During our tour of Idle Women of the Wartime Waterways, Kate Saffin and I have been invited to write a couple of guest blogs. Here’s a link to one I wrote for Frost Magazine which is introduced by Milly Adams. It’s all about the route the women took from Birmingham to the Coventry coalfields, a route I remember from my childhood.
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!
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.
A performance can change a space for ever. When ‘engagement and creative arts warrior’ Rachel Sharpe said words to this effect, I was struck by the truth of it. Having toured Idle Women of the Wartime Waterways to venues unused to hosting performances, I knew what she was getting at.
A good example is the Wildside Activity Centre in Wolverhampton, alongside the Staffs & Worcs Canal. The room was laid out for us to perform against the short wall of their rectangular space, the ‘top’ of the room – a wall cluttered with displays and other bits and pieces – but we chose the long wall which had several windows. We asked for the chairs to be arranged in a wide arc so that people could see us more easily, and we drew the curtains which created a simple dark backdrop without distractions. The organisers had never hosted a theatrical show before and were very accommodating. At the end of the evening, the Centre’s Project Leader, Steve, looked up at the strip lights and commented that for future events of this nature, it would be good to improve the lighting to make it more atmospheric. So a space previously seen only as an ‘activity room’ now has an added dimension as a theatre, and the success of our show has encouraged them to put on more events of this nature.
There are other venues where we didn’t feel as if our hosts had noticed that they could easily have done more to give us a quiet space where we wouldn’t have to compete with, for example, the ring of a till or loud conversation. A pub which hasn’t hosted theatre before won’t necessarily have realised that it’s not appropriate to book people in to have a meal during the show. It may not occur to them that clattering cutlery and the necessity to communicate over dinner orders is not ideal for audience and artists alike! Some hosts will have taken things like this on board for the future and others not.
Not only does a performance change the space, but the audience changes the performance. A large responsive audience in a compact space gives a virtual sounding board which lifts us. Concentration was harder when we had: a sprawling audience with people chatting at the back, a bloke in the second row holding up a device to take photos or a video, wandering and/or barking dogs, a drunken woman (who was really enjoying the show), a man in a loud shirt whose phone had a very loud ringtone …. Every performance feels different and has its own quirks, not least because of the venue and the audience, and taking theatre to non-arts spaces means working round all sorts of inconveniences whilst hoping to develop use of that space and raise awareness of how arts events can work well in community venues.
Some people have come to see our show at least twice and have said it’s even better the second time, which is good to know! Tomorrow night we’re at Theatre in the Dock in Banbury when there will be a special announcement about our exciting plans for 2017. Next year there will be opportunities for our show to have an impact on new spaces, as we take audiences into another world where much of their surroundings are imagined: the back of a boat, a pub, a lock, the towpath, top planks, tarpaulin, sirens, doodlebugs … and lots of women!
For details of our forthcoming London shows and for more information, go to the Alarum Theatre website.
I’m delighted to announce that ABNB Boat Brokerage will be supporting Alarum Theatre’s Autumn tour of Idle Women of the Wartime Waterways! http://www.abnb.co.uk/
Wednesday 7th Sept – 7.30pm • Garden of Camp House Inn, Grimley, WR2 6LX, 01905 640288 – In association with The Worcestershire Literary Festival & Fringe
Saturday 10th Sept – 7.30pm • The Windlass Cafe and Restaurant, Stourport, DY13 9EN, 01299 871742 – In association with Stourport Heritage Open Days, Stourport Canal Basin
Thursday 15th Sept – 7.30pm • The Folly Inn, Napton on the Hill, CV47 8NZ, 01926 815185
Friday 23rd Sept – 7.30pm • The Wildside Activity Centre, Wolverhampton, WV6 0HA, 01902 572240
Sunday 25th Sept – 1.30pm • Wolverhampton Boat Club, Codsall, Wolverhampton, WV8 1RS, 07977 101411
Friday 30th Sept – 7.30pm • Theatre in the Dock, Tooley’s Boatyard, Banbury, OX16 2PQ, 01295 272917
* Saturday 1st Oct – 2.30pm • Theatre in the Dock matinee, Tooley’s Boatyard, Banbury, OX16 2PQ, 01295 272 917
– Includes a wartime tea!
* Mon 28th & Tues 29th Nov – 7.30pm • The Rosemary Branch Theatre, Hoxton, N1 3DT, 020 7704 6665
* indicates a ticketed event (see www.alarumtheatre.co.uk for details) otherwise free entry with donations to support the artists
Photos from our Summer Tour:
My poem Poo Stick Parade was written after a walk along the Staffs and Worcester Canal during which I encountered the most noisy group of walkers I have ever come across. It was published on this site for humorous poems yesterday http://www.spillingcocoa.com/poo-stick-parade-by-heather-wastie/
This week I’m doing 2 performances at venues alongside the same (very beautiful) canal. Kate Saffin and I are presenting Idle Women of the Wartime Waterways at Ashwood Marina tomorrow night and the Eagle & Spur Cookley on Wednesday. Both performances start at 7.30. See Idle Women Midlands Tour for full tour details.
This coming Friday, 10th June, sees the start of Worcestershire LitFest. As the outgoing Worcestershire Poet Laureate (yes, the year is up!) I’ve agreed to do 3 performances and a workshop, details of which are summarised in this Worcester News article and appear more fully below. In the same week, I have 3 performances elsewhere so it’s going to be busy!!
Saturday 11th June between 12.00 & 4.00
Jiggery Spokery at Cheltenham Science Festival
Street entertainment – details to be announced
See https://twitter.com/heatherwastie for updates
Tuesday 14th June 7.30pm
City Voices – 15 minute feature, Weaving Yarns poems & songs
Lych Gate Tavern, 44 Queen Square, Wolverhampton, WV1 1TX
Admission £2.50 (£1 under 16s)
Wednesday 15th June 7.30pm (doors open 6.00)
Museum of Carpet, Stour Vale Mill, Green Street, Kidderminster DY10 1AZ
Admission £5 including Museum entry
Thursday 16th June 7.30pm
Idle Women of the Wartime Waterways
The Camp House, Camp Lane, Grimley, Worcs WR2 6LX
See #idlewomen Midlands tour for more dates
Thursday 16th June 10.30-12.30
Poetry Workshop – Women of WW1
Severn Room, St George’s Hall, Load Street, Bewdley DY12 2EQ
Free to attend but advance booking required
Saturday 18th June 1.00-7.00
Hopfest Music Festival
‘Airlock’ family poetry/storytelling tent including poetry open mic
Hopley’s Family Camping, Cleobury Road, Bewdley, Worcs DY12 2QL
Email email@example.com for details of open mic