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.

Peg-boarding and “Tying the Knot”

Last night my project was featured on Radio Wildfire, a streaming radio station which has included my work many times. It’s an excellent organisation promoting spoken word at http://www.radiowildfire.com. This morning I was delighted to receive a response to the broadcast from Charles and Jean Talbot of the Carpet Museum Trust, saying “It was very moving to hear the stories that we have all been determined for so long to celebrate by creating the museum.”  It is thanks to the Talbots along with other determined volunteers that the Museum opened last October after 30 years of hard work!

On Thursday morning I’m running a writing workshop which will respond to a talk by Melvyn Thompson, one of the band of determined volunteers mentioned above! He’s a mine of information and a very entertaining speaker. It’s not too late to book for the workshop which starts with Melvyn’s talk at 11.00 and finishes at 1.30. By way of a taster, here’s a 10 minute video which begins with Melvyn talking about how he came to work in the carpet industry before moving on to a song I wrote about a weaver who married a picker, all filmed in the Museum of Carpet by White Raven Films.

There’s another writing workshop on Sunday too which will begin with a tour of the Museum. Further details can be found on the Workshops page of this website.

Here is one of the poems which was broadcast on Radio Wildfire last night.

New designs – a secret job (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
February 2013