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

Off the Shelf picks

Off the Shelf Festival of Words returns for its 30th edition in 2021, to celebrate books, words and ideas from local and international writers, poets and journalists, honouring our past, present and future with empowering and thought-provoking events.

Running from 15 to 31 October 2021, this year's festival activity will take place both online and in person, with events in Sheffield, Doncaster, Rotherham and Barnsley.

As part of this year's programme, Off the Shelf is celebrating the Peak District's 70th anniversary. They've also compiled a series of videos and audio recordings of poems performed by actors, writers and community members from Sheffield commissioned over the years for Text in The City, an initiative that mounts poems in public places. You'll be able to experience these on the festival's website, as well as a series of podcast talks by academics from The University of Sheffield. All events have disabled access and a few of them are family-friendly.

We've put together our top 10 picks for Off the Shelf 2021. Scroll down for what’s still to come in our picks, and see or listen to the full programme online for much, much more.

Written by Raluca De Soleil.

Manifesto – Bernardine Evaristo

Tue. 19 October 2021

Crucible Theatre

Novelist, poet, screenwriter, essayist, literary critic, professor, member of Black Writers’ Guild and former vice-president of the Royal Society of Literature, Bernardine Evaristo shines a light on her journey as a trailblazer, writer and activist.

The Youth Word Up is Ten! Performance by Young People and Joelle Taylor

Thu. 21 October 2021

Created by Benjamin Zephaniah and developed by Sheffield’s favourite poetry mentor Vicky Morris, The Youth Word Up! celebrates its tenth anniversary. With performances from young people who have been involved over the years, and poet Joelle Taylor.

Take it to the Streets: Hidden Voices in Sheffield Archives – Désirée Reynolds and Cheryl Bailey

Thu. 21 October 2021

Millennium Gallery

Join writer Désirée Reynolds and archivist Cheryl Bailey for a fascinating look into some of the hidden histories, Black and marginalised voices and important discoveries found in Sheffield Archives.

Poetry Live – HIVE Poets, Safia Khan, Caroline Bird, Otis Mensah: Hosted by Sile Sibanda

Fri. 22 October 2021

Rotherham Civic Theatre, Catherine Street, Rotherham S65 1EB

No more reminiscing about our pre-pandemic poetry open mics! South Yorkshire poetry community, we have reasons to be excited about the near future. Poetry Live has gathered veteran and up and coming writers for an evening of transformative poetry.

Disruptive Publishing – Magid Magid in conversation with Dr Tom Payne and Dr Julia Udall

Tue. 26 October 2021

Performance Lab, Arundel Gate, S1 2LQ

Last year, Sheffield’s most loved (former) Lord Mayor, author, and racial and climate justice activist Magid Magid published The Art of Disruption: A Manifesto for Real Change. Join Magid to explore creative and disruptive acts of publishing.

The Book of Trespass: Crossing the Lines that Divide Us – Nick Hayes

Thu. 28 October 2021

Millennium Gallery

As we learn to obey social norms, most of us start to slowly sacrifice the liberating feeling that comes with roaming free. Campaigner and author Nick Hayes will discuss the history of trespassing laws and ethical issues behind ownership of land.

This One Sky Day – Leone Ross in conversation with Désirée Reynolds

Sat. 30 October 2021

Millennium Gallery

Novelist and short story writer Leone Ross talks about her work, including her latest novel This One Sky Day – the tale of two lovers on the imaginary Caribbean archipelago of Popisho who must find their way back to each other over a single day.