BBC Panel: Black Country Tongue and Talk

Next Thursday, 11th February, 7.00-8.00pm, I’ll be taking part in this online event:

Behind the Tongue and the Talk – panelists talk about their role in the creation of the Black Country edition of the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘Tongue and Talk – The Dialect Poets’. Join City of Wolverhampton Poet Laureate, Emma Purshouse, as she natters to actress, writer and series producer Catherine Harvey, poet and playwright Brendan Hawthorne (Poet Laureate for Wednesbury), singer songwriter and poet Heather Wastie, along with dialect expert Esther Asprey. Expect discussion about our local vernacular, with some Black Country dialect poetry and song thrown into the mix.

As you may have guessed, you’ll be getting some poetry and a song from me, plus some canting (which has absolutely nothing to do with being hypocritical, pious or righteous). If you’re from the Black Country, you’ll know what I’m talking about; if not, do tune in and find out! Here’s the link for more details and to book.

The Black Country Museum

#BostinNews The Battle of Stourbridge

This is my final blog about the Bostin News project. Of the five pieces I initiated for this Creative Black Country commission, two were written and recorded by me. I blogged about the first one last week. Now, let me tell you about The Battle of Stourbridge.

I decided to tell this story in a poem when I came across a series of photographs on the Inland Waterways Association website. Since writing the piece, IWA have revamped their website so the photographs are no longer there, but luckily I found a different source. Here’s my favourite. The boat is Vesta, owned by Max Sinclair who is standing at the tiller. Almost in the centre of the shot is a woman looking after two of Max’s children. One of them is Ian, who kindly sent me the photographs.

Everybody involved. Don Evans on shaft. Garth Allan on tiller not his usual paintbrush.

As you can see the (original) photo caption doesn’t mention the woman or children by name; I’m not convinced they were in mind when the word ‘everybody’ was used either. Most of the photos were taken by Phil Hutchings though Max probably wrote the caption, and, together with the other shots, have an immediacy which draws us into the drama of trying to get these boats up the Stourbridge arm in 1961.

And I know how exciting it must have been. In fact I was probably there because my mother remembers it. She told me that, while the long line of boats waited behind Vesta when it was stuck under a bridge, she carved up a cake she had on our little cruiser and handed out pieces as far as they would go to hungry people on the adjacent craft. A few years later we had our own 70 foot historic boat, struggling to move it on the neglected canals and determined to do everything we could to get them restored.

I wanted to write a poem which put the photos into context and expressed the spirit and dedication of the enthusiastic volunteers. The piece, as text and video, is on the Creative Black Country blog. It’s also on my YouTube channel. I feel a bit bad that the woman in the middle of the action isn’t mentioned in my poem. One day I’d better have a go at writing something just for her.

#BostinNews Inspiring canal bridges

Having blogged about the three other artists I commissioned – Alex Vann, Al Barz and Lou Blakeway, it’s time to tell you about my pieces, commissioned by Creative Black Country. Here’s the first:

It was so good to have a creative project to get on with during the first lockdown. My car MOT was due, so I drove to Pym’s garage in Netherton, Dudley which I’ve been using since I first had a car. I was a bit nervous about being out but it was an opportunity to walk along the canal behind the garage in an area which has been landscaped, belying its industrial past. Warren’s Hall, Bumble Hole, Windmill End… this picturesque area has several names, and on this particular day the reflection of the latticed arches and the cloud formations attracted my attention. So I took lots of photos. Here are some of them:

Up to that point I hadn’t decided what I would write about for either of my Bostin News commissions. I knew I wanted to focus on Dudley, and as I took these photos it occurred to me that these three bridges would make a good subject. That’s how I came to write Three Bridges, Four Tunnels.

I used Canals of Birmingham and the Black Country, No. 2 in the Historical Canal Maps series, as well as consulting online sources, to help me learn about the history of the area. Although I had been there many, many times over the years, I didn’t know much about the industry or the full story of why the canal arms which travel under two of the bridges are dead ends. Using the bridges as starting points, I wrote a set of three poems and was lucky enough to be able to commission Lou Blakeway to create some atmospheric linocuts of the bridges to go with them. Click the link above to see the video, the linocuts and the the text of the poem.

