Performances coming up

If you’d like to find out about some of the work I’ve been doing as Worcestershire Poet Laureate since I was appointed last June, go to http://worcslitfest.co.uk/worcestershire-poet-laureate/heathers-wpl-blog-january-2016/

To find out what I’ve got coming up, read on ….

A week on Saturday I’ll be at the National Waterways Museum performing Idle Women and Judies and some new poems, all of which tell the stories of women who worked on the canals during World War 2.

IMG_1416

In March I’ll be featured poet at Howl in Moseley with a 15 minute set of performance poetry and in July I’ll be presenting an hour-long family show of poetry and music based around my book The Page-Turner’s Dilemma (poetry & tales from behind the music stand) in Evesham.

TPTD cover cartoon by Jules

Cartoon by Jules ~ cartoonist

Right now I’m working on a project about Black Country dialect. It’s called Where’s Our Spake Gone and I’ve been commissioned to work in Cradley Heath which is where I grew up. I’m having a wonderful time collecting together dialect words and phrases so that I can write new pieces to be shared at an event in April. I’ve you’d like to get involved, do come to my drop-in session on Thursday February 11th (see poster below).

Details of all these events are below.

Saturday 13th February between 10.00 and 4.00
Idle Women and Judies
National Waterways Museum Reopening Weekend
South Pier Road, Ellesmere Port, Cheshire CH65 4FW

https://canalrivertrust.org.uk/enjoy-the-waterways/museums-and-attractions/national-waterways-museum

Wednesday 9th March 7.30pm
Featured Poet – Howl
The Dark Horse, 145 Alcester Road, Moseley, Birmingham B13 8JP
Free entry

https://www.facebook.com/howlspokenword/
http://www.darkhorsemoseley.co.uk

Where's our spake gone drop-in

Wednesday 6th April 7.30pm
Where’s our spake gone?
Cradley Heath Library, Upper High Street, Cradley Heath B64 5JU
http://ourspake.co.uk

Sunday 3rd July 3.00-4.00pm
The Page-Turner’s Dilemma
Evesham Festival of Words
Unitarian Chapel, Oat Street, Evesham, Worcs WR11 4PJ

http://eveshamfestivalofwords.org/programme/

 

 

Wyre Forest U3A presentation

On Monday 18th January I performed an hour of Weaving Yarns poems and songs to around 180 people from Wyre Forest U3A who packed out Kidderminster Town Hall. Afterwards I had some excellent feedback, sold a quantity of books and had some lively and interesting conversations. One woman said she had been moved to tears and another told me that, yes, women did put their rollers in before they lined up waiting for the Bull to sound so they could leave work (as referred to in Waiting for the Bull). I also spoke to a man who is mentioned in one of my poems, even though I had never met him. He was one of the ‘two young lads’ in the piece I wrote for Mollie Smart called Peg-boarding. It was so good to meet him and he enjoyed reminiscing about the work he used to do all those years ago.

I’ve posted the two aforementioned poems again below. (They appear elsewhere in this blog too.) For a copy of all the poems, with archive photographs, you can buy a copy of my book here http://blackpear.net/authors-and-books/heather-wastie/

Before the poems, here are the written comments I had after the U3A event which are definitely worth shouting about!

Feedback

Comments written at the event:
“A wonderful, inspirational talk – you have captured the spirit of the carpet industry most effectively. Thank you.”
“It was brilliant.”

Comments via Facebook:
“Just been to U3A meeting, which featured an excellent presentation at Kidderminster Town Hall by Heather Wastie the poet, of songs and poems about the carpet industry in Kidderminster. Really enjoyable, and brought back many happy memories. Thank you.”     Jenny
“Just been to a U3A meeting where Heather Wastie told the history of Kidder carpets in verse and song. Lovely voice Heather, didn’t expect that!”     Avril

Waiting for the Bull

The starting line is set –
a formidable arm-in-army,
eyes fixed on freedom
beyond the force field.

Rollers fixed at tea break,
bursting to escape,
Elsie Tanner, Ena Sharples lookalikes
combine into a deep sea of heads,
a Pavlovian tsunami
released by the sound of the Bull.

And they’re off!
Setters, winders, pickers,
fearless of traffic,
flood Corporation Street
engulf Exchange Street,
while those in the know
have steered clear of the tidal wave
of single minded women
whose time is now their own.

© Heather Wastie

 

Peg-boarding
for Mollie Smart

Four ladies
doing secret work
up in the loft
up above the weaving sheds
with two young lads
to fetch and carry

Two young lads
with two heavy satchels
quite a walk
from Park Wharf to New Road
at the bottom of The Butts
up the stairs
up to the loft
up above the weaving sheds

No-one disturbed them
all very quiet
secret work
keep it to yourself

Four ladies
each with a board
full of holes
a board at the side
a pattern in front
a ruler ‘cross the bottom

working sideways
one hand holds a hook
the other round the back
feels the yarns
yarn on bobbins
pull the colours through
and every time
they fill up a row
they move the ruler up
move and copy
till they get to the top
pull the colours through
till the board is full

then the two young lads
take it away
and shear it off

Two young lads
with two heavy satchels
go down from the loft
up above the weaving sheds
down the stairs
quite a walk
from Park Wharf to New Road

If Head Office say
“We don’t like the colour”
one of the ladies pulls it out
and sews in another

They never know
what’s coming in
from day to day

an interesting job
a lovely existence
secret work
keep it to yourself

© Heather Wastie

Where’s our spake gone?

