Happy New Year!

New Year’s Eve 2013

A day like any other
but we put it in a box –
It’s Tuesday … it’s your birthday …
it’s the day you change your socks.

The thirty-first before the first,
the last day of a year,
an arbitrary numbering
Gregorians hold dear.

Tomorrow is tomorrow
by any other name
with happiness and sorrow
and chances, just the same.

When we say it’s New Year’s Day
it has a hopeful ring;
the old year is behind us
though it doesn’t change a thing.

Every day’s a new day;
all yesterdays have gone.
Each day’s an opportunity
for us to act upon.

© Heather Wastie
December 2013

Happy New Year!

Kidderminster

Kidderminster has had some bad publicity over the years because people have a habit of abusing the name for no apparent reason! When I moved to the town in 2006, I began searching for other poets by googling “Kidderminster Poetry”. This is what I got:

Kidderminster Poetry
from E. Cobham Brewer‘s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. 1898

Coarse doggerel verse, like the coarse woollen manufacture of Kidderminster. The term was first used by William Shenstone, who applied it to a Mr. C., of Kidderminster.

Thy verses, friend, are Kidderminster stuff;
And I must own you’ve measured out enough.”

Doggerel from Wikipedia

A derogatory term for verse considered of little literary value. The word probably derived from dog, suggesting either ugliness, puppyish clumsiness or unpalatability (as in food fit only for dogs).

Sylvia Herbert, who was Public Relations Officer at Brintons, tells me that in the 1990s, comedians Punt and Dennis famously derided Kidderminster as ‘carpet town’ so the Mayor invited them to switch on the Christmas lights! He asked Brintons to make a little commemorative rug for them. I like Punt and Dennis but they were deservedly on the carpet here.

I recently heard that Olivier award-winning playwright Alan Ayckbourn has called one of his latest plays The Kidderminster Affair. It is one of two short comedies written and directed by Mr Ayckbourn called “Farcicals”. When asked why he chose the named Kidderminster, Mr Ayckbourn simply replied: “I just liked the name.” I’m a fan of Ayckbourn but I think it’s unfair of him to name his play after a town just because he likes the name. The Kidderminster Affair is described as “a frivolous comedy of fun, infidelity and food fights”.

Next year, Kate Wragg and I plan to tour show Kidderminster Stuff, and most people I have spoken to feel we should change the name to give it wider appeal to promoters and audiences outside the area. After all, it could be the story of any town which grew and revolved around an industry and then suffered when the industry declined. Though we want to share the stories of Kidderminster people, it seems you have to be Alan Ayckbourn to get away with using the name in a title.

Wishing you all a very Happy Christmas!

Kidderminster Shuttle & the Weaver Poet

In the midst of preparing for a private performance of Kidderminster Stuff next week (for the Museum of Carpet Friends), I have just seen an item in the Kidderminster Shuttle about some new audio dramas which will shortly be available to listen to at the Museum. The project to create these ran in parallel with my residency and I’m very much looking forward to hearing them. Here’s a link to the newspaper article http://www.kidderminstershuttle.co.uk/news/10834259.Weaving_looms__tell_their_story__at_Kidderminster_carpet_museum/

In the nineteenth century, there was a poet called Noah Cooke living in Kidderminster. Born in 1831 in very poor circumstances, he became a draw-boy in a carpet factory at the age of nine and eventually became a weaver. He was known as the Weaver Poet and wrote many a broadside ballad. His poem A “Quill” for The Shuttle was written for the first issue of the Kidderminster Shuttle, February 12th 1870.

Here are the first and last stanzas:

Clear the way ye sons of labour
Toiling at the busy loom!
Make a passage for the Shuttle,
Let it have sufficient room ….

…. Wisdom, like a well-fill’d shuttle,
Nicely wrought in every part,
Leaves behind as it progresses
Works of usefulness and art.

In our show, I perform the poem and Kate sings a song she wrote in response to it, juxtaposing the past with the present.

Voices in a Forest of Carpet

Photo of carpet forest

The memory of the beautifully atmospheric carpet forest lives on in my mind (see my post on August 8th). I have just uploaded onto Soundcloud the audio I created for the installation which so many people have said they enjoyed listening to via headphones embedded in the trees. Now you can listen to it whenever you like, although the trees are gone and the factories referred to only exist in memories. Here is the link https://soundcloud.com/heatherwastie/voices-in-a-forest-of-carpet

Are you ‘Inspired by My Museum’?

Museum of Carpet

Inspired logoDoes the Museum of Carpet inspire you?

An encounter with a museum can be a life-changing experience, a realisation of the past or an inspiration for the future.

Inspired by My Museum is a creative writing competition launched through a partnership between Sampad and the British Council, supported by Museums Association.

If you have a poem, short story or reportage inspired by a museum you have visited, your words could be selected for publication. It could be the space, architecture, design, an object in the museum or even the curator who has inspired you.

Any writer from anywhere in the world, aged between the ages of 16 and 35, can take part. Entries can be up to 400 words. One entry is allowed per person. Last date for entries is Monday 10th February 2014.
For info, visit the Sampad website to find out more.

