Take another look at everyday Sheffield streets with poems for festivals' 30th year

This year’s landmark Off the Shelf festival in Sheffield is using the power of poetry to invite people to take another look at the city streets they walk down every day.

By Steven Ross
Thursday, 26th August 2021, 6:00 am
Rob Hastie performed What If?, a poem written by Andrew Motion.
Rob Hastie performed What If?, a poem written by Andrew Motion.

Over the years the festival, now in its 30th edition, has introduced a series of commissioned poems from lead writers and is responsible for the Text in The City initiative mounting poems in public places.

Rob Hastie, who moved from Scarborough to Kelham Island five years ago and is the artistic director at Sheffield Theatres, is one of those helping to bring the poems that are found on buildings around Sheffield to life.

He recorded a reading of Andrew Motion’s poem, What If? - found on the side of a Sheffield Hallam University building - over a video re-enacting the poem’s narrative of a traveller coming to Sheffield.

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John Rwoth-Omack performed Here's My Pitch by Jackie Kay.

Rob told the Telegraph: “Off the Shelf is legendary, it has been running 30 years, what it brings to the city is really important culturally. We love a festival in Sheffield.

"I must have walked past Andrew’s poem 100 times, when they become landmarks you start to take them for granted. It’s wonderful to have the opportunity to explore it and think about what it means and find a way to perform it in my own voice. It was wonderful to take the journey that the poem takes.”

Off the Shelf takes place between October 15-31 this year. It has been awarded £73,739 through Arts Council National Lottery Project Grants.

As part of the 30th anniversary, Off the Shelf has compiled a series of videos and audio recordings of nine poems to be released over the coming weeks.

Rob added: "We have such an extraordinarily creative city and the poems are just one expression of that. I hope the exhibition will inspire people to explore what it is about our city that inspires poetry, theatre and music. “The poems ask you to take another look at the city and streets that you walk past every day.

"There is a real mix of performers and there are some people who are Sheffield citizens but not performers or artists. This is important because we are a city that speaks in its own authentic voice.”Other poets whose work will be performed include Carol Ann Duffy and Jarvis Cocker.