Happy 25th Birthday to Off the Shelf

One of the best things about living in Sheffield is the wide range of cultural festivals that take place throughout the year, from the Festival of the Mind in September, to Doc/Fest and Tramlines music festival in the summer.  However, as a languages student and avid reader, my favourite is naturally Off the Shelf, dubbed the ‘Festival of Words’.  This year, the festival’s 25th run, I was able to attend three events out of the many that grabbed my interest.

The first event was an informal breakfast and talk with the founder of not-for-profit publishing house And Other Stories, to celebrate its 5th anniversary and upcoming move to Sheffield next summer.  Translator Stefan Tobler set up the highly successful company after being frustrated by commercial publishers’ lack of enthusiasm for quality foreign-language books.  I was really excited to learn more about both the publishing and translation aspects of the company, as these are both areas which I would love to work in.  Of course, it didn’t hurt that a goody bag containing two not-yet-published books was included in the ticket price!  After hearing Stefan talk about the small team’s story, process, and ethos, I cannot wait to see what they will do next, whether or not I remain in Sheffield next year.

Following the publishing theme, my next talk was an introduction to the sector, led by the northern branch of the Society of Young Publishers.  As there are many different sub-sectors and potential roles within publishing, it was extremely useful to receive an overview of the opportunities available, particularly those that involve languages and travel.  Although I was slightly daunted when the two wonderful speakers reiterated the importance of tenacity and self-belief in the very competitive industry, it also sparked my motivation to work hard and be ambitious whatever career path I opt for.  Having struggled with mental health issues for the past few years, it has been really refreshing to attend these two events and feel my ambition and excitement for the future growing.

To finish my personal festival programme I went to a talk that had nothing to do with career options, but was simply on a subject very close to my heart: David Bowie.  Music writer Lesley Ann Jones spoke about her own unique relationship with the widely and deeply loved late musician, which she explores in her new book.  At times throughout the conversation, particularly when Jones read out touching passages on Bowie’s last years, I felt myself almost moved to tears.  This is a testament of course to the impact he had on mine and many others’ lives, and to the elegance of Jones’ writing.  Above all, I was reminded of the power of words, art and music to transcend and connect individuals, so thank you to Sheffield and Off the Shelf for celebrating those things with me.

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