Bringing our readers together : Every year we try to hold an event which enables our readers to meet and learn from each other.

At our annual event In 2012 we spent the day in the Sheffield Quaker Meeting House, sharing the books we enjoyed, being interviewed by Radio Sheffield interviewer Trisha Cooper and watching the 1956 film A book in Hand made by Sheffield City Libraries to celebrate their world famous municipal library service. The event was recorded by film maker Michael Watts.

In 2013 Sheffield Central Library gave us use of the Carpenter Room where Sheffield author and journalist, Rony Robinson was interviewed about his development as a reader by Dr Erica Brown from Sheffield Hallam University. Our interviewees also brought pictures of themselves as young adults and were photographed by photographer, Tom Stayte.  In the same year a Reading Sheffield Research group was formed by Mary Grover, Loveday Herridge and Sue Roe. At present Sue is researching reading in the 19th century, and Loveday reading in the 18th century.

In 2014, due to generous funding from Sheffield Town Trust, Reading Sheffield were able to explore and celebrate contemporary children’s responses to reading. We held workshops in Weston Park Museum, Netherthorpe School, Stradbroke School and the Central Library.

Flying Off the Page Jean Compton, a community artist, ran a series of workshops in which 30 Netherthorpe children created three-dimensional aerial sculptures celebrating favourite moments from favourite books.

The Story Telling Cloak Jean also ran three drop-in workshops in Western Park Museum for children and their families to create Sheffield’s first Story Telling Cloak made of images created by a huge range of Sheffield readers across generations.

Ballad of the Spooky Books Ray Hearne, local poet and folk singer, ran two workshops with 60 Stradbroke children with whom he jointly composed the lyrics of the Ballad of the Spooky Books.

At our Celebration Event 2014 the sculptures and ballad featured at the annual celebration event. This year the annual celebration was included in Off The Shelf Festival of Words. The Mayor opened the celebration surrounded by the children’s models of flying creatures and in the company of a large paper and willow sculpture lady wearing the Story Telling Cloak. Ray led the children in a rendering of the Ballad of the Spooky Books, and local poet Eleanor Brown ran a Word-Hoard workshop. In a Carpenter Room  transformed by sculptures, Jean demonstrated how they were made, we finished off the day with home made tea and cakes.

Reading Sheffield Website Launch 2015 On 10 October members, friends and participants of Reading Sheffield met in the Quaker Meeting House to mark the official opening of the new website. The site makes available audio recordings and transcripts that provides a window into the variety of reading patterns of a cross section of Sheffield readers during the first part of the 20th century.

White Ink Stains: On 19 October 2016 we welcomed over 60 friends and poetry-lovers to the launch of the most surprising outcome of our project – a series of stunning poems, inspired by Sheffield readers, from Eleanor Brown, the award-winning Bloodaxe poet.  They are a unique and highly persuasive way of honouring readers’ experiences.  We thank the Off the Shelf Festival for their generous sponsorship and Sheffield Libraries for their hospitality.

In 2017 Lizz Tuckerman in collaboration with the Reading Sheffield team created an art exhibition in recognition of the Sheffielders who had contributed to the Reading Sheffield project. In Praise of Libraries an intimate and nostalgic collection of digital collage, sound, and photography ran at Bank Street Arts from the 6th to the 21st October. The title comes from the vital role that the libraries played in the lives of the readers. During the exhibition we held a special viewing, an artists talk and a vintage tea party. The Lord Mayor Councillor Anne Murphy visited the exhibition on the 21st October. The exhibition was generously funded by Off the Shelf Sheffield, Sheffield Hallam University and Sheffield Town Trust.

Launch of Before the Public Library March 2018

Thanks to Anne Murphy, in March 2018 Loveday Herridge and Sue Roe were lucky enough to be able to hold the launch of this book in the Lord Mayor’s Parlour. Their chapter in Before the Public Library focuses on their research into four reading organisations in Sheffield: the Sheffield Subscription Library, the Vestry Library of the Upper Chapel, the Sheffield Book Society and the Sheffield Book Club. Loveday and Sue had first delivered a paper on these clubs at a conference in London in 2015. They then worked on it for inclusion in this book. It covers a variety of reading institutions from Europe and the Americas 1650-1850. Interestingly, the last chapter is on James Silk Buckingham, one of the first Sheffield MPs.


In 2018 Loveday Herridge and Sue Roe got involved with HODs for the first time: Val Hewson had already had experience of giving HODs talks.

They talked about the Unitarian influence on, and presence in, the various reading organisations they had been researching. In particular they addressed the theme of 2018: Extraordinary Women; in fact they focussed on Unitarian Women, and were lucky enough to have the Upper Chapel as the venue- a beautiful building as some may know.

Loveday Herridge spoke of the Sheffield Subscription Library and three key members who espoused radical reform: Joseph Gales, Joseph Hunter and James Montgomery.  She chose Esther Caterer, the first female librarian of the Sheffield Subscription Library and Anna Laetitia Barbauld, poet teacher and popular writer as her Extraordinary Women.

Sue Roe explained the composition of the Sheffield Book Society (1806-1944) with its significant numbers of Unitarians and medical personnel and also included the Sheffield Book Club.

Sue’s Extraordinary Women were: the novelist Elizabeth Gaskell and Harriet Martineau, novelist and writer on economics, travel and philosophy.

In 2019, in a different venue (the Central Library’s Carpenter Room) Loveday Herridge and Sue Roe addressed the theme of People Power through the work of Sheffield Radicals and Reformers : Political, Intellectual and Medical. There were over fifty in the audience and thanks go to Dan Marshall from the Library Service for his help in setting up the talk and acting as MC. 

In 2020 we invited our interviewees and assorted friends to The Art House for an afternoon of Tea and Poetry.

In September 2021 we curated an exhibition, Heritage at Home, at Sheffield Central Library as part of the Heritage Open Days festival. In December 2021, Val Hewson gave a talk in the Central Library about what vintage recipe books can tell us about our heritage. Here are Val’s slides and notes.

In September 2022 we had a tea party to raise funds for Mary Grover’s new book about reading in Sheffield, Steel City Readers. Our guests of honour were the Lord Mayor and Lady Mayoress of Sheffield. You can read about the party on our blog and see photos here.