47 years on…

In June 1971, Joni Mitchell released her landmark album, Blue.

In 1973, Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon, Elton John’s Goodbye Yellow Brick Road and Genesis’ Selling England By The Pound were all released.

In late September 1974, with this rich musical diet vibrating in my head, weeks away from my 19th birthday, I was walking along Edgbaston Park Road with a girl called Alison who I’d just met. On the opposite side of the road were two fellow Birmingham University students heading for the same Halls of Residence.

Andy – long dark hair parted in the middle – had rebelliously pinned his name badge onto the inside of his trench coat. Andy and Paul, friends from Leicester, were staying in High Hall, a tall structure for men only; Heather and Alison were bound for the women-only block which lay prostrate at the foot of the men’s accommodation. Each Hall had its own large communal room and there was a connecting gallery between the two. The no-men-allowed-after-10pm female block was called Ridge Hall.

It wasn’t long before guitarist Andy had organised a music night in High Hall, with the help of his friend, Jock, for any students who wanted to take part. Andy and I performed Joni Mitchell’s Little Green and Big Yellow Taxi together, and soon started collaborating on our own songs in a downstairs room in Ridge Hall. Andy called that first music night Moulin Ridge and the name stuck.

47 years later, we (Moulin Ridge) have finally released our debut album! Many of the original vocal recordings – some going back to the late 1980s – have been used, as each captures a moment in time. We’re launching the CD on 26th April – see the poster for info and click on it to listen to the songs!

A live streamed show & a workshop

I’m popping in to plug a livestreamed performance of I Dig Canals this coming Sunday 21st November 6pm and a humorous poetry writing workshop on Thursday 25th November 2-4pm. See below for more…

Click the poster to go to the Eventbrite page

I DIG CANALS livestreamed performanceSunday 21st November 6pm

Stand by for winching and rocking, pulling and sweating, bucket-hoists of mud and canal-clearing clobber. And you can share in it all live or via Zoom! It’s 1970, and we’re off to a rally of boats on the Staffordshire & Worcestershire Canal. On the way we’ll meet Sheila and Josie, Tina and Jean as they put on their sturdy boots and roll up their sleeves. Women labouring, cooking, boating, organising… united by a common cause – to save the Black Country waterways.

Join us for a livestream at 6pm on Sunday Nov 21st, or, if you can’t make that time, the video will be available to stream until 7pm the following Sunday (28th), all for a fiver! The show is just under an hour long, and will be followed by an additional half hour Q&A and some more stories from the project if you would like to stay. Click the poster above to go to the Eventbrite page

Click on the photo to go to the Eventbrite page for more info. Photo by Jan Warsop.

WRITING HUMOROUS POETRY – ONLINE WORKSHOP – Thursday 25th November 2-4pm

From limericks and four-liners to lengthy sagas; from clever wordplay to corny rhymes and punchlines; from nonsense to wild imaginings; from wry humour to laugh-out-loud funny. Bring your funny bones and we’ll have a go at different ways of writing humorous poems, inspired by a variety of examples.

We are offering our 2021 workshops on a Pay What You Can basis. The minimum payment is £5 (£5.12 with the booking fee); after that the sky’s the limit!

There are two free places available for anyone who would find the minimum donation difficult. Click on the photo of me looking cheeky to go to the Eventbrite page for more info.

Bye for now!

Yes We Cant

I’ve always loved the title of this spoken word night organised by the fantastic Poets, Prattlers & Pandemonialists. Now I’m very pleased to be their featured poet – online this coming Sunday. The organisers tell me people often mistakenly add an apostrophe to the word ‘cant’ and that’s the beauty of the word play. When I think of the verb to cant, my thoughts inevitably go to my Dad who was an expert. ‘Canting’ is a Black Country word. It’s a shame we can’t all be canting to each other in an actual room in Wolverhampton on Sunday, but we’ve got the next best thing and I hope you’ll join me from wherever you happen to be. Poetry connects.

Great Canal Journeys & shows this weekend

It wasn’t easy keeping quiet about filming for Great Canal Journeys last May! But now the programme has been aired I can share this lovely photo of Kate Saffin and I with Sheila Hancock – all of us managing to conceal that fact that it was a miserable, cold day! The programme features tales of the so-called ‘Idle Women’ whose stories we tell in one of our Alarum Productions shows. Click on the photo to go to the Channel 4 website and watch the episode.

Kate Saffin, Sheila Hancock & Heather Wastie, Hatton Locks.

This coming weekend, there are two chances to experience my new solo piece The Idle Women Story – a combination of short pieces about the wartime trainees, some of which you may have seen before if you’ve been to an Alarum show. But this new version includes some recently unearthed letters from one of the women and also some of the men, written whilst considering whether or not women were capable of handling working boats… As well as my online performance, there’s a fascinating live dance interpretation by Hannah Warren. Kate will also be performing live in her solo piece The Mary Rose: a boat of ill repute which is all about a brothel on a boat! The live shows are taking place, along with several others, canalside in Rickmansworth. My online show can of course be seen from the comfort of your own home. Click the photo to go to the event website.

