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 http://blackpear.net/authors-and-books/heather-wastie/

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

Feedback

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

 

Peg-boarding
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

Carpet factory memories

During my time as Writer in Residence at the Museum of Carpet, I ran some writing workshops. Margaret Green came to one of these workshops and talked about her memories of life in Kidderminster when she was a young girl. I wrote a poem using what she had told me. When I asked her for permission to publish the poem on my blog, she sent me the piece below which describes vividly what it was like for her as a young girl working in a carpet factory at the height of the industry. She wrote it after visiting the Museum with a group of poets who meet in Bewdley – the Bewdley Bards. My poem for Margaret appears first.

Sitting on the step
for Margaret Green

I’m sitting on the step,
my step,
the one with the cigarette burns,
cold because the sun never reaches it

I shuffle my dress
to cover the backs of my legs
and hug my knees

This morning
I woke to the call of Brintons Bull
and pulled on yesterday’s clothes

and now I’m sitting on my step
waiting by the factory doorway
waiting for the weavers
to give me sweets

© Heather Wastie
October 2015

Visit to the Museum of Carpet in Kidderminster
by Margaret E Green (McCormick)
July 2015

Nostalgia sweeps over me, as I recall my first day at work, in Brintons Carpet factory. I was so young, at fifteen, but I soon fitted in to factory life; I was no longer a schoolgirl, but I was proud that I “worked!”

Memories came to me, remembering unfamiliar places to a young girl; the noise of the weaving looms, frightening at first; later on, I could easily identify the different sounds in the weaving sheds.

I smiled, thinking of the fun I had, and the young men, creelers, that I quickly became friendly with. The jokes that they played upon me. I was put in a basket, which was used to carry bobbins up the side of the loom, but they put me in one of them, and hoisted me up the loom, then left me, laughing at a safe distance.

I remember two young creelers, holding me in a sitting position in a chair, then painting my legs with size, the latex liquid, used on the backing of carpets. Of course, in the fifties, we were wearing stockings and suspenders; when I arrived back home from work that evening, I had to peel my stockings off my legs, painful, but funny.

Brintons was opposite the fire station; when the siren sounded, we all stopped what we were doing, and watched the retained firemen, who worked at Brintons, race along the side of the river Stour, which ran through the centre of the factory. It felt very exciting to me, to see the men running; well, I was only fifteen years old.

I experienced nostalgia again, when touching the carpets, feeling the yarn and remembering some of the patterns of carpets. Reliving the days when I had progressed to the mending department, then on to be a qualified carpet picker; remembering the sore fingers, from the large needle with which we mended the missing shots in the carpets. We all worked at a fast pace; piece work meant the more carpets we repaired, the greater the pay packet. I worked hard, and earned good money by the time I was only sixteen years of age. The best job was the picking and I enjoyed the company of friends. I still had fun, even though I wasn’t in and out of the sheds any more, talking with the young men, and wandering about the factory, sometimes where I shouldn’t be wandering!

Happy days, good memories, of my first job, in Brintons carpet factory.

Brinton’s Bull

Thanks to Museum volunteers Mick Lowe and Sandra Ash for giving me the idea for this poem, which also includes words from Garry Hooper and Amanda Barrie who I chatted to on Facebook, and Carol who I met at Sight Concern. The photo is ‘Home Time’ at Carpet Trades 1960 which was the nearest I could get to the image described to me!

Home time, 7 Nov 1960Carpet Trades (Berrows photo)

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
July 2013

 

Having asked for stories about Brinton’s Bull, which used to sound in the town 5 times a day, I was really pleased to get lots of responses on a Facebook group called Kidderminster Past. I have combined these comments into the Brinton’s Bull Blues which I will be performing with Kate Wragg at Kidderminster Arts Festival, both in the Museum of Carpet and in the Boars Head pub. Thanks to all those who responded and all those I have interviewed so far. Much of the material I have written from these interviews will be included in the performance.

Kidderminsterstufffrontkiddermisterstuffback

Brinton’s Bull Blues

I’m sitting at the window
and I hear that whistle blow,
sitting at the window
and I hear that whistle blow,
seven twenty in the morning
and I hear that whistle blow.

Dot’s on her way from Cookley to Kidder,
pedalling as fast as she possibly can.
John’s in a panic but knows ten minutes
is plenty to get on his bike and clock in.

Mal and her mother have jumped in the car,
her Mum starts at half past, it’s not very far
to Quayle and Tranter on the edge of town,
the fabulous Bull never lets them down.

Creeler Brian is standing beneath it
watching the day workers coming in.
Chris is in Sutton Road doing his paper round
timed by the Bull, so he’s listening.

I’m standing at the gate
and I hear that whistle blow,
standing at the gate
and I hear that whistle blow,
seven thirty in the morning
and I hear that whistle blow

Eric’s in Worcester Street on his dad’s bike,
just started work at the age of sixteen.
Woodward Grosvenor’s gates will be locked,
he knows he won’t get to the clocking in machine.

Michele is sauntering on Hurcott Lane.
Bazz leaving home knows he’s going to be late.
Michele on her way from Land Oak to Lea Castle.
Bazz being clocked in by his mate,

Alan, who’s thinking “He’ll get me in trouble!
He’d better show up or we’ll both get the sack!”
Bazz thinking, “Al, I’ll be there in a jiffy”
jumps on his bike without looking back.

Mike knows it’s time he was getting up,
if he doesn’t he’d better look out for his dad
who’ll be threatening him with a glass of cold water
and so he groans and gets out of bed.

The streets are all deserted
but I hear that whistle blow
The streets are all deserted
but I hear that whistle blow
The afternoon is ghostly
and I hear that whistle blow

Mandy’s out playing, it’s lunchtime at school.
Phill’s having dinner at home with his dad.
“Come on! The buzzer’s gone! Got to get going!
From Wood Street to Mill Street and drive like mad!

Later there’s Rachel who’s waiting impatiently,
stood with her mom at the factory gate,
the sound of the Bull makes her so excited,
she knows that she hasn’t got long to wait.

There’s a crowd building up at Brinton’s gate,
Garry is running to catch his bus,
Amanda is happy her dad will be home soon
like hundreds he’s part of the five o’clock rush.

I can see a revolution
when I hear that whistle blow,
see a revolution
when I hear that whistle blow,
I can see the town revolving
round that whistle when it blows.

I can see that steam a-rising
and I hear that whistle blow,
see that steam a-rising
and I hear that whistle blow,
it ain’t nothing but a memory
cos that Bull don’t blow no more.

© Heather Wastie
June 2013

2nd verse based on a 4 line poem by Mal Ballinger, slightly altered to fit.