If you click the link below you will find stories and poems by Margaret E Green, Sharon Cartwright, Kathy Gee and Maggie Doyle written as a result of my workshop for the Weavers’ Cottages restoration project in Kidderminster. My commissioned songs are there too, performed by Sue Pope and myself, recorded by Diabolus in Musica.
As I explained in my previous blog post, I am working practically full-time on #TheIdleWomen project at the moment. Here’s a link to the blog I’ve been writing: Alarum Theatre blog
However I am also at the beginning of another exciting canal-based project, The Ring – a new arts programme which celebrates a 21-mile circle of waterways in Worcestershire. The project website will be launched on 20th June. In the meantime, you can follow on Twitter and Facebook. As one of their lead artists, I have been commissioned to concentrate on the Droitwich Canals and have just begun researching and doing a bit of writing to document what stands out for me.
When I was a teenager, my family was heavily involved in campaigning to save the canals, many of which were in a dire state. Dad had bought a 70-foot ex-working boat, Laurel, and we became part of a network of people who were passionate about bringing the waterways back to life. One of the people I remember well, and fondly, is Max Sinclair. As president of the Droitwich Canals Trust, it was Max who from the Sixties provided the driving force for the renovation of the Droitwich Barge Canal and Droitwich Junction Canal. In 2012 he won an Angel award from English Heritage for his dedication. I would have loved to speak to Max again, but sadly he passed away in 2016, so I began by reading this article about him, and made a note of things which resonated with me: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/angel-awards/10018202/The-angels-who-mucked-out-the-Droitwich-Canal.html
My Dad (Alan T Smith MBE) did a lot of ‘encouraging and cajoling‘, as did Max. Having read lots of Max’s words online, one thing I love is his honesty, and Dad too would have enjoyed the truth and humour of this paragraph: “We were at Stourbridge doing some work – that was in 1961 – and this chap in a suit came along,” remembers Max. “He said that if we so much as disturbed the water on the canal we would be prosecuted. Someone gave the excavator driver a wink and he swung the bucket around and covered the chap in mud.”
Here are a few lines of ‘found poetry’, using lines from the article, not a finished piece but a starting point. Following that is a poem I wrote about a visit to the top of the 21 locks in Wolverhampton a few years ago.
The angels who mucked out
the Droitwich Canal
knew the value of patience
With grit and determination,
caked in mud, shovelling dirt,
pulling rusty bicycles from bushes,
they fought with tons of mud and soil,
dumped between the banks
and a tangle
of hostility and inertia.
fish take me by surprise.
Looking down from Broad Street Bridge,
then from the towpath edge
I need an explanation
for such unexpected clarity,
a long exposure of minnows,
lush reeds and sulky sediment.
It’s ironic, says the cut water,
I have been cleansed
by a vandal-induced stoppage.
Tearfully the water speaks:
It was you who saved me
from oil slick, effluent, blackened
polystyrene icebergs, mattress tangled
shopping trolleys, half inched bikes,
malicious metal spikes,
contents of living rooms tipped.
I was soap sud soup with beer bottle croutons,
peppered with cans and the odd chunk of meat.
You saved me from scum,
from smothering polythene,
wire running red, the callous garrottes
of those who would see me dead.
I fear the onset of duck weed.
You saved me to be stirred.
© Heather Wastie
I’m about to embark on a 49-show tour of Idle Women of the Wartime Waterways – an Arts Council funded double bill with writer/performer Kate Saffin. Although I’ve spent many holidays travelling on a 70ft narrow boat, this will be a very new experience! I will be blogging about it on the Alarum Theatre website www.alarumtheatre.co.uk so may go a little quiet on my own blog.
To find out a bit more about this work, see/hear these interviews:
And have a look at the Alarum website which has all the dates and lots of information.
Wish us luck, and I hope to see you at one of the shows!
This morning I was interviewed on BBC Hereford & Worcester and BBC WM about being commissioned to write poetry for the Nationwide ad campaign. BBC WM asked me if I wouldn’t mind writing a short poem for them on a subject they were discussing – Peter Kay’s ‘Car Share’. Now I happen to love that programme, so I agreed, and came up with:
Peter Kay’s ‘Car Share’
Thrown together to share a car
They chat and dream and travel far
Kayleigh, John and Forever FM
A situation comedy gem
© Heather Wastie
written for BBC WM 12th April 2017
For the film of the Nationwide ad, I was asked to wear a beanie or bobble hat. During the filming day I got chatting on the subject of hats with a lovely guy from the film company called Jon who inspired this:
I’m happy in a beanie
And I’m partial to a bobble
For I like to wear a hat that is
Both warm and comfortobble
© Heather Wastie
And for no particular reason, I’ll leave you with this thought:
Now the Queen’s an oldie
Is she going mouldy?
© Heather Wastie
In the spirit of NaPoWriMo (National Poetry Writing Month) here’s a poem written and posted the same day:
Words and stuff
Words are not enough, look
expressionless bare without
an excess of exes
crowds of emoticons
colons stolen by brackets
the last surviving punctuation?
we are bored with words
by shiny shouty
© Heather Wastie
3rd April 2017
You may have seen the series of Nationwide Building Society tv ads which has been running for a while now, featuring poets performing their own work. Well now it’s my turn. I was one of several poets contacted by The Poetry Takeaway and commissioned to write poems fitting a brief to do with mums and sons. I was asked to write 2 poems, one lasting 30 seconds and the other just 10 seconds and film them on my phone. Of the poems written, mine were chosen to be filmed by VCCP to be used on tv and in cinemas if all went well. So ….
I travelled down to London by train from Kidderminster then got in a taxi to Bexley Heath, a bit of a nightmare journey as it coincided with the tube strike. Then I spent a day in a vast allotment recording my poems over and over again, outside at first, then in a car when the weather turned. In the morning it got pretty chilly sitting around between takes but there was a lovely chap who draped a sleeping bag over me whenever there was a long enough break, and I was plied with hot drinks all day. The director and film crew were a real pleasure to work with and the owner of the plot we used came and had a look. She asked me for an autograph for her son, which was nice, and apt.
That was in January. Now, at the end of March, the ad is actually going live. A couple of weeks ago I went down to London again to record the longer poem for radio, and it will be in print too. I have been paid for every stage of this project, and also for a day writing poems on demand at Nationwide’s conference for all their employees, at the NEC. Some of the employees wrote poems of their own saying how much they enjoyed their work. I very much enjoyed mine too, and this collaboration between poets and a building society, brokered by The Poetry Takeaway, is doing a great job of bringing a variety of poetry into people’s homes and raising the profile of poetry and poets.
Here’s a link to my 30 second poem https://youtu.be/z7q9zmc4hjY?list=PLF9206AD222A37AA8
My collaboration with writer, Kate Saffin, has gone from strength to strength since we first met, just a year ago! Our show Idle Women of the Wartime Waterways is about to embark on a major Arts Council funded tour, travelling by canal, recreating the journey worked by women trainees during WW2.