Photo by Terasa Newton

Don’t Oil The Hinges review

Many thanks to Greg Freeman, Write Out Loud, for reviewing my new collection, Don’t Oil The Hinges:

“… you can’t help but warm to Heather Wastie’s enthusiasm, creativity, and zest in putting poetry at the heart of a community.”

Read the review here.

And here’s a quote from Canal Laureate, Nancy Campbell:  “I’m enjoying Don’t Oil the Hinges enormously… I love the way Heather weaves introductions into the book, I’ve never seen this done before and it creates a lovely, intimate reading experience.”

Do come and see me performing extracts from the collection at the following events:

Monday 12th November  7.00pm
Licensed to Rhyme
Cafe Morso, 16 Hewell Road, Birmingham B45 8NE
https://www.view.co.uk/birmingham/v/cafe-morso

Thursday 29th November  7.00pm
The Caffe Grande Slam
Caffe Grande, 15 Stone St, Dudley DY1 1NS
https://m.facebook.com/The-Caffe-Grande-Slam-1172745749507985/

Tuesday 8th January 2019  7.30pm
City Voices
Light House, The Chubb Buildings, Fryer St, Wolverhampton WV1 1HT
http://light-house.co.uk

 

Don’t Oil The Hinges is available from Black Pear Press, price £6.

Suitcase Stories: Grandma’s little box

I started work on a new project yesterday. Organised by Arts Uplift under the title Suitcase Stories, it’s an 18 month reminiscence and music project for people living with dementia and their carers in the Wyre Forest, Redditch, Bromsgrove and Wychavon districts running from November 2018 to March 2020.

Yesterday we held a taster session in Redditch, singing familiar songs and looking at objects from a suitcase containing all sorts of things to trigger memories as a starting point for conversation and songwriting. Here are some lines I wrote using what one of the participants told me:

Grandma’s little slipper-shaped box

I’d never seen her take it before,
so it came as quite a shock
the day I saw my grandma
open up her little box,

pinch out the yellow powder
and push it up her nose
then try to hide her fingers
behind the dominoes.

Her handkerchiefs were horrible –
stained by that yellow stuff
but the little box was beautiful,
filled with grandma’s snuff.

© Heather Wastie

Here is a link to more information about the project. There are places available, should you know of anyone who may be interested, and there’s a mentoring opportunity for music students too.

Tonight I’ll be performing in Malvern with four other Worcestershire Poets Laureate. Happy National Poetry Day! 

Being a Poet Laureate

Ever since the seventeenth century, the UK has had a Poet Laureate, and until 2009 the position was always held by a man. Although women had been considered, none were chosen. In the late nineteenth century, Christina Rossetti missed out when it was decided that, rather than appoint a woman, there would be no laureate at all. In 2009, (now Dame) Carol Ann Duffy was appointed. She said at the outset that her main reason for accepting the role was because they hadn’t had a woman. (1)

Some UK cities have their own Poet Laureate – Birmingham currently has Matt Windle – and some counties do too. Gloucestershire has one (Brenda Read-Brown), Staffordshire does (Emily Rose Galvin) and Worcestershire has had one since 2011. The current Worcestershire PL, appointed in June, is Betti Moretti. There are also several Young PLs:  Worcestershire’s is Rachel Evans and Birmingham’s is Nyanda Foday. So, as you can see, women are doing pretty well on the laureate front now.

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Receiving my award from Maggie Doyle, Worcestershire Poet Laureate Emeritus

In Worcestershire the post lasts for just one year, and I was honoured to represent the county in 2015/16. Are you a poet, wondering if you could be a laureate one day? Have you ever wondered what a poet laureate actually does? The short answer to the second question is that it depends a lot on the person. But if you would like to find out how it worked for me, then now’s your chance!

On 15th September Black Pear Press will launch my latest poetry collection, Don’t Oil The HingesA year as Worcestershire Poet Laureate. The poems fit into three main categories: those directly relating to the county, some of the many I wrote during this very special year, and some which featured in my blog during that period. The book is also a diary of edited extracts from my blog, plus other snippets to give an insight into my life as a writer and performer.

The PL role tends to be an honorary position. Throughout my year, as always, I worked hard to maximise opportunities to earn a living from being a poet and musician. Poetry book sales will never be anywhere near enough to live on, but they certainly help. So please do help me (and the publisher) by buying a copy! If you can’t make the launch, when I will read extracts from the book and welcome several guest performers (see my previous blog for exactly who and where), you can pre-order copies online from Black Pear Press.

