Chloe Clarke’s commissioned poem + NPD photos

The Worcestershire Young Poet Laureate, Chloe Clarke was commissioned by the Museum of Carpet to write a poem inspired by the museum. She performed it there on National Poetry Day at my Light and Shade event. I think it’s a lovely poem and the Museum Manager is really pleased with it. The piece will soon be shared on the Museum blog http://museumofcarpet.org/news-blog/

Carpet People

They worked tirelessly
Every step on the pedal
Every pull every loosen and wind
Every percent of accuracy
Parts of themselves falling between the threads
Forming rosebuds of their work
circles of colour to be
secured, enclosed
They spread themselves over metres of house and home
Created masterpieces in 4 walls
To be laid down, walked on, ripped up and put away
When another shade, pattern or feel came into fashion
Sat, waiting, wanting to be chopped into a new kind of carpet, a rug, a doormat
To be in a new place
Or to have their handiwork glanced at for a final time
See
To you or me
carpet may seem something we never think about… until we’re asked to write a poem about it.
It’s something that we see constantly without a second thought.

But to those people
It was their livelihood
And when they were gone
When their names were lost in time
Faded, like the patterns they dyed
The colours that irritated their skin
it became a fossil of themselves
The only physical proof that they, they were here
That they were

And what a legacy they left
the sound of the machines are still beating in their blood lines
They kept soldiers warm after years of fighting their own battles in the cold
Fingerprints of their existence
Inked themselves over the whole town, country,
Even world
A museum of memories to encapsulate their years
A shrine to their blood sweat and tears.

I wonder if I will ever make anything someone will want to cover their house with
Whether I’ll make anything worth a spot in a gallery, a museum
Or a book worth awards
To be studied in future generations
Whether my name will fade, disappear
Or like a star
Still seen hundreds of years after I have gone
Maybe we will leave behind a home,
memories in our loved ones minds
Words that we said
Maybe we will always be just here (gesture to heart)
Maybe we will leave a possession passed from generation to generation
Like your great grandfathers pocket watch or your grandmothers wedding ring
Maybe we will leave a poem or some carpet, a mixtape or a family video
Things that we’ve spent hours perfecting.

What will be in someone’s garage, living room, back garden, pocket or heart,
As the only proof that we existed?

© Chloe Clarke
Commissioned by Museum of Carpet, Kidderminster, October 2015

Cutting from Slap Magazine http://www.slapmag.co.uk/

Cutting from Slap Magazine
http://www.slapmag.co.uk/

A few of the other performers are represented in the photos below. To find out more about the event see my recent blog post https://weavingyarns1.wordpress.com/2015/10/14/being-a-poet-laureate-on-national-poetry-day/

Cutting from Kidderminster Express & Star

Cutting from Kidderminster Express & Star

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Brian Comber, competition finalist

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Charley Barnes, shortlist public vote Winner

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Suz Winspear and Nina Lewis

Suz Winspear and Nina Lewis

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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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Weaving Yarns in Bristol & a poem about Floors

Photo of carpet forestDuring last year’s Kidderminster Arts Festival, some of my Weaving Yarns work could be heard in a forest made of carpet which transformed Kidderminster Town Hall. The forest was such a beautiful and relaxing place to be that people spent time sitting under the trees, even taking in picnics. It was magical. Here’s what Loz Samuels, whose idea the installation was, said about my contribution:

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 on mp3s hidden in bird-boxes gave the public another element to interact with and on listening a sudden insight into the real heart of the work.

There’s now another chance to experience the carpet forest, this time in Bristol as part of the Easton Arts Trail at All Hallows Hall, 13 All Hallows Road, Bristol BS5 0HH from 6th to 15th June. See http://www.eastonartstrail.co.uk/pics/EAT-MAP-BACK-2014-jpg-A4.jpg for further info.

Here now is a poem which has no carpets, just floor boards. I wrote it after chatting briefly to a couple who were sat on the doorstep of their small, old house drinking tea.

Floors

We’re having a party
to celebrate
having floors.

