So, I went to some Off The Shelf events this weekend.
Off The Shelf is an interesting festival: despite the swingeing cutbacks that Sheffield City Council has been forced into by those gimp-suited pricks in London (the sooner Cameron, Gove, Pickles et al all auto-asphyxiate, the better) – and the Council itself needs to asks itself some long, hard questions about its lame-brained policy of closing libraries – the organising team has once again managed to pull together a damn decent line-up. Ben Aaronovitch is talking at Highfield Library next week, Paul Morley is around if you can bear the on-trend 40-something metrosexuals in the front row, Bob Stanley promises a trip through fifty years of pop, while Daniel Blythe entices us on a trip through fifty years of Dr Who. And that’s even before we start talking about the more traditional “What was Pemberley really like?” events.¹
At a more local-based level, Off The Shelf also celebrates the efforts of writers’ groups and local authors. Some local groups have anthologies of their own to promote, some just want to be acknowledged. On several occasions the Sheffield SFF Writers’ Group has organised events only to find them on the programme’s cutting room floor (does a festival programme even have a cutting room floor?). So this year we decided to take a table at the Writers’ Group Fair – and to our amazement, we weren’t even the only SFF group there!!!
For anybody living in the unforgiving wilds of Barnsley, you may be surprised to learn that you have an SFF Writers’ Group of your very own – the Monday Knights. The geeks are rising!
Anyway, we stopped there for the duration, in a very busy, hot room at the United Reform Church, and the first part of Johnny Silver and the Sweet Pike Monster! got a public airing, and then we carried on down to Bank Street Arts for the second part of the afternoon.
Bank Street Arts is a new-ish gallery and studio space wedged in around the back of the cathedral – two rows of old Victorian houses and workshops renovated and joined up, the space between them covered over to create an airy, high-roofed cafe area. Writing Yorkshire, an organisation that used to be known as Signposts, has just relaunched itself, and has also taken this opportunity to unveil a new dedicated writers’ studio space at Bank Street. Very cosy it is too, and free from such distractions as the TV, etc. The space can be booked out and is even available 24/7 for a certain level of membership. When you consider than this round-the-clock availability can be yours for just over £1 a week, it seems like a very attractive idea.
With cake and tea provided gratis, the afternoon concluded in successful style. Shame about the relentlessly grey weather, but you can’t have everything.
¹ The answer, of course, is “fictional”.