Review of ‘To the Future, Love Cropredy’

‘…the timeless quality of the stories and descriptions of village events make it just as much a love letter to every village community in Britain.’

This lovely review (see below) was published in Towpath Talk (January 2020). I hope it’s big enough for you to read! You can also read it on the Lapal Publications website where copies of the book are on sale.

At this difficult time, I hope these words and illustrations (both in the review and in the book) brighten your day. Wishing you a Happy New Year wherever you are.

The boy who couldn’t say his name – book review

John Lawrence’s The boy who couldn’t say his name is a joy to read, a book of poems packed with heart, humour and a unique slant on everyday life. The collection is underpinned but not dominated by the story behind the title, the painful experiences he endured as a child. His relationship with a Maths teacher is vividly described in Report: Maths 31%…

Her pinched cheeks, ivory, close enough to claw;
her quink-black eyes, close enough to skewer
with my newly sharpened HB pencil.

In the title poem, he refers in third person to a boy who is bullied because of his stammer ‘in the game of seek-and-chide’. In My Father’s Cap he writes

The day the kids at school find out
I’m Sally Army, I show them blood
but little fire. They vent their fury

at my deceit: this kid deserves
an extra slap. Bruises the colour
of my father’s cap.

Cornet Player on the Run opens with these lines:

Guilty. I deserted from the Salvation Army
halfway through Onward Christian Soldiers –

I have always enjoyed John’s poems, and it has been good to watch him gradually conquer stage fright over the years since I first warmed to his work. In An account of the last moments of the poet he translates his terror with his trademark humour:

When I take the wrong turn and find myself
clomping up the steps to the block,
take my word, it’s not what I want to do –
a bloody inconvenient way to go.

And in the hilarious DIY and Me, he expresses a similar – though not so extreme – feeling of alienation as he joins the queue in ‘Plumbers R Us’:

I join the queue, trying to stand like a plumber,
As a huge fan of close-coupling, my ears prick up,
I feel like a fish out of water
like Ricky Gervais on Songs of Praise

There are some memorable lines like, for example, in Inventory: in my shed I have the following

one garden rake, handle whittled to a point
a Charles and Di ashtray with a half-smoked joint

He’s good on titles too:

In the Museum of Air Guitars
Hair Loss: The Musical
The Lament of the Zanussi Luminary

It has always been a pleasure listening to John’s work, and I am delighted that V Press are publishing this collection so that more people can enjoy, and no doubt relate to, his unique take on the ordinary and his wicked imagination.

Heather Wastie

Click here for further information about The boy who couldn’t say his name.

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

Thursday 29th November  7.00pm
The Caffe Grande Slam
Caffe Grande, 15 Stone St, Dudley DY1 1NS

Tuesday 8th January 2019  7.30pm
City Voices
Light House, The Chubb Buildings, Fryer St, Wolverhampton WV1 1HT


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

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.


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

Idle Women at the National Waterways Museum

On Saturday 13th February, I performed my piece Idle Women and Judies, commissioned by the Canal & River Trust, at the National Waterways Museum, Ellesmere Port. I included a song and 3 new poems in a 25-minute programme, repeated four times. As usual, I took a book so that people could write down feedback and those comments are reproduced in their entirety below. It’s difficult to get people to write down their thoughts, even when they have made complimentary remarks in person, but I was very pleased with what people did write, and even more pleased that photographer Terasa Newton took some shots of me in full flow. See below for these too.

Having already performed at the Gloucester and Stoke Bruerne Museums (see previous posts), it was good to collaborate with the Canal & River Trust again to share these women’s stories at Ellesmere Port. I’m grateful to them for supporting my work and to Terasa for sending her wonderful images without charge. Here’s a link to her website

Audience comments:

“Wonderful, captivating performance – brought canals to life.”  Liz & Idris

“Entertaining, informative, brilliant.”  Ray & Alicia Harvey

“Wonderful performance, a must see.”  Suzanne & Graham

“Wonderful performance full of knowledge and very entertaining.”   Janet Williams

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

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


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


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

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

Rugby … or Poetry?

As we near the climax of the Rugby World Cup, I have at last found time to blog about Poets in Touch, a performance I organised in the fanzone in the town of Rugby on September 29th. Having performed in Rugby a few times in the past, I was delighted to be asked to do this and the evening couldn’t have gone any better than it did.

Poets in Touch flyer

Joining me on stage were: Tony Walsh, aka Longfella, who has been called “one of the UK’s most renowned performance poets”, poet, performer, squeezebox and harmonica player, Dave Reeves, and 7 members of local group Rugby Writers. In order to inspire the local writers (and me!) to write about their town, we went on a town tour together. I had already visited the Webb Ellis Museum and also, as I have a strong interest in writing about canals, the nearby Hillmorton Locks on the Oxford Canal.

Inside the Webb Ellis Museum

Inside the Webb Ellis Museum

One of the Hillmorton flight of locks with Canalchef Cafe in distance

One of the Hillmorton flight of locks with Canalchef Cafe in distance

Canalchef Cafe with Lesley & Ian Lauder

Canalchef Cafe owners Lesley & Ian Lauder

Lesley Lauder in the Canalchef Cafe was exceedingly helpful when I quizzed her about the history of the locks. The cafe is a mini-museum! I went away and wrote a poem/song which combined historical facts about the locks with some of the stories about local canal people.

