VIDEO: Sheffield’s Off The Shelf preview

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Sheffield’s world famous Off The Shelf book festival marked a new chapter in its 22-years history today by unveiling it’s first woman curator - poet Jackie Kay, writes Graham Walker.

VIDEO: Press the play button to watch our special preview video report.

Off The Shelf guest curator Jackie Kay reads one of her short stories at a media preview. Photo: Glenn Ashley.

Off The Shelf guest curator Jackie Kay reads one of her short stories at a media preview. Photo: Glenn Ashley.

The festival, this year from October 12 to November 2, has had just two other curators in previous years.

Jackie, whose theme is ‘outside’, will bring a mixture of art, cinema, politics and poetry to this years event.

It features talks and workshops by many household names, promoting new books and best-sellers, including Kate Adie, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, Pam Ayres, Lucy Worsley, Dan Snow, Andy Kershaw, Roy Hattersley, Booker Prize winner and author of The Commitments Roddy Doyle.

Other famous names at Off The Shelf include American crime author Walter Mosley, writer, journalist and campaigner Melissa Benn, while Emily Woolf explores The Ministry of Thin, author Simon Singh analyses the mathematics of The Simpsons and illustrator Matt Sewell will demonstrate his drawing abilities as he launches his new book Our Songbirds, Consultant Psychiatrist Steve Peters discusses his work with Olympic athletes and American novelist Chuck Palahniuk talks about his new book Doomed.

The Star is a gold sponsor and hosted a pre-festival talk with crime writer Lynda La Plante last week.

Platinum sponsors Civica will be hosting throughout the festival including Fifty Years of Doctor Who with Daniel Blythe - an ‘all you ever wanted and needed to know about Doctor Who’ evening - on October 29, at the Showroom, with Doctor Who expert, enthusiast and novelist Daniel Blythe.

Last year’s Off the Shelf attracted an audience of over 25,000. This year there are scored of events, workshops and in-conversation appearances from well known celebrity authors that will attract people of all ages from Sheffield and further afield.

Guest curator Jackie said: “I am delighted to be the first woman curator for Off the Shelf. I have already had a good experience that created a spirit of joint venture when I wrote the football poem for Sheffield United ‘Here’s my Pitch’ that was unveiled during last years’ festival.

“The theme of my curation is ‘outside’. It is a mixture of art, cinema, politics and poetry. I like literature to reach out to the world and the concerns of our time, to give people an experience and pleasure.

“As part of the full day of events I have organised, I am particularly excited about the women refugees from Glasgow and Sheffield meeting, and hearing what they have to say. I wrote three poems after meeting refugees in Glasgow and read them out in the Scottish Parliament. For me, it’s important too to write about issues I feel passionately about, and one of them is the treatment of refugees.”

Gavin Extence read an excerpt from his debut novel The Universe vs Alex Woods: “Sheffield has been my adopted home for the past thirteen years. Like many, I came here as a student and didn’t want to leave. The city has a wonderfully diverse and vibrant culture, and I’m delighted to be part of this year’s Off the Shelf festival.”

Sheffield poet Helen Mort read two poems from her recently published selection called Division Street: “Off the Shelf is the most exciting festival on the thriving Sheffield arts scene. It’s a thrill to be part of it.”

Coun Isobel Bowler, Cabinet Member for Culture, Sport and Leisure, speaking at a media launch to promote the upcoming festival, said; “It will once again host a myriad of amazing literary talent – internationally known authors, celebrities, recognition of the up-and-coming talent of tomorrow, children’s events and community engagement offering a diverse and packed literary festival that ranks as one of the best in the country.

“Authors love the festival as they are well looked after, are so well received by audiences in Sheffield and recognise Off the Shelf as a noted and respected festival on the busy literary festival calendar.

“We are delighted that so many authors accept our invitations to appear here and we are especially pleased that Jackie Kay agreed to be our guest curator. She is a poet and author with reputation and sincerity, and entertaining with it.”

* Download the full programme of events at

Visit the official festival website at, follow the festival on Twitter @otsfestival and like on Facebook at

For full listings of events in Sheffield and beyond visit The Star’s web site at