literary and cultural assets with our partners. This partnership showcases our local traditions of radicalism and sporting legacies with Sheffield boxing legend Clinton Woods, alongside radical stories over the past four centuries.

 “We are a city of artists, athletes, poets and activists who welcome and embrace international thoughts and influences and make them truly our own. This year's programme reflects our past, our current artistic offer and provides platforms for future writers - embrace it, celebrate it and join us.” 

 Sheffield will welcome internationally acclaimed crime writer and University of Sheffield Alumuni, Lee Child, whose in conversation event will be a main feature of the crime weekend curated by Professor Chris Wigginton of Sheffield Hallam University. Lee comments: “It will be a pleasure and a privilege to come back to Sheffield for such a world-class event.  In my time there the city was always buzzing with talent, and I'm glad it still is."

 Professor Wigginton says of the crime weekend “I am delighted that we have been able to bring together a crime theme that it is truly reflective of the breadth and depth of the very best crime writing of today.

"Both the city and the festival have a long and close association with crime and writing in its variety of forms and genres, and it is upon these foundations that we wanted to develop something with slightly more critical mass for this year. 

"We are fortunate to have the very best of writers contributing to this theme this year and I, for one, cannot wait for it to begin."

A crime afternoon on Sunday 15 October includes multi award winning author of The Suspicions of Mr Whicher; Kate Summerscale who will talk about her latest book, a talk on detective fiction from Lisa Hopkins, Professor of English at Sheffield Hallam University, discussions of their use of forensics in their crime novels by authors Elly Griffiths and Simon Beckett, and a rare appearance by best-selling crime author Philip Kerr discussing his latest novel Prussian Blue.  

 Sunjeev Sahota, a previous Off the Shelf visiting author with his Man Booker Prize novel The Year of the Runaways, returns as an interviewer for the in conversation event with award-winning director and cinematographer Billy Dosanjh, as part of the India theme.  Sunjeev says: "This is a great festival: imaginatively curated and wholeheartedly engaged in the civic life of the city. It's wonderful."

 The India strand features film, food, poetry, history and literature and is part of the Year of India celebrations nationally, with recognition of the 70th anniversary of partition. Dr Debjani Chatterjee MBE, author and poet has written an opening introduction for the all new Off the Shelf website about the India theme. She will run a poetry workshop with Professor Bashabi Fraser inspired by the international legacy of one of the world’s recognised creative geniuses Rabindranath Tagore.

 Professor Mike Braddick from the University of Sheffield curates the radicalism strand with thought provoking talks on everything from the Peasants’ Revolt to the Russian Revolution. He says: “‘If all the radicals got together in a very big room, they would not agree among themselves. That’s not just because radicals are often argumentative, but because the word radical doesn’t describe a single body of ideas.” His talk addresses the English Civil war and explores about what it was like to live through a time of such religious fervour, radical politics and violence.

 Other events include Magical Books on The Moor with an afternoon of activities and storytelling celebrating magical fiction including Harry Potter,  Ideas Alive with a series of talks from academics of the University of Sheffield, an afternoon of poetry at the Samuel Worth Chapel in Sheffield’s General Cemetery, a cooking demo and three course meal by Bake Off semi finalist Chetna Makan, performance poetry at Youth Word Up featuring local young people and Yorkshire poet Toria Garbutt, plus a celebration of the spoken word and oral tradition from the Sheffield Somalian community. The Festival Fringe also presents a series of diverse and vibrant events organised by community groups and individuals.

 Off the Shelf is supported by Arts Council England, Sheffield City Council and values the contributions from their sponsors including University of Sheffield Students’ Union, Sheffield BID, The Moor, Hospitality Sheffield, Daybell & Choo, as well as contributions through their popular Friends scheme.

For more information and event tickets visit