Memories of Jerzy Szauman-Szumski born Poland 1922

Today I received a message about someone I met in 2013 through my Weaving Yarns oral history project. Jerzy Szauman-Szumski was born in Poland in 1922. He told me how he came to work in the carpet industry in Kidderminster. His warm, generous personality made an impression on me straight away, and there is a page in my book (Weaving Yarns, Black Pear Press) dedicated to him. I’m sad to know that he died a few weeks ago at the age of 97. I have fond memories of our conversation and can still hear his beautiful voice.

Anna, who took the trouble to contact me, said this about him:

A wonderful gentleman whom I had known all my life. I’m glad you have “immortalised” him in your book.

To honour his memory, here are his words:

I lost my country, lost everything I had. I had to start from nothing. We lost everything generations had worked for – houses, horses, cows… They just came, arrested you and you go. So instead of being a wealthy man, you are beggar. They close you down.

I had good schooling in Poland. I love agriculture, I love country, I love animals. So when I first went to Carpet Trades I remember I was horrified because I never saw factory, never mind work in factory! I was impressed. It was very good, all automatic, chik-chik! I thought, what can I do here? I couldn’t understand anything about it!

I love Tomkinsons family; they’ve been fantastic people, very good to the workers, and I had a good pension, so I can’t grumble. I don’t know whether I deserve it or not!

Heritage Open Day performances on Saturday

The annual Heritage Open Days are free events in September designed to celebrate heritage, community and history. This coming Saturday, September 9th, I will be part of Kidderminster’s contribution to this nationwide festival, giving performances of songs I have written about the newly restored Weavers’ Cottages and others which tell the stories of people who worked in the carpet industry. Click here for a recording of one of those songs, Tying the Knot.

Here’s the schedule:

10.30 outside Town Hall 15 minutes
11.00 inside Town Hall (Corn Exchange) 30 Minutes
12.45 outside Town Hall 15 minutes
2.00 inside Town Hall (Corn Exchange) 30-40 minutes

All performances inside if it’s wet outside!

There will be lots to see inside the Town Hall too.

Weaving Yarns book launched!

This post is all about the fact that Weaving Yarns, poems, songs and real life stories from the carpet industry, is now available to buy! Here is a link for online purchases from Black Pear Press who have been excellent to work with and have produced a first class item which I’m proud to hold in my hand, read from and generally wave in the air at people. http://blackpear.net/authors-and-books/heather-wastie/  You can also buy copies in the Museum of Carpet shop and from me of course!

Weaving Yarns front cover  12237954_873135339460734_9065783628317440527_o(1)

(More photos, taken by Tony Judge from Black Pear Press, appear below.)

I am indebted to the following performers who helped me put together an evening’s entertainment of poetry and music, performing their own work as well as mine: Sarah Tamar, Kathy Gee, Mike Alma, Polly Robinson and Kate Wragg. Many thanks to you all for your wonderful work.

I will let the comments of others describe the evening and the book.

It was a wonderful night, good luck with book sales so pleased with my copy terrific poetry and great photos.
Elizabeth Gelhard

Congratulations on your book launch. I thought it was a great evening and the book is something to be really proud of – you’ve connected with many people on many levels and I’m sure they will treasure this.
Caroline Jester

Well done to Heather and fabulous supporting cast. A very enjoyable evening, look forward to reading the book.
Ian Passey

Thank you for a lovely walk down memory lane! Well done Heather Wastie and all involved this evening it’s been lovely.
Rachel

Thank you Heather Wastie and everyone who took part tonight it was a very enjoyable evening of poems songs and memories.
Linda

Smashing night
Maggie Doyle

Really fantastic
Melanie Biggs

Thank you all for a fabulous evening.
Nicky Griffiths

Thanks Heather, that was a lovely evening.
Mike Alma

Great night!
Sarah Tamar

What a splendid evening it was–a joy to be part of it
Polly Robinson

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Weaving Yarns book launch, Wednesday 11th November

Weaving Yarns is a unique infectious cocktail of assorted snippets and stories about the carpet industry and the folk who helped to make Kidderminster the carpet town.”
(Melvyn Thompson, Historian to the Museum of Carpet in Kidderminster).

Black Pear Press is delighted to announce the launch of Weaving Yarns, a new collection of poetry, songs and stories from Worcestershire Poet Laureate Heather Wastie (Published by Black Pear Press, ISBN: 978-1-910322-18-5). Heather was Writer in Residence at the Museum of Carpet in 2013 and has interviewed many retired carpet factory employees whose stories are told in this book.

The collection traces the impact of the carpet trade on Kidderminster and its people:

In the carpet capital of the world,
Brian is studying the Stour,
today’s mix of colours
from a multitude of dyes.

