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Off the Shelf musings

Written by: Surriya Falconer

The first 10 days of Off the Shelf has been a blast having experienced the Drive In with Poet Laureate Simon Armitage and being one of the first to hear him deliver his two commissioned poems for the festival called Elsewhere and Paper Boy; the first event for the Black Women Write Now strand curated by Desiree Reynolds which was an online conversation between the talented Yomi Adegoke and Sharna Jackson about the book Loud Black Girls, a night out at the Octagon for a live event that was also streamed with the amazingly resilient and likeable author Lemn Sissay about his heartrending and uplifting life story in his autobiography My Name is Why, who read from his book and chatted away to Auriel Majumdar; Sunday afternoon was lightened by a lively conversation between Susie Dent about her book Word Perfect with Sheffield blogger and BBC Radio Sheffield presenter Sam Cleasby; the online event with Auriel talking to Pete Paphides, the music critic about his book Broken Greek that is part of his life story, and finally an evening with Helen Mort our local award winning poet and writer live and streamed from the Crucible Theatre.

And the good news is there is still another 10 days to go……

It has been a wonderful range of experiences to date that has generated all sorts of emotions and interest.

I’d never been to a drive in poetry event before – I’ll tick that one off and mark it down as one to do again – technology allows Off the Shelf to be so dexterous in its offer. By being given a simple speaker on entry we had Simon Armitage in our car talking and reading to us – he clearly enjoyed it, even though, as he said all he could see was cars and winking headlights in place of applause. Was such an intimate way to hear his work even though I was sat in a metal box.

The next Saturday night it was thrilling to sit in an auditorium and watch in awe as Lemn Sissay did his thing – although other members of the audience were sat a good distance away you could still feel the fact that you were sharing a live theatrical experience and I say theatrical because Lemn is so entertaining – he has you laughing and crying at the same time.

I learnt some wonderful new words from Susie Dent with amazing facts and stats followed by an evening with Pete Paphides, and by that time we’d worked out how to mirror the streamed feed from our computer onto our telly so had Pete in our living room talking about his love of Abba. And finally – a super visit to The Crucible on a rainy Monday night to be cheered up by Helen Mort talking about dogs and the her way of developing her poems and writing techniques. Loved the way she said when she runs she lets the poems she is forming just sit there a while and how as she doesn’t have a notebook with her so trusts herself to remember the better lines she thinks about when running……..

And I haven’t even mentioned the events I’ve watched in favour of the 6 o’clock news – much more stimulating and encouraging.

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