Author calls Sheffield library cuts a ‘tragedy’

Sarah Mann, Gavin Extence, Jackie Kay, Helen Mort & Isobel Bowler
Sarah Mann, Gavin Extence, Jackie Kay, Helen Mort & Isobel Bowler
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An author spoke of the ‘tragedy’ of closing libraries in Sheffield at the launch of the city’s literary festival.

Sheffield writer Gavin Extence - whose debut novel The Universe Versus Alex Woods was a major hit - told crowds at the Off The Shelf event how he had researched the book in the Central Library.

The 15 Sheffield community libraries facing the axe because of budget cuts to the city council, unless community groups take them over, were revealed this week.

Gavin, of Walkley, said: “I think it is a bit of a tragedy because the libraries supported me so much when I didn’t have money for anything else.

“I couldn’t afford to buy books, I did all my research in the libraries. I was also volunteering one day a week teaching English and that would have been pretty difficult without the libraries - there are so many things libraries do which probably aren’t on people’s radars as much as they could be.”

Gavin, who is now working on his second book and will do several readings as part of the festival, added: “I love Off The Shelf, I think it is a wonderful thing for Sheffield and I am so excited to be a part of that.”

Off The Shelf has its first female guest curator this year - award-winning poet Jackie Kay, known for her anti-racism poem which is painted on a wall at Bramall Lane.

Jackie, speaking at the launch event at the Crucible, said: “I read the poem in front of 18,000 fans at Sheffield United last year, I didn’t know if I was going to get booed off but people cheered so that was great! I am really looking forward to all my events and to my son Matthew coming to Sheffield to show his film as part of it.”

Off The Shelf runs from October 12 to November 2 and is sponsored by The Star,

Hathersage poet Helen Mort, whose book Division Street was released last week, said: “Off the Shelf is something I’ve always wanted to be part of - to be here is surreal.”

Visit www.offtheshelf.org.uk for more details