BC_Sampad logo

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Knives

I have wanted to write about this for ages and have finally got round to it. Val and Jane told me about this particular aspect of working on a loom and I have combined what they told me into one poem.

Knives
for Val & Jane

They were big knives,
as wide as my outstretched arms.
They had to be sharp
to cut through the wool
and when they cut,
fluff would settle on the blades.
As they were parting,

you cupped your hand
to sweep off the floats,
cut and sweep, sweep to the right,
cut and sweep, sweep to the left.

I was taught by a lady,
been on it for years.
I stood and watched
till it was my turn.
At first I was shaking
but she said relax,
do it quickly, don’t dab,
wipe, don’t dab,
cut and sweep, sweep to the right,
cut and sweep, sweep to the left.

Can do it with my eyes closed.

© Heather Wastie
October 2013

Pausing, planning & celebrating

If you’re wondering why I’ve gone a bit quiet, it’s because I’m busy looking for funding to continue this project. I plan to post some new writing here soon. In the meantime I’m also pausing to celebrate what has been achieved eg Kidderminster Stuff! A long list of audience comments can be found on the Feedback page and here is the brilliant review which appeared in this month’s Slap Magazine.

Kidderminster Stuff Slap Mag review

Slap Magazine, September 2013
Click to enlarge

 

The story so far

In July, I gave a presentation about my residency for Writing West Midlands (http://www.writingwestmidlands.org) along with Canal Laureate, Jo Bell (http://belljarblog.wordpress.com). Anchor woman for the morning was Roz Goddard (http://www.rozgoddard.com) and it was so good to share experiences with writers I admire and who do so much to promote writing with others. Roz asked Jo and I if we would post the notes for our talks on our respective blogs, so that is what I’m doing, and I do believe I’ve beaten Jo to it! Mind you she’s been a bit busy going across the Bristol Channel in her narrow boat and getting over bronchitis so I’ll let her off.

I am in the process of writing a report to the Arts Council who funded my residency and thinking where my next funding might come from. If you would like to support my work, or have any funding suggestions to make, I would be very pleased to hear from you. In the meantime I hope fellow writers will find the notes below useful, and you may also be interested to know that I will be talking about the subject of funding at The Writers’ Toolkit on Saturday 23rd November when I will be on one of the discussion panels. I heartily recommend this annual event to any writer as it is packed with sound advice, information and networking opportunities.
See http://www.writingwestmidlands.org/?s=writers+toolkit

Notes for presentation at Writing West Midlands Writer Networking Morning
6th July 2013

Summary: My background, How it came about, What I have achieved, Conclusions

Background

Poet – Musician – Performer – Facilitator – Promoter

Published 3 poetry collections

Recorded my own CD

Created own website

Worked with all kinds of people, all ages, abilities and disabilities

Strong interest in oral history and personal stories – reminiscence training – edited 2 books of reminiscences

Motivated, driven, pro-active

Eclectic polymath – don’t fit into a box, exhausting trying to do so many things, wanting to find a way of combining my creative skills, maximise on my strengths through one project.

How it came about – piecing together a jigsaw

Lived in Black Country until moving to Kidderminster in 2006

Needed to connect with where I live

Catalyst – tour of the town by local historian and author Melvyn Thompson

August 2011 wrote first poem about the carpet industry

Went to see district council arts officer who made lots of suggestions of ways forward

Started visiting Museum Archive and talking to key people late 2011 – Museum of Carpet hadn’t opened yet.

Had clear idea what I wanted to do – write poems, monologues and songs from interviews, perform and publish

Applied for WCC grant but not successful

Got local funding to work at local day centre – wrote – shared individually & to group

Worcs Arts Partnership – voluntary body run by county council arts officer – sub group – voluntary member – told them about my project – they loved idea and ‘adopted’ it by allocating a small amount of funding for me to spend as I thought fit

District arts officer (on that sub group) offered me funding so did project at centre for people with dementia which match funded small amount per session

Shared work produced plus some from previous project

Contacted local district councillor and he gave me funding to work with people within walking distance of my house. Great pleasure sharing what I had written directly with these people – in a room at a nursing home, with a couple in their living room

Museum of Carpet had opened Oct 2012

Had kept them in touch with what I was doing

Wondering how to use Worcs Arts Partnership money – deadline approaching – suggested to Museum they have Writer in Residence. They knew the quality of my work and immediately said yes.

Contacted Jonathan Davidson – suggested I use WAP money as match funding for ACE application – include workshops

Museum said would like to work with teenagers and looked after children.

Put together project idea also including w/s for adults

Got funding. Agreed timetable with Museum Manager.

What I have achieved

Set up a blog and have posted new work every week since mid April. Having a deadline focuses the mind! NaPoWriMo 2011 good practice for this! Also posted work by guest poets and writing by others I’ve come into contact with

Set up Facebook Page and Twitter account both of which I’ve kept active

Started writing to local press and got coverage in local newspapers

Interviewed Museum volunteers who once worked in the industry, looking for the nugget in what they tell me which I can turn into a poem or song

Ran writing workshops for adults and young people.

