Off the Shelf Festival of Words 2019

Off the Shelf is one of the largest literary festivals in the UK and is proud to announce a jam-packed programme of over 150 events featuring some of the best names in fiction and non fiction, poetry, politics, journalism, music, history and science. 2019 marks the 28th edition of the festival that this year travels beyond Sheffield into Barnsley, Rotherham and Doncaster.

Off the Shelf is the only UK literary festival curated by two universities. The University of Sheffield and Sheffield Hallam University are proud to be running 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.

Professor Vanessa Toulmin, Director of City & 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, said:  “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 in New York with acclaimed authors Zadie Smith and André Aciman’s only northern appearance.

A Working Class Voices theme has been curated by Dr David Forrest at the University of Sheffield. Dr Forrest said: “The ways we write about and experience class have changed fundamentally in the last fifty 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 comment: “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 Monday 7 October 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 from 5pm). 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 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, everything Yorkshire, and more.

Off the Shelf is supported by Arts Council England and values the contributions from its supporters including 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.

For further information, please contact:

Surriya Falconer

Falconer Associates

E: surriya@falconerassociates.com T: 0114 236 2494 M: 07770 415262

University of Sheffield

Hannah Postles

0114 222 1046


Sheffield Hallam University


0114 225 0811

A CD version of the brochure for the visually impaired is available from the Central Library, community libraries by calling 0114 222 3895

Become a friend of Off the Shelf, costing only £20 a year for paperback friends and £40 for hardback friends, and offering a number of benefits, including priority booking, no booking fees and special offers. To become a friend of Off the Shelf, email offtheshelf@sheffield.ac.uk

The University of Sheffield

With almost 29,000 of the brightest students from over 140 countries, learning alongside over 1,200 of the best academics from across the globe, the University of Sheffield is one of the world’s leading universities.

A member of the UK’s prestigious Russell Group of leading research-led institutions, Sheffield offers world-class teaching and research excellence across a wide range of disciplines.

Unified by the power of discovery and understanding, staff and students at the university are committed to finding new ways to transform the world we live in.

Sheffield is the only university to feature in The Sunday Times 100 Best Not-For-Profit Organisations to Work For 2018 and for the last eight years has been ranked in the top five UK universities for Student Satisfaction by Times Higher Education.

Sheffield has six Nobel Prize winners among former staff and students and its alumni go on to hold positions of great responsibility and influence all over the world, making significant contributions in their chosen fields.

Global research partners and clients include Boeing, Rolls-Royce, Unilever, AstraZeneca, Glaxo SmithKline, Siemens and Airbus, as well as many UK and overseas government agencies and charitable foundations. For further information, please visit: www.sheffield.ac.uk

About Sheffield Hallam University  

Sheffield Hallam University’s vision is to become the world’s leading applied university, transforming lives and creating opportunities for people from all backgrounds.

As one of the UK’s largest higher education providers, with over 30,500 students, the University is committed to the Sheffield City Region, providing leadership to drive improvements in social mobility, health and the economy.

Sheffield Hallam delivers a comprehensive range of courses and is one of the country’s largest providers of health and teacher training. Home to the UK’s biggest modern business school, the University’s industrial partnerships ensure that the knowledge students develop is relevant, addresses the skills gap and helps business grow.

The University’s research is characterised by a focus on real world impact – addressing the health, cultural, economic and social challenges facing society today.

For further information, please visit: www.shu.ac.uk

Tell us what you think

Event feedback form