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Text in the City featured poems

‘Minds’ and ‘Heroes’ by Benjamin Zephaniah

Off the Shelf 1998 (Guest curator for Off the Shelf in 2012)

(Two of three poems on Rockingham Street and Rockingham Lane)

On Rockingham Street and words like ‘workers’, ‘sinners’, ‘freedom fighters’, and intellectuals’ jump out all different kinds of people. On the Rockingham Lane side, ‘Minds’, is within the courtyard, to be seen only by resident students and their visitors

Minds. Read by Surriya Falconer, runs Falconer Associates – part of the Off the Shelf team 
Heroes. Read by Warda Yassin, Sheffield’s current Poet Laureate

Warda Yassin is an award-winning British born Somali poet and secondary school teacher based in Sheffield. She was a winner of the 2018 New Poets Prize for her debut pamphlet Tea with Cardamom (Poetry Business, published 2019). Her poetry has been published in places like The North, Magma and Oxford Poetry, and anthologised in Verse Matters (Valley Press), Anthology X (Smith|Doorstep), Halfway Smile & Surfing the Twilight (Hive). She became Sheffield Poet Laureate in October 2020.


‘Hand in Hand’  by Carol Ann Duffy

Off the Shelf 2001

(currently on display on a sculpture off Sheldon Row – follow the Five Weirs Walk from its start at Lady’s Bridge and shortly afterwards you’ll come across Carol Ann Duffy’s poem. On a footpath by the River Don it is written into a large bronze X)

In ‘Hand in Hand’, Duffy speaks to her daughter, Ella, who was six years old when it was written.

Though the poem is highly personal, in it Duffy reflects on Sheffield’s past at the same time as she looks ahead to her daughter’s bright future.

Performed by Nadia Emam

Nadia Emam is a poet, actor and director based in Sheffield. She trained at Manchester School of Theatre and has since worked with companies such as BBC Radio 4, the Royal Exchange, Stephen Joseph Theatre and is a supported artist of Sheffield Theatres.  She often merges poetry with filmmaking, winning the WEX short film competition in 2019 and this year making her first short film funded by BFI NETWORK.


‘Getting Trashed on Cider’ by Jarvis Cocker

Off the Shelf 2005

(on the side of The Forge Student accommodation, Boston Street)

Written in steel lettering thirty feet high on the side of a student hall of residence, Jarvis

Cocker’s poem opens in fairly grandiose fashion with a reference to the futures being forged

within the building’s walls. From such elevated heights it quickly turns, in true Cocker style, to cruder talk, of another chief pursuit for many students: namely, getting trashed. It’s an apt tribute to the real horizon widening potential of student life, that’s social as well as scholarly.

Read by Tommi Bryson.

Tommi Bryson is a Sheffield theatremaker specialising in solo performances and comedy songs, and co-founder of monthly variety night Sounds Queer.


‘Twinned with Mars’ by Roger McGough

Off the Shelf 2006

(in the Winter Gardens, Surrey Street entrance)

The same wit and accessibility that first brought Roger McGough fame as one of the Merseybeat poets, in the swinging scene of 1960s longhaired Liverpool, can be found in this ode to the Sheffield spirit. McGough praises the Sheffielder for quietly getting on with things, adapting to industrial

downturn without a fuss, and not giving up on the place. It’s unpretentious praise befitting a fairly

humble city but one so singularly beautiful that it’s like no other place in the world; rather, McGough

suggests, Sheffield should be twinned with Mars.

Read by Roger McGough.

Roger McGough was a member of the group Scaffold in the 1960s. He presents Poetry Please on Radio 4 and is President of the Poetry Society. His new collection of poetry ‘Safety in Numbers’ is released on 11 November 2021.


‘What If?’ by Andrew Motion

Off the Shelf 2007

(has been positioned on the Hallam University Owen building and has currently been removed to allow for renovations but will be replaced later this year)

Motion’s poem speaks directly to visitors as soon as they leave Sheffield Station and walk uphill to the city centre. Descending from the heights of the Hallam University building, it rouses contemplation and raises smiles as it stands out against even the dreariest of skies.

Performed by Robert Hastie, Artistic Director of Sheffield Theatres

For Sheffield Theatres, Roberts credits include: The Band Plays On, CoriolanusGuys and Dolls, Standing at the Sky’s Edge, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, The York Realist, The Wizard of Oz, Of Kith and Kin and Julius Caesar.


‘Laughter’ by Harold Pinter

Off the Shelf 2010

(positioned in the lower foyer of The Crucible Theatre)

At the age of 76, Pinter wrote the poem while in Sheffield for a theatre season in his honour, apparently stirred by the sound of laughter that pervaded the Crucible’s bar. A startling poem,

‘Laughter’ has a dark tone that belies its title, with its references to the ‘laughing dead’.

Read by Sam West

Sam West is one of the best verse speakers of his generation and has played Hamlet, Anthony Blunt (twice) and recently become Siegfried Farnon in Channel 5’s All Creatures Great and Small. The son of Prunella Scales and Timothy West, he lives with his partner, the playwright Laura Wade, and their two daughters, aged six and three.


‘Here’s My Pitch’ by Jackie Kay

Off the Shelf 2012 (Guest curator for the festival in 2013)

(originally at Sheffield United Football Ground the poem will now make a guest appearance at a location to be advised for the duration of the festival)

29 October 2012 marked a first for a poet, when Jackie Kay took to the pitch to read to a football stadium full of fans awaiting kick off. The poem is an invocation of Arthur Wharton, the world’s first black professional footballer, who played for Sheffield United in the 1894-95 season. The match, Sheffield United v. Portsmouth ended 1- 0 to United.

Performed by John Rwoth-Omack

A Ugandan born, London trained and Sheffield bred and based theatre maker. John trained as an actor at Rose Bruford College of Performing Arts. Since graduating, John has worked on several project as an actor, and directed Paul Sirett’s Bad Blood Blues. Most recently, John has worked as Assistant Director on Sheffield Theatres’ The Last King of Scotland and both wrote and performed in Far Gone.


‘Here lies a city’s heart’  by Berlie Doherty

Off the Shelf 2013

(on benches in the centre of The Moor, Sheffield city centre)

The poem anatomises Sheffield, connecting its quiet hills the city’s ‘green bones’ to its ‘veins’ of rivers, and, deep at its centre, the city’s heart. Once the new market opens, hopefully the poem

really will be right in the throbbing heart of Sheffield. Doherty also wrote the riddle trail in Sheffield’s Botanical Gardens, leading readers to all sorts of curious corners, from a fossilised tree stump to a bygone bear pit.

Read by Maria de Souza, Off the Shelf curator  

Bookings can be made for this year’s programme from 6 September and those who sign up to the Friends membership scheme can book from 1 September. The 2021 festival is delivering over 80 live and online events from 15-31 October.

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