Interview with artist, Louise Regan

While soaking up the Fairport Festival atmosphere for my Cropredy writing commission, I visited a pop-up art gallery above the Mulberry Cafe. I was immediately drawn to an ‘illumination’ by Louise Regan and am now the proud owner of a print which I love! My ‘record shot’ photo doesn’t do it justice at all.

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Incidentally, last Saturday at the Merry Hill Floating Market, I was chatting to another artist, Jan Vallance, The Art Boat. She told me how difficult it is to photograph her art to advertise it online; finding the right lighting conditions is tricky for a boat dweller! I love Jan’s work too, all based on her journeys on the canal network.

I hadn’t realised that Louise also lives on a boat until I contacted her on Instagram (@louiseumbra) to ask if she would like to be interviewed for my Cropredy-related blog. This was a bonus, because I want to include people’s thoughts about the canal in my poetry writing. I should say that I haven’t yet met Louise, so the interview is by way of an email exchange.

Louise Regan

Louise Regan

Cropredy’s sense of community
Having grown up in a village, I wanted the same for my daughter. I like the friendliness and sense of community. Cropredy’s sense of community is very strong, which I think has a lot to do with the Fairport Festival. It gives the village a real identity and the revenue it brings in means we have 2 pubs, a shop, a school and various little businesses; which in turn ensures its not a second-home village (like a lot of surrounding villages are). Whilst house prices are high, a good amount of villagers are working class. It’s got bags of local history and from an artist’s point of view, plenty of lovely bits!

Boat life
If you think village life is about strong community, boat life is double that! Got a problem? Need a hand? Someone will be there to help! We live in a self sufficient little world, responsible for everything we need (which involves being organised!) – water, electricity, heating, loo etc. You can also make a boat very much your own – I’m an avid DIYer! Last year I built a kitchen. It might not be like something out of a showroom, but it’s just how I want it and it hasn’t fallen apart yet!

Tranquillity and nature
I will never take the tranquillity for granted or being so close to nature. In mid April and mid October, when the sun is just setting, from our side doors I can see all the spider webs across our field and it’s magical. The curlews arrived mid February this year, which was so exciting! And when the swallows get here there’s a feeding frenzy over the canal after their long journey.

Louise Regan - Medieval Town Illumination

Louise Regan – Medieval Town Illumination

Being an artist
I’ve been arty for as long as I can remember. I’ve been selling painted canal ware for years in various outlets and, over the last two years, taking in online commissions for medieval illuminated lettering and baby name paintings. It wasn’t until February 2019 that I joined Church Lane Gallery, Banbury and actually started exhibiting. It involved a great deal of encouragement from my husband! I was creating my crazy complicated illumination/architectural/nature mash ups as a form of relaxation and he kept telling me I ought to join a gallery – he even went into CLG, had a chat and got me an application form. So over the last 6 months I have discovered people actually understand, connect with, like my work and want to own it!

The future of Cropredy
I shouldn’t imagine Cropredy will change much. I hope the younger generation can afford to stay in the village. The houses certainly won’t change that much, and I hope that we have enough ridge and furrow (providing the protection order isn’t lifted!) around to protect us from being eaten by Banbury.

Louise Regan - Banbury Illumination A3

Louise Regan – Banbury Illumination A3

I’m grateful to Louise for sparing the time to send me her thoughts and allowing me to edit them (only a little!) into this blog. I will certainly choose a few phrases to feed into the poems I am writing. Thanks also to Church Lane Gallery for organising the pop-up exhibition. It was great meeting Amy and Dave there, and fascinating to find out more about their work.

See also Interview with masseur, Ross White

Don’t Oil The Hinges Heather Wastie’s Book Launch

From one former Worcestershire Poet Laureate to another, here’s a review of my book launch by Nina Lewis. Thanks Nina!

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Behind every Worcestershire Poet Laureate is a book and 2018 sees the launch of a new one. Heather Wastie was Worcestershire Poet Laureate 2015-16 and since passing her crown onto Suz Winspear (who in turned passed the crown to me), Heather has been busy touring Idle Women, writing a book of poems for The Ring Project and creating Nationwide adverts… so it is no surprise that this new collection (her 7th book) took a while in the making.

The beautiful cover is designed by Jess Silk.

I was delighted to attend her launch last Saturday 15th September at Park’s Cafe, Droitwich. Apt that we celebrated the launch in the very cafe that features the door which led to the poem/title of the collection. ‘Park’s Cafe Poetry Reading’.

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It was a delightfully fun evening which brought back lots of memories and people. Heather loves to collaborate and I found it particularly touching…

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Black coffee and onions

My husband is going to a funeral today. Ron was a dearly loved teacher who I only met a couple of times, but he made an instant impression on me and I wrote a poem about him. Or at least I started it. It’s a snapshot of a brief visit to Ron’s house when I warmed to him straight away as he joked about making black coffee. But that poem was never finished. Looking at it again reminded me of a piece I did complete, after visiting another lovely elderly man called Geoff. I only popped in to leave something for his wife but the encounter stayed with me.

Onions
for Geoff

As I arrived he apologised
that the house smelled of onions.

He vanished then reappeared,
proudly holding a freezer bag
packed with his morning’s work.

The wife can’t do it for crying, he said,
So I chop them up while she’s away.

© Heather Wastie
June 2010

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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Updates to my Privacy Policy

If only I could just send this poem to my mailing list to satisfy the new data protection laws.

Brian Bilston's Poetry Laboetry

I am updating my Privacy Policy
as part of my ongoing commitment
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using simple-to-understand language,
such as please go away
and just leave me alone.

I will not share myself with third parties,
dinner parties or fancy dress parties.
For offers of free biscuits,

please consult my Cookie Policy.
My privacy is important to me
as is this duvet.

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Broad Street Canal Bridge, Wolverhampton

I’m delighted that my poem Histrionic Water has been published on Writing the Black Country, a website buzzing with Black Country atmosphere.

Writing the Black Country

Untitled drawing (7)Histrionic water

By Heather Wastie

In Wolverhampton,

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…

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Not so Idle Women

It was really good to see the current Worcestershire Poet Laureate at our show on Saturday. In her exceedingly busy schedule she even found time to blog about it ….

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On Saturday night I finally managed to catch the Idle Women Tour, this is a project Heather Wastie has worked on since 2016, I missed the 2017 performances and have been meaning to catch a show ever since!

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The show gained financial support from Arts Council England, which enabled the employment of a Tour Manager, Zoe Hunn and Director, Milla Jackson.

Last Autumn Idle Women featured on BBC Country File, which aired November 12th as part of Remembrance programming.

https://alarumtheatre.co.uk/broadcast/bbc-countryfile/

The Spring Tour started last week with a performance at The Chestnut Inn,  Worcester on Tuesday 3rd April.

idle women chestnut inn© 2018 – Alarum Theatre

I knew the basic content of the show and have been aware of Heather’s work and some of the poetry. I purposefully didn’t look into the Double Bill and had no idea what to expect from Kate Saffin (other than half the show).

Photographs taken in the first week of the…

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