Telegraph View: Starting a bold new chapter

Nancy Fielder
Nancy Fielder

Let’s take something that is really good about Sheffield and make it even better.

That is what the city’s two universities are ready to do with literary festival Off The Shelf.

They have the expertise plus the commitment of Arts Council funding to make that happen.

So the move away from the local authority is probably the least exciting thing about this year’s festival for most people.

I suspect lots of those who enjoy the book celebrations will neither know nor care, and why should they?

They want to be entertained, informed, educated and drawn deeper into the world of literature without leaving their own city.

Families want their children to have their eyes opened to the wonder of books and all of us should desire that for every child regardless of their postcode.

The organisers, a tiny but talented team, are aiming to make it one of the biggest events of its kind in the country so will also need to attract visitors into Sheffield.

It is and can grow to be even more of a celebration of local talent alongside big name attractions.

But the reason I dwell on what goes on behind the scenes is that old nugget of a city needing to work together.

What you read about today is a success story which is beginning another chapter of its life.

In an era of shrinking budgets and painful cuts, it is important we let that sink in.

This city has found a way to make Off The Shelf grow and in doing so secured its future.

That doesn’t happen everywhere but it is likely to become an increasingly important way forward.

Perhaps we don’t shout about that enough but it is worth pondering as you peruse the festival’s programme this year.

This is an approach which creates very different headlines and, in this case, was done with a lot of hard work but very little fuss.