Black Country Tongue and Talk

Tomorrow at 4.30pm, you can hear writer, performance poet, Wolverhampton Poet Laureate and good friend Emma Purshouse exploring Black Country dialect on BBC Radio 4.

In a programme made during lockdown, Emma considers the impact of industry, heritage, landscape, and the changing nature of close-knit communities upon dialect writers, of whom I am one. I’m really looking forward to hearing which bits of our interview she selected for inclusion. There’s definitely a poem – I know that much. And it will be great to hear the voices of lots of folk I know too. Do join us by tuning in tomorrow at 4.30 or listening when you have half an hour to spare. Here’s the link:

Tongue and Talk – Ep 4 The Black Country

For other Black Country posts on my blog see Writing in Black Country dialect

National Pigeon Day

I’ve just found out that today is National Pigeon Day! Pigeon racing was quite popular in the Black Country when I was growing up. I have to admit, I’m not keen on pigeons; I’m not sure why. My good friend, poet Emma Purshouse has written a brilliant poem about them. It’s in her book Tipton Tales. You can find out more about it here – there’s even a drawing of a pigeon. I prefer magpies. Here’s a little poem about them, from my book The Page-Turner’s Dilemma. The illustration is by Jules ~ cartoonist.

proof gangland small

A search on my computer has revealed the fact that I have written three poems which mention pigeons. One of them appears below, based on true life experiences, possibly explaining one of the reasons I’m not fond of pigeons.

Before the poem, here’s an old Black Country Aynuk and Ayli joke:

Aynuk says to Ayli, “If yo con guess ow many pidgins am in me loft, ah’ll gi yer booth on em.”

Droppings on the washing

No fingers, so no prints
on my best red vest
so I summoned all the pigeons
for a DNA test.

Pete says faeces
don’t have DNA
so the evidence was useless
and the culprit got away!

© Heather Wastie

Writing in Black Country dialect

On Thursday night in Cradley Heath in the Black Country, where I grew up, I’m running a drop-in session to investigate whether or not the local dialect is dying out. I’ve been collecting dialect words and phrases by chatting to people, in person and on Facebook, and have been overwhelmed by the number of responses I’ve had.

As part of the Where’s Our Spake Gone? project, I’ve been commissioned by Rights & Equality Sandwell to create new work to be shared at another event in Cradley Heath, on Wednesday 6th April. (See http://ourspake.co.uk/) One thing about dialect is that it’s an oral language, so it’s tricky writing it down. Reading the Facebook comments, I’ve sometimes struggled to interpret the spelling, even though the dialect is familiar, because different people spell the same word in different ways, and there’s no right or wrong way of doing it.

Below is a poem I wrote for performance on International Mother Language Day last year when I was pleased to represent the Black Country at the new Library of Birmingham. The annual celebration is held on February 21st. Here’s the blog I wrote about it in 2015 https://weavingyarns1.wordpress.com/2015/02/17/international-mother-language-day/.

If you’re not from the Black Country, this poem will be difficult to understand. I’ve tried to make it as easy as possible whilst being true to the way it sounds when I perform it, and every time I type it out I change the spelling! I thought about adding translations of some of the words, and will be happy to do that if anyone asks. For the pedants (like me) it’s annoying that many of the apostrophes marking missing letters are the wrong way round but it would take me a while to sort that out. If you’ve ever used WordPress you’ll understand why! Anyway, here’s the poem. See what you make of it. (If you want a translation, some of it appears in plain English in my poem 37 Holly Bush Street https://weavingyarns1.wordpress.com/2016/01/14/wheres-our-spake-gone/)

Teks me back

This poem teks me back
ter terraced ‘ouses on an ‘ill
wi’ front rooms kept fer Sunday best
an’ big fat windersills.

This poem teks me back
ter coal in the coal ‘ole, wood in the stove,
an entry, a fode an’ an outside lew,
pikelets on a fork, toasted wi’ love.

This poem teks me back
ter disembodied voices torturin’ God
once a wik dahn the Mission,
the Valetin’ bull, the drap ommer’s thud.