Before today
we had windows,
walls and doors

and a roof
(though the sky
is our limit)

a house
that was empty
apart from our dreams

(the two of us
sitting on chairs
slipping off shoes)

We’re having a party,
drinking tea,
looking through doors
admiring our lovely new floors.

© Heather Wastie

Performance for World Book Night Wednesday 23rd April

Tomorrow, for World Book Night, I’ll be performing humorous poetry and songs at Sandwell Central Library, High Street, West Bromwich B70 8DZ. The event starts at 6.30 and I’ll be entertaining for 45 minutes or so, followed, I believe, by some more live music until about 8.00. Admission is £2.50 and proceeds go to Acorns Hospice. If you need further information call 0121 569 4904  or email central_library@sandwell.gov.uk. Otherwise please just come along!

Here’s a carpet-related poem from my first book Until I saw your foot: The vacuum-cleaner tuner. I’ll be performing it tomorrow! The lovely illustrations are by John Greaves Smith.

The vacuum cleaner tuner

from Until I saw your foot (click to enlarge)

Blame the weather man

The very first image which sparked off my interest in writing about Kidderminster and the carpet industry was one presented by Melvyn Thompson during a tour of the town. He talked about dyes from the various factories combining their colours in the River Stour. Very recently I was sent a poem about The Stour which includes that image so I have added it to the collection of writing by others on the Your Stories page, with thanks to Roger Mathews.

Since we’re on the subject of rivers, I wrote a piece recently which refers to the flooding issues along the River Severn. It also collects together quirky quotes from TV weather presenters. The verses are spoken and the chorus (in italics) sung. I sang it at Mouth and Music (www.mouthandmusic.co.uk) and hope to perform it again some time!

Blame the Weatherman

There are a few teething problems with Spring.
The winds are up to no good
and there’s some unctuous warm air
– a weather sandwich.

The barriers are up in Bewdley,
Worcester racecourse is inundated,
the long range weather forecast
is for a 6 week hose pipe ban

so there’s no need to dredge the rivers
and there’s no point clearing out the bridge holes,
water water everywhere
and no-one will carry the can

It’s all down to global warming
that the ice is melting in our greenhouse,
the shifting winds will blow your house down.
Blame the weather man.

Hail and hurricanes and earthquakes
Blame the weather man
(or the weather girl)
Blame the weather man.

The sunshine’s been in the shadows.
There’ll be rain romping in from the west on Wednesday;
It’ll be a real windscreen wiper of a morning.
There’ll be a psychedelic storm followed by some cool days.

We’ve got weather in the forecast today.
It’s going to throw lots of things at us.
The showers could be quite punchy
but we’ll be shoe-horning in some sun.

There’ll be some usable weather flirting with the south coast –
crisp, cold and deliciously sunny.
In the Midlands there’ll be a disappointing fog
and some clearly not helpful rain.

Today will be jam packed with plenty of weather;
I’ve been going mad with the crayons!
It will be colder than the figures on the weather map
due to cold air.
It’ll be 10 degrees. But it will feel like 9.

© Heather Wastie
March 2014

 

Kidderminster

Kidderminster has had some bad publicity over the years because people have a habit of abusing the name for no apparent reason! When I moved to the town in 2006, I began searching for other poets by googling “Kidderminster Poetry”. This is what I got:

Kidderminster Poetry
from E. Cobham Brewer‘s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. 1898

Coarse doggerel verse, like the coarse woollen manufacture of Kidderminster. The term was first used by William Shenstone, who applied it to a Mr. C., of Kidderminster.

Thy verses, friend, are Kidderminster stuff;
And I must own you’ve measured out enough.”

Doggerel from Wikipedia

A derogatory term for verse considered of little literary value. The word probably derived from dog, suggesting either ugliness, puppyish clumsiness or unpalatability (as in food fit only for dogs).

Sylvia Herbert, who was Public Relations Officer at Brintons, tells me that in the 1990s, comedians Punt and Dennis famously derided Kidderminster as ‘carpet town’ so the Mayor invited them to switch on the Christmas lights! He asked Brintons to make a little commemorative rug for them. I like Punt and Dennis but they were deservedly on the carpet here.

