Field of Words – A Guide to Off The Shelf 2011

If you’ve heard about ‘reading’ and want to find out more, this year’s Off The Shelf festival (8th – 29th October) stakes it’s claim as the Glastonbury of books with glittery headline acts from the likes of Rob Brydon, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and Michael Parkinson; up and comers including Ben Aaronovitch and Joe Simpson and leftfield events including a workshop on creating animation and the intriguing ‘Dead Poets Slam’.
There’s also a crystal field and free glowsticks at the Paxman talk (these are lies).
The Glastonbury parallel isn’t too off the mark really. The big names get the headlines but just like Glasto, Off The Shelf is an increasingly child-friendly proposal, with chimpanzee musicals and junior journalist workshops and there’s some fascinating stuff happening in the margins, such as a board games night at the University of Sheffield (6.30pm Thu 6th).
Top of the list is Carol Ann Duffy (The Foundry, University of Sheffield, Thurs 6th), who appears at Off The Shelf in celebration of her new book of poetry. Already threatening to transform the post of Poet Laureate into a socially useful role, she’s using the position as a conversation starter, a forward looking position which fits her recent comments about how texting is the new poetry. Exposed studied her at A-Level and it’s part the reason we failed History.  
Describing Will Self’s work as ‘arrant nonsense’ sounds slightly rude until you realise it’s a quote from the man himself. Very good on Shooting Stars, (although Exposed was always more of a Johnny Vegas kinda guy), he’s got a new book out called Walking to Hollywood (Will Self, that is, not Johnny Vegas) and we’d imagine his chat will be a suitably rangy, road movie-like experience. 
Jon Ronson is pretty much a must see (Auditorium, University of Sheffield, Mon 17th). He’s like a funnier, smarter Louis Theroux basically and has written on everything from the mysterious boxes filmmaker Stanley Kubrick left behind to US psychic soldiers (which got made into a movie with George Clooney and Jeff Bridges). New book, The Psychopath Test will no doubt be discussed. 
If the words aren’t swimming before your eyes already, get along to Owen Hatherley (Showroom Cinema, Tues 25th, 7pm) for his compelling and quick-witted analysis of Sheffield landmarks such as Castle Markets and Park Hill Flats as well as possible chat about Pulp (he’s just written an awesome book on them called Uncommon People). 
There’s also a Bookswap (Winter Gardens , Sat 8th 11-4pm) where you can swap those Dan Browns for something more challenging or, alternatively, pick up some Dan Brown.
And, I can’t read the name Ian McMillan (Foundry, University of Sheffield, Sun 9th, 7.30pm) without reading it in Ian McMillan’s voice, so ‘big shout out’ to South Yorkshire’s finest for his celebration of 25 years of The Poetry Business. 
We’ll be reporting from plenty of the above on the hashtag #offtheshelf so say hi and tell us what happens at the end of Harry Potter. 
I will pick up upon my return.
Visit the Off The Shelf website.

There are no comments

Add yours