Forged links with local youth centre, posting their work on blog which they printed off, laminated and displayed in youth centre.

Ran workshop including photography for looked after children – notoriously very difficult to get them to attend but filled 10 of 12 places – came from across Worcs. Produced Powerpoint calendar from their work (designed by one of young people).

Gave performances for local groups who contacted me when they saw project mentioned in local paper – Sight Concern & residential care home

Managed to get local film company to produce film of one of my songs for free – now on YouTube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nxl9kX3bgJk

Got more funding from district council to put on 2 performances of show about Kidderminster with local singer/songwriter. One performance site specific – amongst exhibits in Museum of Carpet.

My work part of installation at Kidderminster Arts Festival – audio files in a forest of carpet

Conclusions

Worked far more hours than covered by funding (as always)

Museum is fledgling self-funded organisation which has not had time to build up infrastructure. Staff very supportive but limited capacity so have had to be sensitive to their needs and be able to get on and do it!

This has worked because I’m fascinated by subject and have strong links with location

If I was worried about something I asked for advice from others

Continually asked for feedback from people to include in report to ACE and inform me of how it was going. But you can’t capture glowing faces!

All the time looking for ways of linking others back to my project and making them aware of it eg wrote poem after Civic Society tour, now on their website and another linked one; asked for information from people on an established Kidderminster Facebook group and got lots of responses which are now combined in one song ie I went to their group rather than waiting for them to come to my page.

Want to continue residency, put on more performances and work towards a publication. Looking for more funding for residency, have lots of material for publication so looking for publisher and have product to sell by way of performances. Pretty chuffed with how it’s gone!

Kidderminster Stuff a hit!

Kate Wragg and I were bowled over by the audience response to our performance of “Kidderminster Stuff” last night. All of the audience feedback appears on a newly created Reviews page. Here’s a taste of what people said:

Thank you for a wonderful evening that was educational, entertaining, funny, sad, uplifting and thought provoking in turn. We all enjoyed it immensely. 

What an evening! A magic carpet ride of tales and songs. Clever! Enthralling! And all beautifully performed. Well done Heather and Kate. So glad I was able to make it. 

An excellent evening set against the backdrop of 21st Century Kidderminster noise. Stirring, evocative and funny and not least beautifully performed. A great night. 

We’re performing again tonight amongst the exhibits at the Museum of Carpet. See Performances page for details. Hope to see you there!

Threading into a forest of carpet

After a couple of weeks on holiday, I have been frantically preparing for Kidderminster Arts Festival which starts on Saturday! (See link to Festival at the bottom of this post.) Part of the Town Hall is, right now, being converted into a forest made up of carpet donated by Brintons. There will be special lighting and an ambient soundtrack, created by Andy Edwards, which includes birdsong mingled with recordings of the looms at the Museum of Carpet. Planted in 3 bird boxes (how sweet!) will be recordings I have made combining interviews with poems and songs so that you can hear how I used the words spoken to create pieces for the people being interviewed. These recordings represent all of the places I have worked in so far on this project – The Tulip Tree Centre, Among Friends, the area where I live, the Museum of Carpet and Kidderminster in general.

I took a few snaps of work in progress on the forest this morning. It has been designed by Jo and Kate DeBurgh who are working like crazy to get it finished. It already looks amazing!

IMG_0675 IMG_0676 IMG_0674 IMG_0670 IMG_0669

I have also been very busy preparing for performances of “Kidderminster Stuff” of course. There’s just over a week to go to the first show on Friday 16th. See the Performances page for details.

Here’s my latest poem, written for Ben who I met at a party! You will be able to hear me reading this in the carpet forest, followed by a recording of a Polish man sharing his memories of having to leave his beloved country.

Threading

Threading
Tedious
Time passed slowly

Six till ten
First day
Bell went at 7.30 thought I’d finished!
Couldn’t believe it
An hour and a half felt like four

Threading
Yarn on a long spool
Slotted into the tube frame

Finish a spool
One end left over
Realise you made a mistake
Right at the beginning
Go back and do it all again

Bangladeshi bobbin boys
Ill treated by many
Why are you talking to those w …
Polish and Italian
No problem

Threading
Colours in sequence
According to the pattern

© Heather Wastie
July 2013

Finally, thanks to Polly Robinson for sending me a poem she wrote after one of my workshops. You can also find it on her own blog https://journalread.wordpress.com/

“A wonderful workshop with Heather Wastie, the Poet in Residence for the Kidderminster Carpet Museum, led to this poem about the building and the way the effluent from the carpets flowed into the river in times gone by.”

Reeking Dyes

Carpet dust motes in sunlight
dapple the floor through the flights.
My nose itches, snitchily tight.
A glass-topped room and loom below,
while underneath reeking dyes flow,
a myriad of colours, a rainbow
– ten pence a yard –
resting on the river; the ever-changing
river,
red and
green and
yellow and
blue.

Polly Robinson © 2013

Kidderminster Arts Festival link
http://www.wyreforestdc.gov.uk/cms/leisure-and-culture/arts-and-entertainment/kidderminster-arts-festival/kaf-13.aspx