Over 3 thousand views of Idle Women video

The Canal & River Trust shared the video of my poem Idle Women and Judies on their Facebook page and so far it has been watched 3,281 times. 80 people/organisations have shared it on their pages too, and on YouTube it has been watched 497 times. I have received and found some lovely comments which I’ve copied below:

very evocative and true to the story too
Teresa Fuller (narrow boat owner)

Only one word for it BRILLIANT! Well done.
Roger Noons (poet)

What a fabulous piece of work.
Emma Purshouse (writer, performance poet, narrow boat owner)

Life generally isn’t one landscape – it’s made up of a thousand flashes … it doesn’t consist of armies – of populations – it is formed from single people and individual experiences. You always represent the individual so very clearly – thank you.
Mike Alma

A powerful atmospheric portrait of life on the canals during the second word war. It’s beautiful, very moving.
Burnley Canal Festival

Comments on Facebook shares:

This is brilliant!
That video and the associated pictures are very nice and a fabulous part of our history.
i liked the poetic versus :-)
Take time to watch this…. It is a wonderful tribute to the Women who kept the canal industry moving during the war……

Here are some photos from my day performing at the Waterways Museum, Gloucester:


Interview with Joanna Durrant, BBC Radio Gloucestershire

IMG_1415 IMG_1416

Bringing the past to life

Last week the Canal & River Trust uploaded a video of the piece they commissioned from me, Idle Women and Judies, about the women who operated the working canal boats during WW2. Do take a look http://youtu.be/Q1W-FetEHcE  See below for more information about the piece.

I performed a live version at the Waterways Museum in Gloucester on Saturday and was really pleased with this BBC Radio Gloucestershire interview I recorded to promote the event. There are 5 days left to listen to it by clicking the link http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p02b4j0y. I’m on after about 2:40.

My Comments book now has some new entries from people in the audiences at Gloucester:

Thank you for a very informative performance. Ollie aged 4 thoroughly enjoyed it. Les Abbott

Thank you for an excellent and inspiring performance. I’ve learned a lot about a lost world. Edward Elgar (honest!)

Thank you for joining us for such a wonderful performance. You really brought the museum alive.
Cathy Jones, Assistant Manager, Gloucester Waterways Museum

Idle Women and Judies by Heather Wastie is an audio piece based on the wartime memories of 3 women: Emma Smith, Nancy Ridgway and Daphne March (Daffy). Emma is the author of Maidens’ Trip, A Wartime Adventure on the Grand Union Canal and Nancy worked on the Leeds and Liverpool Canal; their voices can both be heard in extracts from interviews recorded by the Canal & River Trust. The two voices contrast in such a way as to demonstrate the range of women who took over the working boats while the men went off to war. Snippets from Emma’s book are also woven into the piece, as are some of Daphne’s words taken from an article she wrote after the war (shared online by her niece, Kathryn Dodington).

The 6-minute recording broadly tells the women’s story, from recruitment to redundancy, using their own descriptions, condensed into the form of a poem performed by the author. Because of the war, these women had “crossed a line” into a completely new world and the piece takes the listener into that world, enhanced by the sound of narrow boat engines. The engines were recorded at the 2014 Etruria Canals Festival. I am grateful to Martin Fuller (Clematis) and David Lowe (Swallow) for running their engines so that these recordings could be made and also to Glyn & Rosemary Phillips and Teresa & Roger Fuller for advice as to which were the most appropriate engines!

I have been involved with canals for most of my life, cruising on ex-coal-carrying narrow boat Laurel and, in the early days, getting involved in campaigns to save them from extinction with my father, Alan T Smith, who received an MBE for his services to the inland waterways. As a writer and musician, I particularly enjoy sharing other people’s stories through my writing and I am grateful to the Canal and River Trust for commissioning me to undertake this fascinating and rewarding project.



Inkspill and octopi

This coming weekend, I will be one of 3 guest writers for an online writing retreat, Inkspill, organised by Nina Lewis. I’ll be adding my own perspective to the mix, along with Charlie Jordan http://www.charliejordan.co.uk/ and William Gallagher http://williamgallagher.com/. Want some inspiration for your writing? Take a look: http://awritersfountain.wordpress.com/2014/10/19/inkspill-a-teasing-taster-writing-retreat-right-here-in-5-days-time/

Nina asked me to send her a biography. You might think I would have one to send ‘off the peg’, but it just doesn’t work like that. Every biog I have ever sent out has been different from all the others. This is partly because there are so many facets to my professional life, and not all of these are relevant at the same time.  I can’t help comparing myself to an octopus.

While you ponder on that idea, here’s an octopus poem I wrote after watching a family eating together in a restaurant.

The feeding of octopi

The octopus family
have tentacles twenty
food is plentiful
all is quiet until
plates are empty

when table quivers
upholstery shivers
as octopus babies
lie on their backs
their tentacles rising

they writhe and wriggle
as octopus mom
and octopus dad
slither and grab
trapped in the middle

© Heather Wastie

Perhaps this poem should have had 8 lines per stanza instead of 5. Anyway the line “trapped in the middle” echoes how I sometimes feel trying to keep track of so many creative tentacles!

A far from Idle Woman

Heather Wastie - Idle Women & Judies 2

I was overwhelmed by the wonderful feedback I received after my performances as an Idle Woman on Sunday at Stoke Bruerne Canal Museum. The photo above was taken at the National Waterways Museum, Gloucester where I’ll be performing on Saturday November 8th. The piece was commissioned by the Canal & River Trust and is now available for bookings elsewhere!

Idle Women and Judies by Heather Wastie

Performances at Stoke Bruerne
Sunday 28th September 2014


Absolutely fantastic. Now have a better understanding of women’s role on the boats. Can’t wait for the audio.
Mr & Mrs Roberts, Soham, Ely Cambs

Was great story especially knowing it was real. Sounded very life like, and it was like being there and feeling how the women were feeling. A new life for them in more of a man’s domain. Fantastic.
Belton Family from New Zealand

A lovely performance full of feeling – thank you.
The Richardsons from Lincoln

Very interesting and informative. Very well done!

Very interesting and educated. Thank you.
Isaac Smith age 10

It was very entertaining.
Iona Smith age 8

Very informative and moving.

Fascinating insight into a bygone age.

Learnt new things about ‘Idle Women’ in the WW2. So v. educational. As a woman & new to owning a narrow boat I wish there was an Idle Woman around to teach me her hands on skills!
Penny, Coventry

Very entertaining. Learnt the connection between facts I already knew and those that emerged during the performance.
John Adshead, Northwich Cheshire

Thank you for bringing the story of WW2 women working the waterways to life – very memorable and enjoyable. Great way of bringing history to children.

Liaisons with a Laureate

If you want to know how the Worcestershire Poet Laureate and I have coincided over the last few weeks … Croome Court, Mouth and Music, and our own show “How do Wars Start” … do read this:




How do wars start

by Heather Wastie & Fergus McGonigal

A Dummies’ Guide to Starting a War, a nameless hand puppet, mother’s advice, song references, borders and disputes over a carpet, poetry which rhymes or doesn’t, plus music and blowing up balloons …. entertaining and interactive; 30 minutes of answers.

Commissioned by Kidderminster Arts Festival 2014

Audience feedback:

“Very clever use of words and everyday phrases to dramatic effect. A totally unique slant on the question asked.”
Worcestershire Poet Laureate Emeritus, Maggie Doyle

“Very moving and thought provoking”
“Thoroughly enjoyable”
“Love the “Facebook” duet”
“Tony Blair!”

More info and photos here