BBC Countryfile – The Idle Women

At the end of October I spent the day filming for BBC Countryfile with Kate Saffin for a feature on The Idle Women whose stories we re-tell as touring company, Alarum Theatre. The programme is being aired on BBC1 this coming Sunday at 6.20pm. Here’s how the day went.

We assembled in the Museum cafe at Stoke Bruerne at 8.45am on a cold but dry day, and it was decided that the first job was to film me performing two of my poems – Idle Women and Judies and Heather Bell. The second of these was chosen because it’s all about Daphne March whose niece Kathryn Dodington was also being filmed for the programme. She didn’t have far to walk because she lives in one of the canalside cottages. Mind you, she had already got the fire going on Sculptor, ready for our trip down (and up, and down, and up) the locks once the poems had been filmed.

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Idle Women and Judies
Here you can see Ian with the fluffy microphone, Steve behind the camera and Simon, the producer, looking down at the shot as it is being filmed.

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Filming Heather Bell


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We waited in vain for an intermittent and rather loud noise coming from the other side of the towpath and eventually had to abandon filming in this location. The poem was recorded later in the day on board Sculptor with Kathryn nicely positioned in the background as she steered. Sadly, neither of the poems made the final cut because there simply wasn’t enough time to pack everything in.

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Having shown presenter Ellie Harrison how to work a lock (she was completely new to this) we chatted to her on board Sculptor as Kathryn steered through the other locks with a crew of Canal & River Trust volunteers. Kathryn was a stalwart, winding the boat (ie turning it round) then steering it up the locks again. While one of the volunteers took Sculptor off and winded it again we stopped for lunch (and to warm up) in the Museum cafe. After lunch we set off down the locks again, leaving the boat once we had finished recording so that we could get to Enslow for our evening show and the crew could focus on interviewing Kathryn who had some wonderful stories to tell. In case you’re wondering, the blue barrel in the hold is ballast. This is where the heavy cargo would have been.

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All in all we had a really good time. Thanks to lovely researcher Debs for sending us the photos! And thanks to Canal & River Trust, Kathryn Dodington and the hardworking volunteers for making the day possible. 

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More shows for #TheIdleWomen

After our successful 50-show summer tour, Kate Saffin and I have put together a short run of performances of Idle Women of the Wartime Waterways in and around Oxford at the end of this month. See below for dates. Here’s a review to whet your appetite:

“Both women are exceptional storytellers, their performances brimming over with personality”   London City Nights

OXFORD CANAL & THAMES October 21st-29th 2017  Tickets £10/£8

Sat 21  7.00pm  Shipton-on-Cherwell Village Hall, Kidlington OX5 1JP
Tue 24  8.00pm  St Margaret’s Institute, 30 Polstead Road OX2 6TN
Thu 26  7.30pm  Rock of Gibraltar, Station Road, Enslow OX5 3AY
Fri 27   7.30pm   Wolvercote Village Hall, 1 Wolvercote Green OX2 8AB
Sun 29  6.00pm  Unicorn Theatre, Medieval Abbey Buildings, Checker Walk, Abingdon OX14 3JB

Advance booking via https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/o/alarum-theatre-9882552992, email admin@alarumtheatre.co.uk, phone 01865 364095 or pay on the door. See also www.alarumtheatre.co.uk

IWWW Oxford tour 2017 flyer v4IWWW Oxford tour 2017 flyer back v4

#TheIdleWomen tour begins!

I’m about to embark on a 49-show tour of Idle Women of the Wartime Waterways – an Arts Council funded double bill with writer/performer Kate Saffin. Although I’ve spent many holidays travelling on a 70ft narrow boat, this will be a very new experience! I will be blogging about it on the Alarum Theatre website www.alarumtheatre.co.uk so may go a little quiet on my own blog.

To find out a bit more about this work, see/hear these interviews:

A BBC London interview with myself and Kate  click here
An interview (just me) in Theatre Weekly  click here

And have a look at the Alarum website which has all the dates and lots of information.

Wish us luck, and I hope to see you at one of the shows!

IWWW 2017 e-flyer

The crew at Fishery Wharf

Narrow boat Tench with L to R: Steerer Heather, performer Kate, owner & steerer Alex, performer Heather

#idlewomen autumn tour news!