This poem teks me back
tew Alice marchin’ past our winder
tew ‘elp Mr Williams who’s short o’ one leg,
tekkin ‘im mate an’ tew veg fer ‘is jinner.

This poem teks me back
ter th’ooman oo wanted ter borry our phone
ter mek assignairtions wi’ men
cuz ‘er day a’ one of ‘er own
(ne’er a mon, ne’er a phone).

This poem teks me back
ter trips up the road ter Dingley’s shap
where ah liked ter say “Cheese please Louise!”
(in me yed) as ‘er cut off a slab.

This poem teks me back
tew our pairnted lairdy wi’ pitch black ‘air,
a buxom wench, allez tarted up.
Ah con still see ‘er stondin’ theer.

This poem teks me back
ter the owny buildin’ still left stondin’,
the pub, thar ah day goo in as a child.
Bur ah dew now! Yo could call it ‘bondin’.

© Heather Wastie

Performances coming up

If you’d like to find out about some of the work I’ve been doing as Worcestershire Poet Laureate since I was appointed last June, go to http://worcslitfest.co.uk/worcestershire-poet-laureate/heathers-wpl-blog-january-2016/

To find out what I’ve got coming up, read on ….

A week on Saturday I’ll be at the National Waterways Museum performing Idle Women and Judies and some new poems, all of which tell the stories of women who worked on the canals during World War 2.

IMG_1416

In March I’ll be featured poet at Howl in Moseley with a 15 minute set of performance poetry and in July I’ll be presenting an hour-long family show of poetry and music based around my book The Page-Turner’s Dilemma (poetry & tales from behind the music stand) in Evesham.

TPTD cover cartoon by Jules

Cartoon by Jules ~ cartoonist

Right now I’m working on a project about Black Country dialect. It’s called Where’s Our Spake Gone and I’ve been commissioned to work in Cradley Heath which is where I grew up. I’m having a wonderful time collecting together dialect words and phrases so that I can write new pieces to be shared at an event in April. I’ve you’d like to get involved, do come to my drop-in session on Thursday February 11th (see poster below).

Details of all these events are below.

Saturday 13th February between 10.00 and 4.00
Idle Women and Judies
National Waterways Museum Reopening Weekend
South Pier Road, Ellesmere Port, Cheshire CH65 4FW

https://canalrivertrust.org.uk/enjoy-the-waterways/museums-and-attractions/national-waterways-museum

Wednesday 9th March 7.30pm
Featured Poet – Howl
The Dark Horse, 145 Alcester Road, Moseley, Birmingham B13 8JP
Free entry

https://www.facebook.com/howlspokenword/
http://www.darkhorsemoseley.co.uk

Where's our spake gone drop-in

Wednesday 6th April 7.30pm
Where’s our spake gone?
Cradley Heath Library, Upper High Street, Cradley Heath B64 5JU
http://ourspake.co.uk

Sunday 3rd July 3.00-4.00pm
The Page-Turner’s Dilemma
Evesham Festival of Words
Unitarian Chapel, Oat Street, Evesham, Worcs WR11 4PJ

http://eveshamfestivalofwords.org/programme/

 

 

Where’s our spake gone?

As regular readers of this blog will know, I lived in the Black Country until moving to Kidderminster in 2006. As a child, my home was in Holly Bush Street, Cradley Heath and right now I’m in search of the old spake! I’ve been commissioned to create new work for ‘Where’s Our Spake Gone?’, a Heritage Lottery project managed by Rights and Equality Sandwell, and want to talk to people born and raised in Cradley Heath who use local dialect.

Here are some of the things I’m interested in:

Is Black Country dialect dying out or still going strong?
What’s special about the Cradley Heath dialect?
Do older people who speak ‘broad’, talk to their children and grandchildren in dialect?

I’ll be talking to various groups of people, both adults and children, and am holding a public event in the Holly Bush pub, a short walk from where my house used to be. (Holly Bush Street was demolished in the 70s.) The event is on Thursday 11th February at the Holly Bush, 53 Newtown Lane, Cradley Heath B64 5EA. Drop in for a chat any time between 7.00 and 9.00pm. For those of you who use Facebook, here’s a link to the event there https://www.facebook.com/events/933776720023893/

Here’s one of several poems I’ve written in memory of Holly Bush Street, together with a short poem in dialect, about dialect.

