Worcestershire Poet Laureate Competition 2015

I’m very pleased to say that I’ve been shortlisted for Worcestershire Poet Laureate. Do visit the Worcestershire Literary Festival website and vote on your favourite poem by the shortlisted poets. You have ONE vote and of course I can’t tell you which one is mine!

Worcestershire Poet Laureate Competition 2015.

The final stage, when the winner will be chosen, is a performance in The Guildhall at the Festival launch on Friday June 12th.

My success goes a long way towards making up for the 5 weeks I spent languishing with a bug which has been dubbed “The Big One”.  During this time I did manage to write 6 lines of poetry to sum up how I felt. Here they are!

Sick, of the view

In direct line of vision
a solid blotch on the mirror,
an imagined face silhouetted in grime,

an annoying uselessness
of ‘smear-proof’ window cleaner
and a woman gathering dust.

© Heather Wastie
May 2015

How Wars Start in Cheltenham ….

On Friday 1st May, Worcestershire Poet Laureate, Fergus McGonigal and I will present How Wars Start at Cheltenham Poetry Festival. 

In the middle of last year, I applied for a Kidderminster Arts Festival ‘small-scale commission’ to create an interactive performance poetry piece called How Do Wars Start?  Having been successful, I felt it would be a better piece if I created it with another poet and immediately thought of Fergus. I’m a great admirer of his work and had a feeling creative sparks would fly in unexpected directions if we got together. He said yes, and we split the fee between us. What an excellent decision it turned out to be!

Influenced by Fergus’s approach to language and performance, I experienced a creative surge as I grappled with the challenge of identifying how wars start. Not the waging of war or the aftermath etc; how they actually begin. We sat one day in my garden brainstorming ideas then went our separate ways to each write 10 minutes of material. Our show needed to be entertaining, funny and visual. I collected ideas on our Facebook page, watched some wonderful street theatre in Kidderminster, assembled inexpensive props – a bit of old carpet, a plastic plant pot, a hand-puppet, balloons.

The pieces we had written slotted together easily and we both thoroughly enjoyed the whole process culminating in a day of performances in Kidderminster town centre, one to a captive and appreciative audience in the library and two in public thoroughfares where passersby were rather bemused. 


For Cheltenham, we’ve written lots of new material to make an hour-long show, 9.00-10.00pm in the Everyman Other Space Studio Theatre, 7-10 Regent Street, Cheltenham GL50 1HQ. Tickets are £7 / £4 .  Here’s a taster. See our Facebook page for more https:/www.facebook.com/how.do.wars.start. Hope to see you on May 1st!

Dummies’ guide to starting a war  by Heather Wastie

Part 1

The first step is to be born,

which of course you already have,

so congratulations!

That is half the battle.

Please now refer to the pack supplied 

with every copy of this book,

“Things to help you start a war”.

Open it up and take a look ….

First you’ll find a marker pen to draw in the air

a solid permanent thick black line.

Shoes to hang above the road,

so you can shout “Those shoes are mine!”

A gun, a bullet,

a bullet-proof vest,

A pump to help you

puff out your chest ……

To see the full Cheltenham Poetry Festival programme, go to http://www.cheltenhampoetryfest.co.uk

Mean time

Mean time

It is the custom of this land
to fiddle with the hour hand,
to move it back, which makes us curse,
to move it forth, and that’s much worse!

It puts us at sixes and sevenses
and unsettles all our elevenses.

I’ve got a message for the Queen:
Such indecisiveness is mean,
we like our ticks, we love our tocks,
we want protection for our clocks!

You’d hear lots of clapping and cheering,
if Time Lords would stop interfering!

© Heather Wastie


Saturday April 18th 7.45pm
Heather Wastie – “Idle Women and Judies”
plus folk group Keepers Lock

Trip boat, King Arthur, Gloucester Waterways Museum, Llanthony Warehouse, The Docks, Gloucester GL1 2EH
£10 incl ploughmans
Tel Maurice Boye 01242 570457
or email mauriceboye at hotmail dot com

Friday May 1st 9.00-10.00pm
How do wars start? – Heather Wastie & Fergus McGonigal
Cheltenham Poetry Festival
The Everyman Other Space Studio, 7 – 10 Regent Street, Cheltenham, Gloucestershire GL50 1HQ
In this hilarious, explosive and highly entertaining event, slam-champs and performance poets Fergus McGonigal & Heather Wastie go head to head to explore the sometimes farcical nature of arguments.


Foot tapping

Has it really been over a month since my last blog post? Where did the time go? Spring has sprung me into action (not that I’ve been idle!)

