Off The Shelf's Highlighting History festival preview - VIDEO

A ROYAL tragedy, the secrets of a coal-mining dynasty, exploits of Harry Houdini and the gang wars of the 1920s – all this and more will feature in a new chapter in the life of Off The Shelf.

Sheffield's annual reading and writing festival turns a new page next month.

For those who cannot wait for the main festival, which will celebrate its 20th anniversary year this autumn, there's a Highlighting History mini-festival – from Thursday to Sunday, February 3 to 6.

It will follow the same format, with a series of author events, walks and illustrated talks.

And the Sheffield City Council organising team is again bringing some of the country's best-selling authors and other experts to share their stories, many of them revealing the tales behind some of the region's most fascinating moments in history.

DOWNLOAD FESTIVAL GUIDE: For full details of all Off The Shelf's Highlighting History festival events, download a free guide - CLICK HERE.

VIDEO: Press the play button to watch our special video report - including interviews with some of the guest speakers taking part in the festival.

Local historian David Templeman will give an illustrated talk on Lady Arbella Stuart – The Queen That Never Was (Millennium Gallery, February 6, 3pm-4.30pm).

For some time, Arbella was considered one of the natural candidates for succession to the English crown and there was a plot to overthrow James I. But she spent her final days as a prisoner in the Tower of London.

David will unravel the mystery and her Sheffield connections, which saw Arbella spending time with her aunt, Mary Queen Of Scots – who was locked up in Manor Lodge.

Sheffield Manor Lodge Discovery Centre and Turret House Open Day, including expert guided tours of the former royal prison, will give a further insight into the building (Manor Lane, S2, February 5, 11am to 3pm).

Tudor and Stuart Sheffield will explore the region's links with the Talbots and the Howards, when Sheffield was a semi-rural town of timbered buildings, dominated by the castle – brought to life by famed local historian Ron Clayton (Town Hall steps, Pinstone Street, February 5, 2pm-4pm).

Author Catherine Bailey and researcher Martyn Johnson will be talking about her best seller Black Diamonds (Showroom Cinema, Feb 5, 11am-12.15pm).

The book, which former South Yorkshire policeman Martyn helped Catherine to investigate, is the real life story of the Fitzwilliam family of Wentworth – a great and powerful coal-mining dynasty, destroyed by family secrets and a vindictive politician.

Harry Houdini escaped from police cells in Sheffield and the great Blondin walked a tightrope in the Botanical Gardens, as JP Bean will reveal with The Sheffield Chronicles – An Illustrated Talk (Millennium Gallery, February 6, 11.30am-1pm).

He takes an entertaining approach to history through his book.

He said: "There's a story for every date of the year in Sheffield and the talk is designed to give people an insight into my book.''

A more sinister side to Sheffield will be revealed by poet Rob Hindle with Tracking The Sheffield Gangs: An East End Poetry Walk (Princess Street, Feb 6, 2pm-3pm).

He will read an extended poem which illuminates the notorious 1925 killing by the Park Brigade gang and discuss the relationship between history and poetry.

A fascinating glimpse into Sheffield's industrial past will be the subject of A Walk Down Green Lane with John Bradshaw (Meet at Fat Cat pub, Alma Street, February 6, 11am to 1pm).

His fact-packed walk around the conservation area near Kelham Island will include a look at Cornish Place Works at the former Globe Works and Green Lane Works, in association with Galvanize, Sheffield Festival of Contemporary Metal, at galvanizefestival.com

An Illustrated Talk on the Sheffield Canal Basin will feature the expert knowledge of Martin Olive and paintings by artist Norah K Rogerson, as they focus on the dereliction and regeneration of a Sheffield hidden jewel (Central United Reformed Church, 60 Norfolk Street, February 4, 5pm to 6.30pm).

Other highlights include talks by popular TV historians Michael Wood on his book The Story Of England (University of Sheffield Students Union, February 3, 7.30pm-8.45pm) and Amanda Vickery, author of Behind Closed Doors: At Home In Georgian England, with an illustrated talk on The Georgians: An Intimate History (St George's Church, University of Sheffield, February 4, 7.30pm-8.45pm).

* For more details call 0114 273 4400 or visit www.offtheshelf.org.uk

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But she spent her final days as a prisoner in the Tower of London.

David will unravel the mystery and her Sheffield connections, which saw Arbella spending time with her aunt, Mary Queen Of Scots - who was locked up in Manor Lodge.

Sheffield Manor Lodge Discovery Centre and Turret House Open Day, including expert guided tours of the former royal prison, will give a further insight into the building (Manor Lane, S2, February 5, 11am to 3pm).

Tudor and Stuart Sheffield will explore the region's links with the Talbots and the Howards, when Sheffield was a semi-rural town of timbered buildings, dominated by the castle - brought to life by famed local historian Ron Clayton (Town Hall steps, Pinstone Street, February 5, 2pm-4pm).

Author Catherine Bailey and researcher Martyn Johnson will be talking about her best seller Black Diamonds (Showroom Cinema, Feb 5, 11am-12.15pm).

The book, which former South Yorkshire policeman Martyn helped Catherine to investigate, is the real life story of the Fitzwilliam family of Wentworth - a great and powerful coal-mining dynasty, destroyed by family secrets and a vindictive politician.

Harry Houdini escaped from police cells in Sheffield and the great Blondin walked a tightrope in the Botanical Gardens, as JP Bean will reveal with The Sheffield Chronicles - An Illustrated Talk (Millennium Gallery, February 6, 11.30am-1pm).

He takes an entertaining approach to history through his book.

He said: "There's a story for every date of the year in Sheffield and the talk is designed to give people an insight into my book.''

A more sinister side to Sheffield will be revealed by poet Rob Hindle with Tracking The Sheffield Gangs: An East End Poetry Walk (Princess Street, Feb 6, 2pm-3pm).

He will read an extended poem which illuminates the notorious 1925 killing by the Park Brigade gang and discuss the relationship between history and poetry.

A fascinating glimpse into Sheffield's industrial past will be the subject of A Walk Down Green Lane with John Bradshaw (Meet at Fat Cat pub, Alma Street, February 6, 11am to 1pm).

His fact-packed walk around the conservation area near Kelham Island will include a look at Cornish Place Works at the former Globe Works and Green Lane Works, in association with Galvanize, Sheffield Festival of Contemporary Metal, at galvanizefestival.com

An Illustrated Talk on the Sheffield Canal Basin will feature the expert knowledge of Martin Olive and paintings by artist Norah K Rogerson, as they focus on the dereliction and regeneration of a Sheffield hidden jewel (Central United Reformed Church, 60 Norfolk Street, February 4, 5pm to 6.30pm).

Other highlights include talks by popular TV historians Michael Wood on his book The Story Of England (University of Sheffield Students Union, February 3, 7.30pm-8.45pm) and Amanda Vickery, author of Behind Closed Doors: At Home In Georgian England, with an illustrated talk on The Georgians: An Intimate History (St George's Church, University of Sheffield, February 4, 7.30pm-8.45pm).

n For full events guide and video report see thestar.co.uk/video. For more details call 0114 273 4400 or visit www.offtheshelf.org.uk

graham walker

Digital Editor

Guest speaker: David Templeman, chairman of the Friends of Manor Lodge, at the Turret House at Manor Lodge

Past and present: Martyn Johnson, researcher for Black Diamonds, Ron Clayton and JP Bean