Off the Shelf Festival of Words 2020

It’s a very busy few weeks! I’ve been lucky enough to be a part of Sheffield’s amazing annual Off the Shelf Festival of Words in October and what a fab set of experiences.

I supported Simon Armitage at my very first poetry drive-in event! It felt like there were fireflies everywhere whenever people flashed their light – so that was lovely and rather beautiful!

It was really special to go to a live poetry event after months of online events and to see people – even if they were in cars!

My next event was a bit more personal – Live with the Laureate with Otis Mensah and Magid Magid, where I was handed the baton of Sheffield Poet Laureate!!

It’s such an incredible honour. I’m really keen to do more work around supporting young people like the Mixing Roots project I’m running with Hive. And in supporting Hive who’ve supported me so much. We are currently looking for sponsorship, or support from partners, to carry on the project, so if anyone wants to get in touch in either of these ways, please do!

I love Sheffield and so much poetic work is centred in this city which holds so many memories, moments, landmarks and places for my family and I. It’s really something of an honour to represent that as a poet.

It was a very chill and warm environment with many close ones in attendance. Deffo a tonight I’ll hold onto for ages! I cannot wait to see what the next two years bring inshallah.

I’ve included below some lovely words from Amber O’Connor who kindly reviewed the event: here 

Best night,
Warda xx

Following the evening’s conversation, Warda also shared her poetry with the audience. She adopted a more tranquil reading style than that of her Laureate predecessor, but one that nonetheless complimented her work. Modest in her brilliance, Warda softly but assuredly performed her poetry, which can be characterised by its vision. Warda’s poems, which often take the personal as their scope, speak to truths the audience likely already knew but had not thought to articulate. As Otis remarked, Warda can “readily encapsulate life”, which he hopes will connect with people in Sheffield and make them “feel less alone”, when they engage with her work.

To read Warda is to be confronted with themes of family and love, but to hear her speak about her work is to fully recognise how much emphasis she places on human connection, which positions her well for this position in the community. Warda’s love of poetry, as well as her love of Sheffield, was obvious in her discussion of the significance poetry has in the lives of the local school children she teaches, and her repeated references to her family and friends, to her life rooted in Sheffield. Touchingly, many of her readings were also interspersed with messages of thanks to those who have supported her, including several local arts organisations. For Warda, poetry evidently acts as a tool to unite and inspire people, both of which are needed now more than ever in light of the pandemic.

Here are a selection of great photos courtesy of Timm Cleasby