37 Holly Bush Street 

37 Holly Bush Street,
a few doors up from the Mission,
lying in bed on a Sunday morning
trying hard not to listen
to the slowest singing in Cradley Heath,
a rousing hymnotic dirge:
“May all God’s notes be joined as one
Slide heavenward and converge!
And when we’ve emptied out our lungs
And, Lord, can sing no more,
We’ll quench our lasting thirst for thee
In the ’olly Bush next door.”

37 Holly Bush Street,
a few doors down from Dingley’s,
source of kali and sherbet dabs
and chocolate drops sold singly.
And there goes Alice in carpet slippers,
fulfilling her daily pledge,
striding uphill to a soul in need
with a plate full of meat and two veg.
And late in the darkness goes ‘Uncle’ George
who brought in the coal at New Year.
As he rolls down the road with his darling Gladys,
piercing the closing-time air
comes “Good night, Gladys!” and “Goodnight, George!”
all down the street and beyond,
echoing through the silent years
till front doors bang shut and are gone.

37 Holly Bush Street,
the heart of a microcosm,
from the boy who dribbled and never grew old
to the woman who flaunted her bosom.
And one day they shovelled us into a heap
and threw all the pavements away,
stopping just short of the pub and the Mission,
but leaving me nowhere to play.

© Heather Wastie

 

Learnin ter spake

Babby
doh spake
cor spake
learnin
to spake

Yo spake
I spake
I spake
like yo

Babby grows
goz to skewl
learnin to spake

Yo spake
like I spake
an I spake
like yo

Babby grows
goz to uni
knows ow to spake

but yo doh spake
like I spake

so I speak like you.

© Heather Wastie

International Mother Language Day

This coming Saturday, February 21st, is International Mother Language Day. Never heard of it? I hadn’t either until I was contacted by the Birmingham Poet Laureate Adrian Blackledge who invited me to perform at a poetry event at the Library of Birmingham. In a programme including Arabic, Bengali, Dutch, English, Farsi, Kurdish, Patois, Somali, Spanish, Urdu and Yoruba, he wanted someone to perform “poems in a more ‘local’ West Midlands/Black Country voice”.

One of the poems I’ll be performing is Childhood Snaps, made up of ‘snapshots’ in words of things and events I remember from my childhood in Cradley Heath. I posted it on my blog recently https://weavingyarns1.wordpress.com/2015/01/17/childhood-snaps/

My set is from 12.45 to 1.00. Here are the details:

Saturday February 21st 11.00am – 3.00pm
International Mother Language Day
Room 101, Library of Birmingham, Centenary Square, B1 2ND

Tickets from £3.50

http://www.libraryofbirmingham.com/event/Events/internationalmotherlanguageday-2015

I’m looking forward to an interesting day!

Interviews on air plus Black Country Night on Saturday

My Alzheimer’s Army song was aired on BBC Hereford & Worcester last Friday and I had a chat with presenter Tammy Gooding. You never know what’s going to happen in a radio interview. We had planned to record this one in advance but it ended up being live and I thought it went really well. You can hear it by following the link, but be quick as I think there’s only a day or so left to listen. http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p025b7hg

I also did an interview for The Milk Bar which is a podcast, which means you should be able to listen to it any time. Again, I thought it went well. People are interested in finding out more about dementia, and that’s what why I recorded the CD; as well as entertaining, the songs inform, using words and thoughts from people I’ve met at Alzheimer’s Society memory cafes. The song is played here too http://themilkbar.podbean.com/e/jason-and-zoe-in-the-milk-bar-episode-272/

Black Country Night
On Saturday night I’ll be performing as Black Country Pat at the Black Country Living Museum. Pat is a long-suffering Black Country wench who hates poetry but writes it any road, whose voice is like a glede under a door and who gets really narked if you call her a Brummie. Here she is plus a link for further info:

Black Country Pat (photo by Geoff Cox) performing in Worcester High Street for Clik Clik Collective Worcester Music Festival 2014

http://www.bclm.co.uk/events/black-country-night/1118.htm#.VBGEqGMXPTr