A day or two ago I came across a poem I started late last year; I decided I’d better finish it off. It’s a light-hearted piece inspired by the Harmonie Concert Band who invited me to be their special guest performer last November when I performed songs and poems, mostly with a musical theme. The new poem follows on from another one I wrote many years ago which was the title poem of my first collection and has resonated with musicians across the world. Both poems refer to the tapping of feet by musicians as they play, and both appear below. I hope you enjoy reading them.

Until I saw your foot

I thought this music was in four,
Until I saw your foot.
But now I think it must be three,
Or maybe five, I can’t quite see.
Or six? Or maybe not.

I thought this piece was rather slow,
Until I saw your foot.
But now I think it’s double speed –
Sometimes it’s very fast indeed.
And other times it’s not.

I thought conductors gave the beat,
Until I saw your foot.
But now I think it rather neat,
To look at all the tapping feet,
And choose the speed that I prefer,
And play along with him – or her.
I find it helps a lot.

I thought my timing was all wrong,
Until I saw your foot.
Conductors beat both east and west,
But we don’t play with all the rest:
We’ve found a tempo of our own,
And bar by bar, our love has grown.
O I was feeling so alone,
Until I saw your foot.

© Heather Wastie

Foot tapping styles
with thanks to the Harmonie Concert Band

Toe tap foot forward
knee bobbing.
Heel tap, knee bobbing low.

Toe tap foot back
stationary knee.
Heel tap, knee bobbing high.

Barely perceptible
in-shoe toe shift.
Dangling toe tap.
Toe wrap heel tap.
Heel lift air tap.
Heel tap knee tap.
Double heel double knee.
Broadside heel tap.
Random freestyle.
Shake it all about.

Finger twiddle cross rhythm.
Foot in twos, hand in threes.
Soft shuffle shoes
and a symphony of knees.

© Heather Wastie
March 2015

For a list of future performances see http://wastiesspace.co.uk/Wasties_Space/DIARY.html

International Mother Language Day

This coming Saturday, February 21st, is International Mother Language Day. Never heard of it? I hadn’t either until I was contacted by the Birmingham Poet Laureate Adrian Blackledge who invited me to perform at a poetry event at the Library of Birmingham. In a programme including Arabic, Bengali, Dutch, English, Farsi, Kurdish, Patois, Somali, Spanish, Urdu and Yoruba, he wanted someone to perform “poems in a more ‘local’ West Midlands/Black Country voice”.

One of the poems I’ll be performing is Childhood Snaps, made up of ‘snapshots’ in words of things and events I remember from my childhood in Cradley Heath. I posted it on my blog recently https://weavingyarns1.wordpress.com/2015/01/17/childhood-snaps/

My set is from 12.45 to 1.00. Here are the details:

Saturday February 21st 11.00am – 3.00pm
International Mother Language Day
Room 101, Library of Birmingham, Centenary Square, B1 2ND

Tickets from £3.50


I’m looking forward to an interesting day!


This post is all about loss.

I recently came across a site called I am not a silent poet which “welcomes quality poems of protest. ….. looks for poems about abuse in any of its forms.”  Yesterday Reuben Woolley, who set up the site, accepted one of my poems which you can read here.
There are lots of other poems up there to be explored, though of course it’s not exactly light reading.

Last Saturday, National Libraries Day, there was a rally to show support for the Library of Birmingham and to protest against proposed cuts to this new award-winning facility. Here’s an extract from a speech made by Benjamin Zephaniah on the day: “This library is a great example of how to invest in the intellectual and cultural life of the people of Birmingham. Its opening filled me with pride. I was telling my friends all over the world that Birmingham was the place to be, but in a very short time I have gone from pride to fear. I fear that cuts to this library will signal the beginning of the end for this wonderful place.”  For more information about the campaign visit https://birminghamlibrariescampaigns.wordpress.com/

Lost Librarian

I am lines
on a sepia page
dots on eyes
corners torn

tear me out
and shed my tears
leave my print
where ink has worn

© Heather Wastie

So much of our cultural and artistic life has suffered from severe cuts over the past few years. Now the Artrix Theatre in Bromsgrove (so much more than just a theatre) has been asked to prove its worth before the council agrees to fund it. A Facebook page has been set up to gather information and garner support. To find out more, show support and add your voice see https://www.facebook.com/pages/What-Does-the-Artrix-Bromsgrove-Mean-to-Its-Community/1626825630872017?fref=ts  My comments are already up there.

For an indication of how much has already been lost in the arts take a look at http://www.lost-arts.org/. If you believe, like I do, in the importance of investment in culture and the arts, please consider this when deciding who to vote for in the election.