Off the Shelf 2017
- , 2017
Tickets cost £ various
Our top 20 picks for Sheffield's festival of words.Buy tickets
Autumn in Sheffield is pretty much synonymous with literary delights, as Off the Shelf hosts three weeks packed with talks and readings from world renowned authors and poets, famous folk off the telly, and a few knowledgable locals.
Each year, the Festival of Words absorbs audiences in topics ranging from pop music to politics, fine art to football. The 2017 programme opens with a day of magical books on the Moor and features everything from an afternoon of crime fiction to a celebration of Indian culture, plus big names like Robert Webb and Lee Child, thoughts on politics from the likes of Harriet Harman and Laurie Penny, and a lively fringe lineup of quizzes and writing competitions.
Read on for our top 20 picks for Off the Shelf 2017, and see the full programme for more.
Edgelands – Emilie Taylor and Frances Byrnes
In her Yorkshire Artspace studio, ceramicist Emilie Taylor creates pots that, from a distance, look traditional enough – get up close, though, and you'll see that every pot tells a story that's recognisably contemporary. Here Emilie chats to writer Frances Byrnes about her latest series, Edgelands, that sees her turn her attention to her own past.
Sun 8th October, 3pm, £5-6, The Workstation, 15 Paternoster Row, S1 2BX
Year Zero: Black Country
Sunday afternoons are for films at this year's Off the Shelf. One of three free screenings, Billy Dosanjh's documentary focuses on his West Midlands hometown of Smethwick, where thousands of people immigrated from the Indian subcontinent in the 1960s, filling labour shortages at a time of industrial prosperity. Using archive footage and testimonies, this film shares stories of some of these people's hopes and fears. Billy will also be in conversation with novelist Sunjeev Sahota the following day.
Other film screenings at the festival are: Reds and Double Indemnity.
Sun 8th October, 4pm, free, The Void, Floor 1, Owen Building, Sheffield Hallam University, Howard Street, S1 1WB
Out of the Wreckage – George Monbiot
"Taking back control" became a bit of an empty slogan in the run up to last year's EU referendum. In his latest book, Guardian columnist George Monbiot considers how the sentiment could come to actually mean something positive – sharing his optimism for people coming together, reengaging with politics, and forming a vision of the future based on hope rather than fear.
Wed 11th October, 7pm, £8/£6.50 (concs), Pennine Theatre, Owen Building, Sheffield Hallam University, Howard Street, S1 1WB
One for the Road – Stuart Maconie & Helen Mort
Get yourself a pint and settle in for an evening of poetry about pubs, compiled and read by Sheffield's own Helen Mort – one of the best poets around – and BBC Radio 6 Music's Stuart Maconie.
Thu 12th October, 8pm, £8.50/£7 (concs), The Leadmill, 6 Leadmill Road, S1 4SE
The Dilemmas of Lenin – Tariq Ali
2017 marks the centenary of the Russian revolution, so what better time to take a fresh look at its leader, Vladimir Ilyich Lenin? A new biography from Tariq Ali, one of the left's leading intellectuals, explores how the historical context of autocracy, poverty and war in Tsarist Russia influenced Lenin's thinking on issues still pertinent today – terrorism, imperial war, party politics, and love.
Fri 13th October, 7pm, £8/£6.50 (concs), Pennine Theatre, Owen Building, Sheffield Hallam University, Howard Street, S1 1WB
The Venus Papers – Arrivals, Departures and Journeys
Boticelli's famous 15th-century painting The Birth of Venus depicts the Roman goddess of love coming ashore. In this theatrical poetry show, Lydia Towsey imagines the goddess washing up on a British shore today – how would a 21st-century Venus be treated by immigration officers, the media, the public? And how would she react?
Fri 13th October, 7pm, £6/£5 (concs), DINA, 32A—34 Cambridge Street, S1 4HP (tickets include discounted entry to the Wordlife Off the Shelf Party at 8:30pm)
Is Monogamy Dead? – Rosie Wilby
In her new book-based show, stand-up comedian Rosie Wilby puts modern relationships under the microscope – heartache, breakup emails, sentimental songs and all.
Fri 13th October, 7pm, £7/£6 (concs), Studio, University of Sheffield Students' Union, Western Bank, S10 2TG
Black Tudors – Dr Miranda Kaufmann
With recent debates over whitewashing in period dramas, now seems a good time for an in-depth look at our country's history of race relations. Focussing on Tudor England, historian Miranda Kaufmann tells compelling, previously untold tales of African people who worked as everything from trumpeter in Henry VIII's court to traders, sailors to sex workers.
Mon 16th October, 7:30pm, £8/£6.50 (concs), Auditorium, University of Sheffield Students' Union, Western Bank, S10 2TG
Forty Nine Degrees – Chinese Translation Slam
Join two renowned Chinese-English literary translators – Nicky Harman and Michelle Deeter – as they share their alternative takes on the same short story by Aman Song. The slam is hosted by Deborah Smith from Tilted Axis Press, a Sheffield and London based publisher focussed on contemporary international literature – or, in their words, "books that might not otherwise make it into English".
Mon 16th October, 7:30pm, £6/£5 (concs), Studio, University of Sheffield Students' Union, Western Bank, S10 2TG
Radical Happiness: Moments of Collective Joy – Professor Lynne Segal
Happiness is often held up as the ultimate goal in life. But how happy can we truly be if we experience it alone, in fleeting moments of self-fulfilment? Here, professor of psychology and gender studies Lynne Segal makes the case for collective joy, for seeking happiness in others through kindness and solidarity.
