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The Sheffield culture guide written by in-the-know locals

Off the Shelf picks

Autumn in Sheffield is pretty much synonymous with literary delights, as Off the Shelf Festival of Words hosts three weeks packed with conversations, readings and workshops from authors, poets, journalists and screenwriters of global and local renown.

Each year, Off the Shelf absorbs audiences in topics ranging from pop music to politics, fine art to feminism. This year's programme will mainly be online with a mix of free pre-recorded events and ticketed live streams. There’ll also be a small number of in-person events with limited capacity at the Octagon and the Crucible – and even a drive-in poetry night at Kenwood Hall Hotel!

Scroll down for our top picks of the Off the Shelf 2020 programme. Other big names on the lineup include: Lee Child, Susie Dent, Stuart Maconie, Nazir Afzal, Laura Wade, and Nikesh Shukla – click here to see the full programme. Tickets on sale from 14 September.

If you can, please show your support and appreciation for Off the Shelf by donating to its fundraiser.

Poetry Drive-In – Simon Armitage Supported by Warda Yassin

Sun. 11 October 2020

"An evening of sonnets and bonnets." Park up at Kenwood Hall Hotel and enjoy a socially distanced night of live poetry from the comfort of your car seat. With Poet Laureate Simon Armitage, supported by Sheffield's fantastic Warda Yassin.

Live with the Sheffield Laureate: Otis Mensah and Warda Yassin in conversation with Magid Magid

Mon. 12 October 2020

Crucible Theatre

The current and former Sheffield poet laureates perform live from the Crucible Theatre. Followed by a conversation with Magid Magid, former Lord Mayor of Sheffield and creator of the laureate role.

Loud Black Girls – Yomi Adegoke and Elizabeth Uviebinené in conversation with Sharna Jackson

Tue. 13 October 2020

The authors of Slay In Your Lane are back with another inspirational book centred on the experiences and successes of Black British women. Tune in to their chat with author/artistic director Sharna Jackson about their new anthology, Loud Black Girls.

It’s Not About the Burqa – Mariam Khan and Afshan D’Souza-Lodhi in Conversation with Kaltum Rivers

Thu. 15 October 2020

Muslim women speak frankly about the hijab, wavering faith, love, feminism, queer identity, a disapproving community and a racist country. With this new anthology's editor Mariam Khan, contributor Afshan D’Souza-Lodhi, and councillor Kaltum Rivers.

My Name is Why – Lemn Sissay in conversation with Auriel Majumdar

Sat. 17 October 2020

The Octagon Centre, Clarkson Street, S10 2TQ

Poet Lemn Sissay discusses his best-selling and incredibly moving memoir. Sharing recollections of his early life in children’s homes, his discovery of his real identity, and stories of neglect, determination and the redemptive power of creativity.

Never Leave the Dog Behind – Helen Mort in Conversation with Sam Cleasby

Mon. 19 October 2020

Crucible Theatre

Helen Mort's poetry and fiction immerses readers in landscape – whether it's the city of Sheffield or the hills and rocks of the Peak District. In her latest book she sets out to understand people (like herself) with a love of dogs and mountains.

I Am Not Your Baby Mother – Candice Brathwaite in conversation with Désirée Reynolds

Tue. 20 October 2020

Crucible Theatre

With Make Motherhood Diverse, Candice Brathwaite has shone a light on versions of motherhood that aren't represented in British media. Here she discusses the resulting bestselling book, on unconscious bias, microaggression, white privilege and more.

The Art of Disruption – Magid Magid in conversation with Sile Sibanda

Sat. 24 October 2020

In his year as Lord Mayor, Magid Magid brought refreshing energy, humour and character to a role steeped in tradition. He now presents his first book – an inspiring guide to hope, courage and how to think differently about power and life.

A Portable Paradise – Roger Robinson

Tue. 27 October 2020

The British-Trinidadian dub poet reads from his TS Eliot and Ondaatje prize-winning collection. Featuring powerful poems telling stories of Windrush arrivals, Grenfell victims, Bob Marley, the Brixton riots, and the premature birth of his own son.

Black History in the Age of Black Lives Matter – David Olusoga in Conversation with Colin Grant

Thu. 29 October 2020

Historian-broadcaster David Olusoga on why Black history has been at the centre of the BLM movement – in a year that's seen statues pulled down, organisations confront connections to slavery/empire, and millions engage with anti-racism in new ways.

Kit de Waal in conversation with Désirée Reynolds

Sat. 31 October 2020

Kit de Waal won awards for her debut book My Name is Leon and made room for working class writers with the anthology Common People. Hear her discuss Supporting Cast, her new short story collection capturing "the darkness and joy of the everyday."