Let’s shout about it!

dithur'Poet Matt Black 2. Poet Matt Black on the election campaign trail
dithur'Poet Matt Black 2. Poet Matt Black on the election campaign trail
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HE’S got a megaphone and he ain’t afraid to use it...

But if you see this man this weekend, don’t be alarmed – he only wants to read you his poetry.

For Matt Black is leading a group of regional wordsmiths set to descend on the city centre for what is thought to be Sheffield’s first ever poetry busk.

It’s guerilla literature, of a sorts. They’ll be reading you their verse – whether you like it or not.

And it’s all to help launch the city’s Off The Shelf festival of words.

“We want to make sure everyone knows what a great festival they have taking place in their city and this seems a good way to do that,” says the 54-year-old of Highfield.

“For too long poets have been hidden away in stuffy cafés on cold Thursday nights. Well, no more. We’re taking poetry to the people to show that it isn’t po-faced and scholarly – it’s a tremendous amount of fun and a fantastic social activity.”

Well, certainly, as busking goes, it sounds better than an unshaven bloke on a banjo murdering Wonderwall...

“It’s definitely different,” says Matt. “You don’t go into town and expect to be accosted by poetry but we reckon people will enjoy it.

“We did something similar last year where we set up in a marquee at the top of Fargate and that was really popular but this time we’ll be a bit more proactive in trying to involve people. We want the whole day to be quite interactive.”

Which means he wants you to join him reading verse, too.

“We’ll have a bunch of anthologies with us so people can come along and have a go at reading their favourite poems to passers by,” says Matt who is set to be installed as poet laureate for Derbyshire on Thursday (“I don’t live there and I wasn’t born there but I do have a caravan in Litton,” he notes.)

And he reckons anyone who joins in on Saturday will feel better for it.

“The thing with poems is that people often haven’t read one since they were at school,” he says. “So when they re-read a poem they use to know or love it brings back a lot of memories.”

It is, of course, just the most unusual of a whole series of word-based events taking place as part of Off The Shelf, running from Saturday until October 29.

Now in its 20th year, the festival has grown beyond all recognition and will this year feature appearances (indoors and minus megaphones, we should add) from the likes of Jeremy Paxman, Rob Brydon, Simon Armitage and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall.

“It’s great to be part of something that really is very special and which Sheffield should be proud of,” says Matt. “That’s why we’re shouting about it.”

With megaphone in hand, he means that quite literally.

The poetry busk begins at the Winter Garden (“It’s warm in there”) at 11am Saturday.