(From ‘Tell-tale Colours’)

And draws parallels with the carpet industry in other parts of the world:

There’s a line
from Turkey to Kidderminster
girl after girl after girl

tucking tiny fingers
between the warp threads
posed and squashed on solid planks

(From ‘Knotting Frames’)

Enjoy readings and music from Heather and friends, as she celebrates the publication of her book inspired by the rich history of Kidderminster’s carpet industry.

You are invited to join us at the Museum of Carpet, Stour Vale Mill, Green St, Kidderminster DY10 1AZ, 7.15pm for a 7.30pm start on Wednesday 11th November. The event is free to enter and should finish around 9pm.

“What could be better than this collection of poems for the expression of the emotions of townspeople who have witnessed the decay of their staple industry?”  (Nigel Gilbert, Writer and Historian)

The photographs and illustrations in Weaving Yarns are drawn from the extensive archive at the Museum of Carpet, and used with the generous permission of the Museum.

Further information is available from Black Pear Press: tony@blackpear.net
01299 253258

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Carpet Forest in Malvern 20th-30th December

Here’s your final chance to see the wonderful Carpet Forest which includes some of my work. The installation was created for Kidderminster Town Hall and wowed visitors to Kidderminster Arts Festival 2013. Having visited Bristol, it now makes a final appearance at the Malvern Cube. Some of my Weaving Yarns work can be heard on mp3 players hidden amongst the trees. The installation was the brainchild of Loz Samuels, who said this about my involvement:

Having Weaving Yarns as an element of our Carpet Forest installation was a gift, and in turn gave a fantastic environment to showcase a taster of this work. The recordings … gave the public … insight into the real heart of the work. The stories and Heather’s interpretation of them sparked conversations amongst families about their connections with the carpet industry.
Loz Samuels, Wyre Forest District Council Arts Officer

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The invisible landscape of memories

In June of this year, I was interviewed by a mature student from the University of Gloucestershire, working on an MA in Landscape Architecture in which she was researching the ‘invisible landscape’ of memories, stories and associations and its potential uses in urban regeneration and landscape design projects.

“Landscape designers are often strongly influenced by the visual and tangible aspects of a place, but I am interested in the idea that the intangible traces of peoples’ lives, industrial processes and everyday experiences could be an effective source of inspiration for designers, and deepen their understanding of what places mean to people.”

Today she contacted me again to say that her dissertation is finished, and asked for permission to include my poem The day the weaving stopped “as the introductory quote at the start of my chapter on Kidderminster.  Each chapter starts with a quote that I hope reflects the substance of the chapter, and I love the way your poem captures so much of what I’m trying to say about Kidderminster (and other places) in my research.”

I found our conversation very stimulating and interesting and am delighted that my work will be represented in this fascinating research.

The day the weaving stopped
for Bernie

There are flights on the floor,
remnants from a loom that filled the air
with noise and colour.

I had friends in this shed,
weavers who laboured in freezing cold
or stifling heat too hot to work.

I’ll take a broom and sweep
clean away the skill, the sweat,
the tears in grown men’s eyes.

© Heather Wastie
First published on this blog 11 Jun 2013

Here is some additional information about Melanie Clemmey’s research:

The invisible landscape

Towns and cities across the world are struggling with the legacy of rapidly declining industries. Often, as in Kidderminster, the industrial past has influenced every aspect of the urban fabric, from streets and buildings to railways and canals. As industries close down or relocate, they leave behind abandoned buildings and fragmented landscapes, whilst spaces are often filled with brutal highway engineering and poor quality infill developments.

Local authorities anxious to attract investment, jobs and opportunities for their towns often embrace regeneration schemes which offer the prospect of new and better uses for these apparently unloved places. Government policy encourages ‘brownfield development’, but frequently there are difficult issues of pollution, flood control, and other remediation work to overcome, which add cost and complexity to developments. Industrial architecture has not historically been valued by our society, and research into post-industrial sites is in its infancy, leaving them vulnerable to demolition and insensitive development schemes.

Landscape architects are frequently involved in the design and implementation of urban renewal schemes. During my training I began to wonder about the stories, memories and experiences of the people who lived and worked in these landscapes, and whose lives are still bound up with disappearing industries. I wanted to find out if exploring and mapping the invisible landscape of human experience could contribute to the work of professionals involved in urban regeneration, so for my MA I set out to explore its potential to enhance understanding of a place, influence plans for development and generate design ideas.

Melanie Clemmey
June 2014

Working Women in Kidderminster

I regularly perform for Alzheimer’s Society cafes. In January I was booked to do a performance/workshop for the Kidderminster group and, for obvious reasons, focused on the carpet industry. Here are the lyrics to a short song which quotes some of the women who were there that day. The photos, taken by Liz Evans, are from a session at a day centre for people with dementia, Among Friends, also in Kidderminster.

