28 August 2018

Off the Shelf: Landmarks of society and literature to be celebrated at Sheffield book festival

Journalistic heavyweights, a punk pioneer, one of design’s leading names and a hugely successful US novelist are among the writers appearing at the returning Off The Shelf festival in Sheffield.

The literary celebration – now in its 27th year – will feature more than 130 events, talks and discussions at a host of venues from 6th to 30th October.

Three milestones will be reflected throughout the programme: the 100th anniversary of women getting the vote, the bicentenary of Mary Shelley’s novel Frankenstein and the creation of the first modern circus in 1768.

Notably, the festival is offering the only opportunity outside London to meet the shortlisted authors for the Man Booker Prize, and Amy Arnold, the winner of the inaugural Northern Book Prize who is published by Sheffield-based firm And Other Stories, is on the bill too.

Journalists Robert Peston, Cathy Newman, Kamal Ahmed and Evan Davis are talking about their non-fiction works, while comedian Susan Calman will explain her guide to happiness, Sunny Side Up.

Jamie Campbell – the inspiration for the hit Sheffield-set musical Everybody’s Talking About Jamie – is sharing his Desert Island Reads, and lawyer Gina Miller, who successfully challenged the Government’s attempt to trigger Brexit negotiations without Parliamentary approval, will discuss her memoir Rise

Best-selling author and ‘Queen of crime’ Val McDermid, comic Romesh Ranganathan, wildlife broadcaster Kate Humble and Orla Kiely – the designer behind the ubiquitous ‘Stem’ floral pattern – are among the other top bookings.

Food writer Ruby Tandoh will talk about her culinary manifesto Eat Up and Viv Albertine, former guitarist with influential punk band The Slits, is promoting her second volume of searing autobiography, To Throw Away Unopened. 

The festival concludes with an evening in the company of Jodi Picoult, one of the most popular women’s fiction writers in the world with worldwide sales of 40 million. Picoult is making a rare visit to the UK in support of her new novel, A Spark of Light, set in an abortion clinic. The Circus 250, Frankenstein 200 and Suffrage 100 strands have been curated by Professor Vanessa Toulmin of Sheffield University, Prof Chris Wigginton of Hallam University and Dr Julie V Gottlieb of Sheffield University respectively.

Look out for inspirational panel debates, lively talks, visual art and a trip to the General Cemetery, all designed to throw light on these fascinating and important landmark anniversaries.

Professor Vanessa Toulmin

Director of City and Culture, University of Sheffield

At the cemetery, the whole of Shelley’s novel will be read by various people between 2pm and midnight, and there will be outdoor screenings of the Bride of Frankenstein and Young Frankenstein. Helen Pankhurst, great-granddaughter of suffragette leader Emmeline Pankhurst, is coming to discuss her book Deeds Not Words, which charts how women’s lives have changed over the last century and makes a case for the best way forward.

Circus 250 events include a performance and interview with Romany Romany about her book Spun into Gold – The Secret Life of a Female Magician, and an opportunity to meet trapeze artist Rebecca Truman, who founded the all-woman aerial company Skinning the Cat 30 years ago. The festival opens on October 6 with a free event on The Moor showcasing poetry and performance, followed the next day by Circus Sunday for children at Weston Park Museum. 

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