Tue 17th October, 7pm, £8/£6.50 (concs), Showroom Cinema, 15 Paternoster Row, S1 2BX
Hollie McNish went viral a few years back with Mathematics, a razor-sharp attack on anti-immigration rhetoric. Since then she's built a huge following with her refreshingly honest, incredibly engaging poems on topics ranging from breastfeeding to the state of the world.
Fri 20th October, 7:30pm, £9/£7 (concs), Firth Hall, Firth Court, University of Sheffield, Western Bank, S10 2TN
My Life in the Mosh of Ghosts – Roger Quail plus live music
As the drummer with industrial pioneers ClockDVA, Roger Quail was one of a number of figures who made the Sheffield music scene so exciting in the late 70s/early 80s. Recently Roger's been documenting all the gigs he's been to on a blog – offering a great insight into the days of Cabaret Voltaire, The Human League and I'm So Hollow, playing at the likes of the Leadmill and the long-gone Blitz Club.
Fri 20th October, 9pm, £7/£5 (concs), DINA, 32A-34 Cambridge Street, S1 4HP
First Time Ever: A Memoir – Peggy Seeger
Spend the evening with a folk icon. Peggy Seeger was at the forefront of the British folk revival in the 1950s and 60s, along with her husband Ewan MacColl (who wrote The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face about her). She helped firmly align folk music with leftwing politics, penning the women's movement anthem I'm Gonna be an Engineer and the rousing 1980s women's peace camp song Carry Greenham Home.
Sat 21st October, 7:30pm, £9/£7 (concs), Firth Hall, Firth Court, University of Sheffield, Western Bank, S10 2TN
Edward Carpenter’s Social and Sexual Radicalism – Dr Alison Twells
Openly gay, vegetarian and socialist, Edward Carpenter (1844-1929) cut a pretty progressive figure in early-20th-century Sheffield. Find out more about this man who rejected his southern bourgeois background, was nevertheless ridiculed by Orwell and others on the left, and became a pioneering gay rights campaigner.
Sun 22nd October, 3pm, £6/£5 (concs), Creative Lounge, The Workstation, 15 Paternoster Row, S1 2BX
The Battle for British Islam – Sara Khan
Counter-extremism and women's rights campaigner Sara Khan questions how British Muslim identity can be reclaimed from extremism, exploring the ways Islam is misinterpreted by extremists on one hand and big parts of the British media on the other – and pointing out the voices that are more deserving of our attention.
Sun 22nd October, 4pm, £8/£6 (concs), Firth Hall, Firth Court, University of Sheffield, Western Bank, S10 2TN
The Children of Jocasta – Natalie Haynes
When Sophocles wrote the Oedipus plays way back in the 5th century BC, he didn't give much dialogue to the characters of Oedipus' mum/wife Jocasta and his daughter/half-sister Ismene. In her retelling of the classical story, Natalie Haynes puts these two women centre stage.
Tue 24th October, 7:30pm, £8/£6.50 (concs), Auditorium, University of Sheffield Students' Union, Western Bank, S10 2TG
The New Poverty – Stephen Armstrong
Investigative journalist Stephen Armstrong takes us on a tour of the country to try and figure out why 13 million people live in poverty here today. He meets people made vulnerable by austerity policies, the dismantling of the welfare state and failures of the housing market, and offers ideas on how we can put right this shameful wrong in a post-Brexit Britain.
Tue 24th October, 7:30pm, £6/£5 (concs), Creative Lounge, The Workstation, 15 Paternoster Row, S1 2BX
Asha Lul Mohamud Yusuf and Clare Pollard: The Sea-Migrations
This bilingual poetry evening is one of a series of events Off the Shelf is hosting with the ISRAAC Somali Community Association. Asha Lul Mohamud Yusuf's passionate poems engage with themes of war and displacement – often in the Somali oral tradition known as gabay – and are translated into English by poet Clare Pollard.
Thu 26th October, 7pm, £2.50, Burngreave Library, Sorby House, 42 Spital Hill, S4 7LG
This Is Going to Hurt – Adam Kay
Junior doctor turned comic Adam Kay reads from his hospital diary – sharing hilarious yet at times horrific stories of joy, pain, sacrifice and, above all, deep respect for our much beleaguered NHS.
Thu 26th October, 7:30pm, £8/£6.50 (concs), Auditorium, University of Sheffield Students' Union, Western Bank, S10 2TG
My Wild Life with Animals – Brian Blessed
One of South Yorks' best loved sons, actor Brian Blessed chats about his love of animals and shares anecdotes from his early years as a miner's son through to finding fame in Flash Gordon.
Fri 3rd November, 7:30pm, Tickets: £12/£10 (concs) Ticket and book deal: £24/£22 (concs), Crucible Theatre, 55 Norfolk Street, S1 1DA
Over the years Off the Shelf has commissioned poems from several renowned poets, including Carol Ann Duffy, Jackie Kay and Andrew Motion, that you'll find written large on the sides of Sheffield's buildings, in its libraries, and on monuments. Our Poetic Tour of Sheffield will take you to some of these poems, and a few other public pieces of poetry besides.