Worcestershire LitFest & more

This coming Friday, 10th June, sees the start of Worcestershire LitFest. As the outgoing Worcestershire Poet Laureate (yes, the year is up!) I’ve agreed to do 3 performances and a workshop, details of which are summarised in this Worcester News article and appear more fully below. In the same week, I have 3 performances elsewhere so it’s going to be busy!!

Saturday 11th June between 12.00 & 4.00
Jiggery Spokery at Cheltenham Science Festival
Jiggery Spokery Worcs Mus Fest
Street entertainment – details to be announced
See https://twitter.com/heatherwastie for updates


Tuesday 14th June 7.30pm
City Voices – 15 minute feature, Weaving Yarns poems & songs
Lych Gate Tavern, 44 Queen Square, Wolverhampton, WV1 1TX
Admission £2.50 (£1 under 16s)
Contact: simonfletcher58@gmail.com

Wednesday 15th June 7.30pm (doors open 6.00)
Weaving Yarns
Museum of Carpet, Stour Vale Mill, Green Street, Kidderminster DY10 1AZ
Admission £5 including Museum entry


Thursday 16th June  7.30pm
Idle Women of the Wartime Waterways
The Camp House, Camp Lane, Grimley, Worcs WR2 6LX
See #idlewomen Midlands tour for more dates

Thursday 16th June 10.30-12.30
Poetry Workshop – Women of WW1
Severn Room, St George’s Hall, Load Street, Bewdley DY12 2EQ
Free to attend but advance booking required


Saturday 18th June 1.00-7.00
Hopfest Music Festival
‘Airlock’ family poetry/storytelling tent including poetry open mic
Hopley’s Family Camping, Cleobury Road, Bewdley, Worcs DY12 2QL

Email poetry@hopfest.co.uk for details of open mic

Rugby … or Poetry?

As we near the climax of the Rugby World Cup, I have at last found time to blog about Poets in Touch, a performance I organised in the fanzone in the town of Rugby on September 29th. Having performed in Rugby a few times in the past, I was delighted to be asked to do this and the evening couldn’t have gone any better than it did.

Poets in Touch flyer

Joining me on stage were: Tony Walsh, aka Longfella, who has been called “one of the UK’s most renowned performance poets”, poet, performer, squeezebox and harmonica player, Dave Reeves, and 7 members of local group Rugby Writers. In order to inspire the local writers (and me!) to write about their town, we went on a town tour together. I had already visited the Webb Ellis Museum and also, as I have a strong interest in writing about canals, the nearby Hillmorton Locks on the Oxford Canal.

Inside the Webb Ellis Museum

Inside the Webb Ellis Museum

One of the Hillmorton flight of locks with Canalchef Cafe in distance

One of the Hillmorton flight of locks with Canalchef Cafe in distance

Canalchef Cafe with Lesley & Ian Lauder

Canalchef Cafe owners Lesley & Ian Lauder

Lesley Lauder in the Canalchef Cafe was exceedingly helpful when I quizzed her about the history of the locks. The cafe is a mini-museum! I went away and wrote a poem/song which combined historical facts about the locks with some of the stories about local canal people.

Before I was invited to stage the Poets in Touch event, I knew very little about the sport of rugby, but I did some research and wrote 3 new pieces, one about Richard Lindon who made rugby balls, one about Jonny Wilkinson and the one copied below. I watched a lot of rugby on TV, quizzed my husband, who used to teach PE at Lawrence Sheriff School, listened to rugby commentators on the radio and even discussed it in our local pub! (I can hardly believe that myself!) It occurred to me that there were similarities between a rugby match and performances which involve a collection of poets ….. so I wrote the poem below by way of introduction to the evening. I would like to credit Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius (can you spot the quote?), world cup commentators and Tony Murphy in the pub who are all quoted here:

Rugby … or Poetry?

The match is about to begin

A TV camera pans across the line of players
rising and dipping as it goes

Whatever size or shape you are
there’s a place on the park

It’s all about territory,
and the secret of all victory lies
in the organisation of the non obvious

Bulldozers, bullocks
or lithe and tall,
from lean and lanky
to small and speedy

whatever size or shape you are
there’s a place on the park

Ding dong, head bang,
maul, ruck, scrummage, slam
kept on the pitch

From minnows
to headline makers

whatever size or shape you are
there’s a place on the park

and everyone listens
to the short guy with a whistle
and obeys.

© Heather Wastie
September 2015

Well the local writers really delivered the goods! Tony, Dave and I each presented our own distinctive style of writing and performance, and we had a sizeable audience too. A couple of weeks after the event, I received a poem from Andrew Cowan, another local writer, who was in the audience. His ‘edited highlights’ sum up the evening nicely!

Poets in Touch

Gargoyle like
he gushes out Jabberwock
bellow pumping
via leathern cheeks
via lolling tongue
via writhing lips
the beast is born

Simon Grenville performing Jabberwocky by Lewis Carroll

Simon Grenville performing Jabberwocky by Lewis Carroll

In blue dungarees
lock handcrank, headscarf
the retro vision of
idle canal womanhood
and the spirit of
nineteen forty

Heather Wastie performing Idle Women and Judies

Heather Wastie performing Idle Women and Judies

The reverend vicar
reflects on
a youthful sin
transformed through time
to sire a worldwide game

Nick Marsh, also known as The Reverend William Webb Ellis performing "I Tripped Over Toby and ran with the ball"

Nick Marsh, alias The Reverend William Webb Ellis performing “I Tripped Over Toby and ran with the ball”

Tony the Longfella
bawdies us through
office lech party time
and long term uxorious touch
to the deep meaning
of Christmas night

Tony Walsh

Tony Walsh

Brought to stage
those instruments, that music
the costumes
best of all
each matched to their microphone

Andrew Cowan
30th September 2015

Dave Reeves performing his piece about ghostly Rugby

Dave Reeves performing his piece about ghostly Rugby

Identity and place, Kidderminster, Birmingham & the Black Country

How much is a person’s identity influenced by place? When I moved to Kidderminster in 2006 I felt the need to become more connected to it, and part of that process was to write about it, hence this blog. I now feel a strong connection with the town. That connection is quite different from my fondness for Birmingham, developed from early shopping trips with my mother, through 3 years as a student at Birmingham University, to many years of working in the area. My feeling about the Black Country is different again; my roots are there. I was born in Cradley Heath and have lived in several Black Country towns. Emigrating across the border into Worcestershire, albeit just a mile or two, was a big step!

In my book The Page Turner’s Dilemma and on my CD Bananas from the Heart there’s a poem I wrote in memory of my street which was demolished when I was twelve. (See below.) I’ve since written two other poems which take me back there, one in standard English and one in dialect.

My Black Country alter ego, Pat – Photo by John Watson jazzcamera.co.uk

Writing and performing in dialect is an important aspect of exploring my identity and my alter ego Pat is an amalgam of Black Country women I have encountered. This coming Sunday, I’ll be performing my latest piece together with other dialect pieces, mostly comedic, in a show called Spake Prapper with Dave Reeves and Billy Spakemon. The show is part of a day of Black Country Spoken Word and music at a unique venue in Stourbridge, the Red House Glass Cone, used for the manufacture of glass until 1936.

Here you will find details of the event and the venue. http://www.kmsevents.co.uk/events/4582817223
It promises to be a heart-warming and entertaining day.


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