I’ve added a new poem by Eric Harvey to the Your Stories page. It’s an atmospheric piece called Memories of a Draw Boy.

Heather Wastie at Among Friends 1

 

 

 

Working women in Kidderminster

Clocking in early
or clocking in late.
Shopping in the town at lunch time,
passing through the gate.

Reelers, Doffers, Colour finders,
Pickers, Weavers, Setters, Winders.
Working women in Kidderminster.

Laughing with good yarnHeather Wastie at Among Friends 2
or struggling with bad.
Independent working women.
Such good times we had.

Reelers, Doffers, Colour finders,
Pickers, Weavers, Setters, Winders.
Working women in Kidderminster.

© Heather Wastie
January 2014

Kidderminster Shuttle & the Weaver Poet

In the midst of preparing for a private performance of Kidderminster Stuff next week (for the Museum of Carpet Friends), I have just seen an item in the Kidderminster Shuttle about some new audio dramas which will shortly be available to listen to at the Museum. The project to create these ran in parallel with my residency and I’m very much looking forward to hearing them. Here’s a link to the newspaper article http://www.kidderminstershuttle.co.uk/news/10834259.Weaving_looms__tell_their_story__at_Kidderminster_carpet_museum/

In the nineteenth century, there was a poet called Noah Cooke living in Kidderminster. Born in 1831 in very poor circumstances, he became a draw-boy in a carpet factory at the age of nine and eventually became a weaver. He was known as the Weaver Poet and wrote many a broadside ballad. His poem A “Quill” for The Shuttle was written for the first issue of the Kidderminster Shuttle, February 12th 1870.

Here are the first and last stanzas:

Clear the way ye sons of labour
Toiling at the busy loom!
Make a passage for the Shuttle,
Let it have sufficient room ….

…. Wisdom, like a well-fill’d shuttle,
Nicely wrought in every part,
Leaves behind as it progresses
Works of usefulness and art.

In our show, I perform the poem and Kate sings a song she wrote in response to it, juxtaposing the past with the present.

Knives

I have wanted to write about this for ages and have finally got round to it. Val and Jane told me about this particular aspect of working on a loom and I have combined what they told me into one poem.

Knives
for Val & Jane

They were big knives,
as wide as my outstretched arms.
They had to be sharp
to cut through the wool
and when they cut,
fluff would settle on the blades.
As they were parting,

you cupped your hand
to sweep off the floats,
cut and sweep, sweep to the right,
cut and sweep, sweep to the left.

I was taught by a lady,
been on it for years.
I stood and watched
till it was my turn.
At first I was shaking
but she said relax,
do it quickly, don’t dab,
wipe, don’t dab,
cut and sweep, sweep to the right,
cut and sweep, sweep to the left.

Can do it with my eyes closed.

© Heather Wastie
October 2013

Replacing heritage

I was delighted this week to receive a piece for my blog written by John Moyle who tells me he has recently started to write of his experiences of the carpet industry for his University of the Third Age [U3A] Creative Writers’ Group, and also for the benefit of his grandchildren. You will find his very interesting piece on the Your Stories page.  Many thanks, John.

On May 18th I was inspired to write a poem after a short tour organised by Kidderminster Civic Society. Here it is together with a few snapshots by way of illustration.

Replacing heritage

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(Record of a Kidderminster Civic Society tour led by Nigel Gilbert)

From telling ivyed wall of dyer Watson,
rutted cobbles remembering wheels,
incongruous mountain bike, eyebrowed
by eighteenth century arches,
Church Street chopped,
the congregation stopped,

turned back to Arch Hill rise,
closed eyes the only way to see
the manor house demolished 1753,
the site of the town’s first Spool Axminster loom
and rows of weavers’ cottages
discarded far more recently, their memory lost

in retirement homes. But some remember
Bread Street and Milk Street, and others know
that Orchard Street was very briefly Fish Street,
that Paddock Street was once misnamed as Haddock Street!
That Rack Hill took its name from racks
of dyed and drying Kidderminster cloth.

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And where did all the waste go? Into the Stour.
And where did all the heritage go? Carried away
in a frenzy of tidying, elbowing Baxter from Bull Ring,
bullying listed dwellings to rubble.

And now we grimace and glower
at the grubby “entirely self cleansing” tower
of 1960s strength, and cheer with revenge in our eyes
at the news of Crown House’s imminent demise.

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© Heather Wastie
May 2013

For further information about writer and historian Nigel Gilbert see http://nigelgilbert.co.uk. My poem will appear on his website soon and also in the Kidderminster Civic Society Newsletter – see http://www.kidcivicsoc.org.uk for information.