Before I was invited to stage the Poets in Touch event, I knew very little about the sport of rugby, but I did some research and wrote 3 new pieces, one about Richard Lindon who made rugby balls, one about Jonny Wilkinson and the one copied below. I watched a lot of rugby on TV, quizzed my husband, who used to teach PE at Lawrence Sheriff School, listened to rugby commentators on the radio and even discussed it in our local pub! (I can hardly believe that myself!) It occurred to me that there were similarities between a rugby match and performances which involve a collection of poets ….. so I wrote the poem below by way of introduction to the evening. I would like to credit Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius (can you spot the quote?), world cup commentators and Tony Murphy in the pub who are all quoted here:

Rugby … or Poetry?

The match is about to begin

A TV camera pans across the line of players
rising and dipping as it goes

Whatever size or shape you are
there’s a place on the park

It’s all about territory,
and the secret of all victory lies
in the organisation of the non obvious

Bulldozers, bullocks
or lithe and tall,
from lean and lanky
to small and speedy

whatever size or shape you are
there’s a place on the park

Ding dong, head bang,
maul, ruck, scrummage, slam
kept on the pitch

From minnows
to headline makers

whatever size or shape you are
there’s a place on the park

and everyone listens
to the short guy with a whistle
and obeys.

© Heather Wastie
September 2015

Well the local writers really delivered the goods! Tony, Dave and I each presented our own distinctive style of writing and performance, and we had a sizeable audience too. A couple of weeks after the event, I received a poem from Andrew Cowan, another local writer, who was in the audience. His ‘edited highlights’ sum up the evening nicely!

Poets in Touch

Gargoyle like
he gushes out Jabberwock
bellow pumping
via leathern cheeks
via lolling tongue
via writhing lips
the beast is born

Simon Grenville performing Jabberwocky by Lewis Carroll

Simon Grenville performing Jabberwocky by Lewis Carroll

In blue dungarees
lock handcrank, headscarf
the retro vision of
idle canal womanhood
and the spirit of
nineteen forty

Heather Wastie performing Idle Women and Judies

Heather Wastie performing Idle Women and Judies

The reverend vicar
reflects on
a youthful sin
transformed through time
to sire a worldwide game

Nick Marsh, also known as The Reverend William Webb Ellis performing "I Tripped Over Toby and ran with the ball"

Nick Marsh, alias The Reverend William Webb Ellis performing “I Tripped Over Toby and ran with the ball”

Tony the Longfella
bawdies us through
office lech party time
and long term uxorious touch
to the deep meaning
of Christmas night

Tony Walsh

Tony Walsh

Brought to stage
those instruments, that music
the costumes
best of all
each matched to their microphone

Andrew Cowan
30th September 2015

Dave Reeves performing his piece about ghostly Rugby

Dave Reeves performing his piece about ghostly Rugby

Being a Poet Laureate on National Poetry Day

Worcestershire LitFest & Fringe have just posted my latest blog which focuses on National Poetry Day. You can read it here

I would like to thanks St Barnabas School, Drakes Broughton for inviting me to their Poetry Challenge Day, Worcs LitFest for running the poetry competition, the Museum of Carpet for hosting the evening event and everyone who performed at it. One of the performers was Nina Lewis who has blogged about it here

As promised, here is the poem I wrote on National Poetry Day in response to a request from St Barnabas School:

Being a poet

I look
I might see a giant silver horse’s head in a field!
I look closely
I might see an ant carrying a peanut

I listen
I might hear some unusual words, like crambo-jingle
I listen hard
I might hear a wonderful story
I listen hard
because it’s not hard to listen

I love
I love to look
I love to listen
I love to listen to people
using words
telling stories

I love to tell stories
some real, some made up
I love to laugh
I love funny words
I love to rhyme
like when I wrote about a parrot and a carrot
though poems don’t have to rhyme

To be a poet
all you need is to
look, listen and love

oh, and write it down
or say it out loud:
what you see
what you hear
and what you love
so others can
see it, hear it and love it too.

© Heather Wastie
October 2015

written for a visit to St Barnabas School, Drakes Broughton on National Poetry Day

ESOL Workshops & Kidderminster Arts Festival

I ran some creative writing workshops for ESOL students recently. Follow this link to see a description of the work and watch a short film including some of the poems which were written

In my recent blogs I have completely failed to mention my performances this coming weekend as part of Kidderminster Arts Fetival!

On Friday 21st I’m performing for Arts Etc. in their latest show ‘KABARET’, “a magical, fantabulous show full of the unexpected”. Arts Etc. are an inclusive Community Theatre company – empowerment through creativity. See

My regular spoken word and acoustic music gig, Mouth and Music, has switched to a Sunday afternoon for a circus-themed extravaganza on the 23rd. See for more info.

If you ever want to see my performance diary, do check my website

Now I need to get my accordion out and do some practice!