Off the Shelf Festival of Words announces lineup for its 32nd edition (13-29 October 2023)

Off the Shelf Festival of Words, one of the most well-known and loved literary festivals in the UK, will return to Sheffield for its 32nd edition from 13- 29 October, bringing together the best of local, regional, and international literary talent.

Audience at Off the Shelf
  • Off the Shelf, one of the most well known and loved literary festivals in the UK, celebrates its 32nd edition this year

  • From 13 to 29 October, the Sheffield festival will host over 70 live and online events, which will reflect local, regional, and international literary talent

  • The festival will host household names such as conservationist Chris Packham, BBC's Strictly Come Dancing judge Shirley Ballas, Actor Richard Armitage and Pulp Drummer Nick Banks 

  • Tickets are on sale for events now

Off the Shelf Festival of Words, one of the most well-known and loved literary festivals in the UK, will return to Sheffield for its 32nd edition from 13- 29 October, bringing together the best of local, regional, and international literary talent for the 2023 programme of events.                 

Delivered by the University of Sheffield, this year’s vibrant and diverse festival will play host to over 70 live and online events across the city, including household names such as Environmentalist Chris Packham (BBC Earth, Springwatch), star of stage and screen actor Richard Armitage, Pulp drummer Nick Banks, classicist Dame Mary Beard, Guardian columnist Polly Toynbee and Guardian food critic Grace Dent, popular TV Personality Dr Amir Khan, BBC’s Strictly Come Dancing head judge Shirley Ballas and Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer MP Rachel Reeves. 

Chris Packham, Shirley Ballas, Mary Beard - Off the Shelf

Former UK Children's Laureates and award-winning authors Jacqueline Wilson and Cressida Cowell will headline this year’s family events, along with a long list of Sheffield authors including Catherine Taylor and Tania Branigan. The 2022 Festival curator and Somerset Maugham Award–winning Sheffield writer Akeem Balogun, will return with a fresh, immersive multimedia performance. 

Alex Wheatle joins the festival to discuss his memoir and the challenges of living as a young Black man in 1980s Britain and Colin Grant, director of WritersMosaic, will speak about his memoir, I'm Black, So You Don't Have To Be - a memoir looking at the Black British experience. One of the UK’s foremost spoken word artists Salena Godden will read her collection of poetry saluting people fighting for courage, resistance and justice. Chair of the Crime Writers’ Association Vassem Khan will discuss his new thriller, part of the award winning Malabar House series and acclaimed artists Jeremy Deller and Oliver Jeffers will talk about their art and work.

Off the Shelf - audience 2022

Professor Vanessa Toulmin, Director of City, Culture & Public Engagement at the University of Sheffield, said:  “Off the Shelf attracts more and more literary talent every year, and the festival's place in Sheffield's cultural calendar is firmly fixed.  Our goal is to provide a programme that can draw both niche and mainstream entertainment audiences, and this year's stellar lineup meets these objectives.

“Additionally, we know that our audiences love seeing us champion local writers and this year, thanks to Sheffield Poet Laureate Danae Wellinton and Akeem Balogun, we have plenty of opportunities to do so.

“Off the Shelf is one of the most established literary festivals in the UK, still going strong after thirty two years, and it is fitting that the festival is delivered by the University of Sheffield, as it reflects our civic responsibility of contributing to the city's rich cultural depth and diversity."  

As part of the 32nd edition, festival partner and supporter, Sheffield Hallam University will present a curated strand of online and live in venue events. These will include The Art and Craft of Grammar with Jodie Clark, Blood Feather with poet Patrick McGuiness, A Flat Place with Noreen Masud, Comics in the 21st Century with Harriet Earle, Things that Go Through Your Mind - the Work of Forced Entertainment, 100 Queer Poems with Andrew McMillan, and the Writer in the Archive: A Creative Workshop with Elin Ivansson and Joanna Dobson.   

Charles Mundye, Head of the Department of Culture and Media at Sheffield Hallam University, said: “It is a great pleasure for us to support Off the Shelf again this year by including a series of events that highlight the skills, talents and creativity of our students and staff.

"Off the Shelf is a festival that adds vibrancy to the cultural offer of the city, and we welcome you all to share in the creative passion and energy of our universities.”

The full programme can be viewed on the website from Wednesday 30 August and tickets can be booked online from 12 noon. Printed programmes will be available at venues throughout South Yorkshire. Tickets can also be obtained in person or by telephone (0114 249 6000) from Sheffield Theatres Box Office or by visiting: 


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