Off the Shelf returns for 32nd edition

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.

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, 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. 

off the shelf

Chris Packham

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.

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.

off the shelf

Strictly Come Dancing’s Shirley Ballas

“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.

The full programme can be viewed on the website now. Printed programmes are also available at venues throughout South Yorkshire. Tickets can be obtained in person or by telephone (0114 249 6000) from Sheffield Theatres Box Office, or by visiting

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