I needed an endorsement for the back cover, so I asked The Archers actor, Sunny Ormonde (who performs one of my poems as part of her excellent one-woman show) and this is what she wrote:

“Needing a poem about local life for my show at Bewdley Festival I discovered Heather’s wonderfully funny poems on line. Immediately smitten, I contacted her and was over the moon when she kindly offered to write a special poem for the show and Dad was a fan of The Archers was born. Nothing could have been more perfect – it was a huge hit and continues to be so.

Don’t Oil The Hinges is a delightful collection of poems – a pot pourri of Worcestershire life and experiences. Joyful, funny, touching, informative and vibrant. Heather is one of the finest poets around.”
(1) Carol Ann Duffy becomes first female poet laureate – Alison Flood, The Guardian, May 2009 https://www.theguardian.com/books/2009/may/01/carol-ann-duffy-poet-laureate

Don’t Oil The Hinges

My seventh poetry collection will be launched in September!

Don’t Oil The Hinges is a celebration of my year as Worcestershire Poet Laureate — a collection of poems and insights into 2015-2016. On Saturday 15th September the book will be launched at an evening of poetry and song with guests, Kate Saffin — writer and actor; Sarah Tamar — poet; Sunny Ormonde — actor, and Dave Sutherland — singer-songwriter. There may be another special guest too. The venue is Park’s Cafe, 4 Victoria Square, Droitwich Spa, Worcestershire WR9 8DS. I chose it because of its hinges.

My first batch was delivered to my door yesterday by Tony Judge from Black Pear Press who had a hand in the cover design — literally. Talented singer-songwriter and artist Jess Silk produced the artwork and Tony added that final touch by writing the text with his finger, and the whole thing, I think, has a homely feel about it.

DOTH Front cover image

I hope you will be keen to open that door and find out what’s behind it. Here’s a sneak preview:

Wipe your feet

Shag pile, tufted,
high pile, long pile,
loop pile, got a pile!
Wipe your feet!

Don’t bring your muck in here,
our carpet’s cream.
Slippers all lined up,
pick your size.

No foam backing here,
grip gripper underlay,
offcuts in the loft
gathering dust.

Shag pile, tufted,
high pile, long pile,
loop pile, got a pile!
Wipe your feet!

(extract)

You can pre-order your copy from Black Pear Press, price £6.00 + p&p.

If you can, do come to the launch. It’s free to attend and we’re going to have fun!

The Idle Women Summer 2018 tour

Kate Saffin and I (Alarum Theatre) finished our Spring tour of Idle Women of the Wartime Waterways last Saturday in Calf Heath Marina, Wolverhampton. We’re now preparing for the Summer tour which starts at the beginning of June. The first show is in Stoke Bruerne, then we’ll be on the Chesterfield Canal in West Stockwith. Click here for the full schedule and to book:

https://alarumtheatre.co.uk/2018-tour-dates/

Here are a couple of audience comments from the Spring tour to whet your appetite!

“Wonderful show – beautifully and compassionately performed.” – Sarah & Tony

“A wonderful performance – it brought the whole situation alive.” – Sue & Geoff

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I become a boatwoman

Chestnut Inn, Worcester

Chestnut Inn, Worcester

The Alarum Theatre tour is about to reach its half-way point with a show at Two Towers Brewery, Birmingham, 7.30pm on Wednesday 25th April. We will then have left the Worcester & Birmingham Canal.

I thought now would be a good time to share a new poem I have performed at every show, until now. Once we’re on the BCN (Birmingham Canal Navigations) I won’t be including it any more as much of the material in my half of the show relates to the areas we are passing through.

After leaving Birmingham we’re heading for the Black Country, where I was born and lived until 2006. It’s great to be close to home! Here are the Black Country dates:

Fri 27 April 7:00pm Brook St Community Centre, Tipton with fish & chip supper
Sat 28 April 7:30pm Titford Pump House, Oldbury
Tue 1 May 2:00pm Wood Lane Community Centre, West Bromwich
Tue 1 May 7:30pm The Lamp Tavern, Dudley

For the full schedule click here. For tickets/reservation click here.

Now here’s the poem!


I become a boatwoman

On the Worcester and Birmingham
in nineteen forty one,
a week’s trial – a trial it was
in more ways than one.

Confused and bewildered
I joined a team of three.
Daphne March and Molly Traill
set out to educate me.

Boats not barges.
Boaters not bargees.’
At seven feet wide by ten feet long,
the cabin’s quite a squeeze.

There’s no room for my suitcase
with all my travelling clothes
so I’m making do with a pillowcase
and heaven only knows

how I’ll sleep on the side bed –
two feet wide, no more –
with Daphne on the cross bed
and Molly on the floor.

On the Worcester and Birmingham
in nineteen forty one,
a week’s trial – a trial it was
in more ways than one.

Confused and bewildered
I joined a team of three.
Daphne March and Molly Traill
set out to educate me.

© Heather Wastie

April 2018
Words found in Amateur Boatwomen by Eily Gayford