I recently heard that Olivier award-winning playwright Alan Ayckbourn has called one of his latest plays The Kidderminster Affair. It is one of two short comedies written and directed by Mr Ayckbourn called “Farcicals”. When asked why he chose the named Kidderminster, Mr Ayckbourn simply replied: “I just liked the name.” I’m a fan of Ayckbourn but I think it’s unfair of him to name his play after a town just because he likes the name. The Kidderminster Affair is described as “a frivolous comedy of fun, infidelity and food fights”.

Next year, Kate Wragg and I plan to tour show Kidderminster Stuff, and most people I have spoken to feel we should change the name to give it wider appeal to promoters and audiences outside the area. After all, it could be the story of any town which grew and revolved around an industry and then suffered when the industry declined. Though we want to share the stories of Kidderminster people, it seems you have to be Alan Ayckbourn to get away with using the name in a title.

Wishing you all a very Happy Christmas!

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.

Voices in a Forest of Carpet

Photo of carpet forest

The memory of the beautifully atmospheric carpet forest lives on in my mind (see my post on August 8th). I have just uploaded onto Soundcloud the audio I created for the installation which so many people have said they enjoyed listening to via headphones embedded in the trees. Now you can listen to it whenever you like, although the trees are gone and the factories referred to only exist in memories. Here is the link https://soundcloud.com/heatherwastie/voices-in-a-forest-of-carpet

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

Threading into a forest of carpet

After a couple of weeks on holiday, I have been frantically preparing for Kidderminster Arts Festival which starts on Saturday! (See link to Festival at the bottom of this post.) Part of the Town Hall is, right now, being converted into a forest made up of carpet donated by Brintons. There will be special lighting and an ambient soundtrack, created by Andy Edwards, which includes birdsong mingled with recordings of the looms at the Museum of Carpet. Planted in 3 bird boxes (how sweet!) will be recordings I have made combining interviews with poems and songs so that you can hear how I used the words spoken to create pieces for the people being interviewed. These recordings represent all of the places I have worked in so far on this project – The Tulip Tree Centre, Among Friends, the area where I live, the Museum of Carpet and Kidderminster in general.

I took a few snaps of work in progress on the forest this morning. It has been designed by Jo and Kate DeBurgh who are working like crazy to get it finished. It already looks amazing!

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I have also been very busy preparing for performances of “Kidderminster Stuff” of course. There’s just over a week to go to the first show on Friday 16th. See the Performances page for details.

Here’s my latest poem, written for Ben who I met at a party! You will be able to hear me reading this in the carpet forest, followed by a recording of a Polish man sharing his memories of having to leave his beloved country.

Threading

Threading
Tedious
Time passed slowly

Six till ten
First day
Bell went at 7.30 thought I’d finished!
Couldn’t believe it
An hour and a half felt like four

Threading
Yarn on a long spool
Slotted into the tube frame

Finish a spool
One end left over
Realise you made a mistake
Right at the beginning
Go back and do it all again

Bangladeshi bobbin boys
Ill treated by many
Why are you talking to those w …
Polish and Italian
No problem

Threading
Colours in sequence
According to the pattern

© Heather Wastie
July 2013

Finally, thanks to Polly Robinson for sending me a poem she wrote after one of my workshops. You can also find it on her own blog https://journalread.wordpress.com/

“A wonderful workshop with Heather Wastie, the Poet in Residence for the Kidderminster Carpet Museum, led to this poem about the building and the way the effluent from the carpets flowed into the river in times gone by.”

Reeking Dyes

Carpet dust motes in sunlight
dapple the floor through the flights.
My nose itches, snitchily tight.
A glass-topped room and loom below,
while underneath reeking dyes flow,
a myriad of colours, a rainbow
– ten pence a yard –
resting on the river; the ever-changing
river,
red and
green and
yellow and
blue.

Polly Robinson © 2013

Kidderminster Arts Festival link
http://www.wyreforestdc.gov.uk/cms/leisure-and-culture/arts-and-entertainment/kidderminster-arts-festival/kaf-13.aspx