‘I Dig Canals’ writing workshop 13th Feb

Second flyer FINAL

Back in 2015, I wrote a blog, which gets regular hits, called Found Poetry – 3 ways. It shows ways of creating poems using other written pieces.

On Thursday 13th February 10:00-1:00 I’m running a workshop which will include writing from found sources, both written and oral. The location is unusual – a (stationary) narrow boat moored on the canal near the historic Dudley Tunnel.

Many of today’s canals would have been lost had it not been for a group of dedicated campaigners. The phrase I Dig Canals was a campaign slogan in the 1970s when the word ‘dig’ had a double meaning. Reading today about that period, you would think only men took part in the work to save the canals, but of course women were there too. The I Dig Canals project was set up by Alarum Theatre, supported by the National Lottery Heritage Fund, to unearth hidden stories about women’s involvement in these campaigns in the Black Country in the 1960s and 1970s which I remember from my childhood and teenage years. Here I am on our family-owned narrow boat Laurel, an ex-working boat.

Heather Smith on Laurel

The Workshop will take place on board The Vic Smallshire, Dudley Canal & Tunnel Trust, 501 Birmingham New Road, Dudley, DY1 4SB. Participants will use oral history recordings, written accounts and documentary sources such as magazine articles to create poetry or prose pieces that capture the essence of the stories. The workshop is free of charge and those attending will be invited to perform their work at the final project celebration on Saturday 4th April at 6pm at Dudley Canal & Tunnel Trust. Some of the work created will also be included in a book.

To book, email Nadia Stone, Project Manager idigcanals@alarumtheatre.co.uk. Click on the link below for the I Dig Canals flyer with further information.

I Dig Canals flyer

Childhood snaps

Childhood snaps

Taking my red hot threepenny bit, Mr Lowe in the chip shop
adorned my palm as I stood waiting, drawing patterns with his pen.

No such attention from Mr Price the cobbler when I called for
a hard, leather-scented brown paper parcel for my dad.

Chips or shoes, whatever I carried home, I could still motion
the pulling up of socks after every few steps.

We drew a marker pen smile on a cardboard box with cardboard feet,
three eyes and a Toblerone nose, my brother and I.

One day, fingers wrapped round a scaffolding pole in Newtown Lane,
my friend Janet swung and bashed her front teeth and they swung too.

In our front room, glowering at the piano I’d sit, stubborn fingers thrust
deeply into armpits for twice the requisite practice time.

My reasoning power was no better than my skipping – a wooden grip,
two skips with a rope and I’d trip, decide I can’t do it, go back in the warm.

Mom doing the washing up, the budgie perched on the rim of her specs,
peering in at her, tapping the glass, one day toppling into the bowl.

Slender fingers squeezing off the suds
and delicately rinsing the budgie under the tap.

In ’62 the Big Freeze slapped snow up the step, howled in the entry.
Was it my dad carved a tunnel of white, straddling the gutter?

Across our road, behind the Totney’s, I remember a wasteland,
puncturing my hand on nails and rushing the blood home to Mom,

always on call for accidents at the family cooperage next door,
ready to soothe, dab out the dirt and bandage wounds.

When the men had gone home, I sneaked up the yard into the works
to make pies with wood and shavings, sitting under the circular saw.

© Heather Wastie