BLOG: My first foray into Off the Shelf

11 October 2016

By Anna Caig

I have lived or worked in Sheffield on and off for eighteen years now. And I have loved books and reading since birth. (In my family, we prioritise getting The Tiger Who Came To Tea established before breastfeeding.)

But for some reason, probably my aversion to crowds and generally being where others are, I have never been to an Off The Shelf event before. But this year, I have decided that my love of celebrating literature is greater than my antisocial tendencies, and taken my first foray into Sheffield's acclaimed festival of words.

My first event was Withnail and I director, Bruce Robinson's event talking about his new book They All Love Jack. Robinson has spent fifteen years researching the primary sources of information and contemporary accounts of Jack the Ripper's crimes ,and the efforts (or not) to solve them. His book, and the accompanying talk, busts open the 'myth' that the Ripper's identity was a mystery.

Jack the Ripper is an almost ubiquitous figure and reference point in the history and development of crime and policing, crime as entertainment, crime and journalism - all things that I am interested in, and have read a lot about. So, this was fascinating stuff for me. And Robinson's engaging delivery and generous use of colourful language made it all the more entertaining. I was live tweeting the event, and had to check the language policy at one point, it seemed impossible to convey the atmosphere without effing and jeffing a little bit!

The venue was spectacular. The Spiegeltent that has been erected in Barker's Pool as part of the University of Sheffield's Festival Of The Mind, is incredible. This enormous 'mirror tent' provided that perfect backdrop for Robinson's anti-establishment messages about the dark side of conformity.

All in all, it was a splendid evening. I think I might be back for more.