As regular readers of this blog will know, I lived in the Black Country until moving to Kidderminster in 2006. As a child, my home was in Holly Bush Street, Cradley Heath and right now I’m in search of the old spake! I’ve been commissioned to create new work for ‘Where’s Our Spake Gone?’, a Heritage Lottery project managed by Rights and Equality Sandwell, and want to talk to people born and raised in Cradley Heath who use local dialect.

Here are some of the things I’m interested in:

Is Black Country dialect dying out or still going strong?
What’s special about the Cradley Heath dialect?
Do older people who speak ‘broad’, talk to their children and grandchildren in dialect?

I’ll be talking to various groups of people, both adults and children, and am holding a public event in the Holly Bush pub, a short walk from where my house used to be. (Holly Bush Street was demolished in the 70s.) The event is on Thursday 11th February at the Holly Bush, 53 Newtown Lane, Cradley Heath B64 5EA. Drop in for a chat any time between 7.00 and 9.00pm. For those of you who use Facebook, here’s a link to the event there https://www.facebook.com/events/933776720023893/

Here’s one of several poems I’ve written in memory of Holly Bush Street, together with a short poem in dialect, about dialect.

37 Holly Bush Street 

37 Holly Bush Street,
a few doors up from the Mission,
lying in bed on a Sunday morning
trying hard not to listen
to the slowest singing in Cradley Heath,
a rousing hymnotic dirge:
“May all God’s notes be joined as one
Slide heavenward and converge!
And when we’ve emptied out our lungs
And, Lord, can sing no more,
We’ll quench our lasting thirst for thee
In the ’olly Bush next door.”

37 Holly Bush Street,
a few doors down from Dingley’s,
source of kali and sherbet dabs
and chocolate drops sold singly.
And there goes Alice in carpet slippers,
fulfilling her daily pledge,
striding uphill to a soul in need
with a plate full of meat and two veg.
And late in the darkness goes ‘Uncle’ George
who brought in the coal at New Year.
As he rolls down the road with his darling Gladys,
piercing the closing-time air
comes “Good night, Gladys!” and “Goodnight, George!”
all down the street and beyond,
echoing through the silent years
till front doors bang shut and are gone.

37 Holly Bush Street,
the heart of a microcosm,
from the boy who dribbled and never grew old
to the woman who flaunted her bosom.
And one day they shovelled us into a heap
and threw all the pavements away,
stopping just short of the pub and the Mission,
but leaving me nowhere to play.

© Heather Wastie

 

Learnin ter spake

Babby
doh spake
cor spake
learnin
to spake

Yo spake
I spake
I spake
like yo

Babby grows
goz to skewl
learnin to spake

Yo spake
like I spake
an I spake
like yo

Babby grows
goz to uni
knows ow to spake

but yo doh spake
like I spake

so I speak like you.

© Heather Wastie

Nicky Morgan most popular? Really?

Yes, my poem School visit by Nicky Morgan, Secretary of State for Education was my most viewed post of 2015. Here’s the full Top Ten which includes waffles, gherkins, whisky, salmon, promises, childhood memories and lots of references to being Worcestershire Poet Laureate. It’s good to look back on my year of blogs, though I’m having a break at the moment, building up strength for 2016 when I have some lovely projects and events to look forward to. I’ll be Poet Laureate until the middle of June and there are lots of poems waiting to be written.

Thanks very much for following me in what has been my busiest year to date. Do follow the links below to read my Top Ten and alter the statistics ….

  1. Poem: School visit by Nicky Morgan, Secretary of State for Education

  2. County’s Poet Laureate waffles on the podium

  3. International Mother Language Day

  4. Childhood snaps

  5. Worcestershire Poet Laureate 2015

  6. A poem about the gherkin

  7. Being a Poet Laureate on National Poetry Day

  8. The Kelpies, Whisky Angels & a salmon ladder

  9. Burns, Tam O’Shanter & Crambo-jingle

  10. Worcestershire Poet Laureate Competition 2015

Festive Fare

My Christmas poem was inspired by an article in last Saturday’s Independent Magazine by Oscar Quine entitled Festive Fare, an A to Z of what we might consume at this time of the year, including a few surprises. I used the list and some of the explanations to create an A to Z of my own. The only item I changed was XO Chicken which I have no idea how to pronounce!

I love finding poetry in other people’s writing. My favourite words of Oscar’s are ‘squidgy and luminous’ when referring to jellied fruits and my favourite line for playfully twisting the words I found is the one about roasties. The lobster line was … er … tough.

I hope you enjoy it and I’d like to think some of you might share it along with some food and drink over the festive period. I sent it to Oscar who was good enough to write back: “Thank you so much for your fantastic poem. I passed it around the team and you have put a smile on all of our faces just in time for Christmas. Personally, I’m very pleased that you felt inspired by my piece!” Thanks Oscar!

Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year and thank you so much for reading my blog over the past year.

Festive Fare
inspired by an article by Oscar Quine in The Independent Magazine 12.12.2015

A is for Asti, Italian Spumante
B is for Brussels sprouts – hear the kids moan
C is for cheese that we’re always too full for
D is for date with a stick and a stone

E is for eggnog – “a noggin of egg grog”
F is for fish when abstaining from meat
G is for gl
ühwein served hot, it’s delicious
H is for humbug (I don’t mean a sweet)

I is for Irish Cream, laden with calories
J is for jellied fruits, squidgy and luminous
K is for KFC, choice for the Japanese
L is for lobster, not very voluminous!

M is for mince pies brought back by crusaders
N is for nutroast for veggies, and cheap
O is for oysters, luxurious blighters
P is for pigs in their blankets asleep

Q is for Queen’s speech delivered at 3 o’clock
R is for roasties by Edward the King
S is for snowball – a drink, so don’t throw it
T is for turkey – leg, white meat or wing

U is for unwanted guests past their welcome
V is for vermouth for cocktails galore
W is for whisk(e)y – it’s Scotch or it’s Irish
X is for Xmas – what this poem’s for!

Y is for yule log with marzipan snowmen,
rocks made of nuts, and a sugary frost
Z is for sleeping when dinner is over
before you wake up and work out what it cost!

© Heather Wastie
December 2015

Goodbye, Birmingham Central Library

Goodbye, Birmingham Central Library

Farewell, you concrete blot of brutalist architecture,
eight floors of dodgy escalators, low ceilings,
threadbare carpets and little natural daylight.

As the gatekeepers, the guardians of knowledge
leave their posts for ever, the Prince of Darkness*
believing he has finally claimed his prize,
the place where books are incinerated, not kept
has sent his death-eaters to hover and claw at the windows

when suddenly, up the Victorian spiral staircase,
circling up through the archive, up into the vortex rises …
not flames, but 40 years of human dust – up, up and away!

© Heather Wastie

*Wales

Written June 29th 2013 in response to this article:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-birmingham-23008062

Now the demolition is actually taking place …
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-birmingham-35092981

Carpet factory memories

During my time as Writer in Residence at the Museum of Carpet, I ran some writing workshops. Margaret Green came to one of these workshops and talked about her memories of life in Kidderminster when she was a young girl. I wrote a poem using what she had told me. When I asked her for permission to publish the poem on my blog, she sent me the piece below which describes vividly what it was like for her as a young girl working in a carpet factory at the height of the industry. She wrote it after visiting the Museum with a group of poets who meet in Bewdley – the Bewdley Bards. My poem for Margaret appears first.

Sitting on the step
for Margaret Green

I’m sitting on the step,
my step,
the one with the cigarette burns,
cold because the sun never reaches it

I shuffle my dress
to cover the backs of my legs
and hug my knees

This morning
I woke to the call of Brintons Bull
and pulled on yesterday’s clothes

and now I’m sitting on my step
waiting by the factory doorway
waiting for the weavers
to give me sweets

© Heather Wastie
October 2015

Visit to the Museum of Carpet in Kidderminster
by Margaret E Green (McCormick)
July 2015

Nostalgia sweeps over me, as I recall my first day at work, in Brintons Carpet factory. I was so young, at fifteen, but I soon fitted in to factory life; I was no longer a schoolgirl, but I was proud that I “worked!”

Memories came to me, remembering unfamiliar places to a young girl; the noise of the weaving looms, frightening at first; later on, I could easily identify the different sounds in the weaving sheds.

I smiled, thinking of the fun I had, and the young men, creelers, that I quickly became friendly with. The jokes that they played upon me. I was put in a basket, which was used to carry bobbins up the side of the loom, but they put me in one of them, and hoisted me up the loom, then left me, laughing at a safe distance.

I remember two young creelers, holding me in a sitting position in a chair, then painting my legs with size, the latex liquid, used on the backing of carpets. Of course, in the fifties, we were wearing stockings and suspenders; when I arrived back home from work that evening, I had to peel my stockings off my legs, painful, but funny.

Brintons was opposite the fire station; when the siren sounded, we all stopped what we were doing, and watched the retained firemen, who worked at Brintons, race along the side of the river Stour, which ran through the centre of the factory. It felt very exciting to me, to see the men running; well, I was only fifteen years old.

I experienced nostalgia again, when touching the carpets, feeling the yarn and remembering some of the patterns of carpets. Reliving the days when I had progressed to the mending department, then on to be a qualified carpet picker; remembering the sore fingers, from the large needle with which we mended the missing shots in the carpets. We all worked at a fast pace; piece work meant the more carpets we repaired, the greater the pay packet. I worked hard, and earned good money by the time I was only sixteen years of age. The best job was the picking and I enjoyed the company of friends. I still had fun, even though I wasn’t in and out of the sheds any more, talking with the young men, and wandering about the factory, sometimes where I shouldn’t be wandering!

Happy days, good memories, of my first job, in Brintons carpet factory.