I’m delighted to announce that ABNB Boat Brokerage will be supporting Alarum Theatre’s Autumn tour of Idle Women of the Wartime Waterways! http://www.abnb.co.uk/

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Wednesday 7th Sept – 7.30pm • Garden of Camp House Inn, Grimley, WR2 6LX, 01905 640288 – In association with The Worcestershire Literary Festival & Fringe

Saturday 10th Sept – 7.30pm • The Windlass Cafe and Restaurant, Stourport, DY13 9EN, 01299 871742 – In association with Stourport Heritage Open Days, Stourport Canal Basin

Thursday 15th Sept – 7.30pm • The Folly Inn, Napton on the Hill, CV47 8NZ, 01926 815185

Friday 23rd Sept – 7.30pm • The Wildside Activity Centre, Wolverhampton, WV6 0HA, 01902 572240

Sunday 25th Sept – 1.30pm • Wolverhampton Boat Club, Codsall, Wolverhampton, WV8 1RS, 07977 101411

Friday 30th Sept – 7.30pm • Theatre in the Dock, Tooley’s Boatyard, Banbury, OX16 2PQ, 01295 272917

* Saturday 1st Oct – 2.30pm • Theatre in the Dock matinee, Tooley’s Boatyard, Banbury, OX16 2PQ, 01295 272 917
– Includes a wartime tea!

* Mon 28th & Tues 29th Nov – 7.30pm • The Rosemary Branch Theatre, Hoxton, N1 3DT, 020 7704 6665

* indicates a ticketed event (see www.alarumtheatre.co.uk for details) otherwise free entry with donations to support the artists

 

Photos from our Summer Tour:

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Didn't they have a lovely time at The Bonded Warehouse 29 June 2016

#idlewomen Midlands tour

This is how it started. On Twitter. I was booked to perform Idle Women and Judies at the National Waterways Museum, Ellesmere Port. I tweeted about it. Kate Saffin responded to my tweet and we got talking. We each had a self-penned one-woman show about the women who were trained to operate working canal boats during WWII. Like narrow boat and butty, our shows fitted together, and within 6 weeks we had arranged a double-bill tour of Idle Women of the Wartime Waterways.

At the beginning of April we did a sell-out preview at The Barge House in London. Towards the end of my performance I announced that I would be singing a song inspired by Molly Traill which begins like this:

We took a trial run
From Ellesmere Port to Birmingham
On Willow and Ash
And here’s what we found

The boats need smartening up
The engines need repairing
Here’s my report
I’ve written everything down

As soon as I mentioned Molly’s name, a voice came from the audience: “She steered my boat!” It turned out that the voice belonged to the current owner of NB Willow, and I had found the information for my lyrics on her blog: Severner Willow

She was surprised and delighted to hear a song about her boat and I in turn was chuffed to meet her!

Our tour starts at the Worcestershire Literary Festival on June 16th. See below for the full tour schedule:

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Thu 16 June The Camp House, Camp Lane, Grimley WR2 6LX (outdoors unless wet)
Tue 21 June Ashwood Marina, Kingswinford DY6 0AQ
Wed 22 June * Eagle and Spur, 176 Castle Rd, Cookley DY10 3TB
Mon 27 June * Dudley Canal Trust, Birmingham New Rd, Dudley DY1 4SB
Wed 29 June * The Bonded Warehouse, 2 Canal St, Stourbridge DY8 4LU
Mon 4 July Fox and Anchor, Brewood Rd, Wolverhampton WV10 7PW
Wed 6 July The Bridge Inn, 22 High Green, Brewood, Stafford ST19 9BD
Thu 7 July The Navigation Inn, Newport Road, Gnosall ST20 0BN
Mon 11 July The Junction Inn, Norbury Junction, Stafford ST10 0PN
Tue 12 July The Anchor Inn. Peggs Lane, Old Lea High Offley ST20 0NG
Tue 19 July The Shroppie Fly, Audlem Wharf, Shropshire Street, Audlem, Crewe CW3 0DX

www.alarumtheatre.co.uk
www.facebook.com/alarumtheatre

admin@alarumtheatre.co.uk
07976 818959
@heatherwastie
@Alarum_theatre

 

Idle Women at the National Waterways Museum

On Saturday 13th February, I performed my piece Idle Women and Judies, commissioned by the Canal & River Trust, at the National Waterways Museum, Ellesmere Port. I included a song and 3 new poems in a 25-minute programme, repeated four times. As usual, I took a book so that people could write down feedback and those comments are reproduced in their entirety below. It’s difficult to get people to write down their thoughts, even when they have made complimentary remarks in person, but I was very pleased with what people did write, and even more pleased that photographer Terasa Newton took some shots of me in full flow. See below for these too.

Having already performed at the Gloucester and Stoke Bruerne Museums (see previous posts), it was good to collaborate with the Canal & River Trust again to share these women’s stories at Ellesmere Port. I’m grateful to them for supporting my work and to Terasa for sending her wonderful images without charge. Here’s a link to her website http://terasanewton.wix.com/tnphotography

Audience comments:

“Wonderful, captivating performance – brought canals to life.”  Liz & Idris

“Entertaining, informative, brilliant.”  Ray & Alicia Harvey

“Wonderful performance, a must see.”  Suzanne & Graham

“Wonderful performance full of knowledge and very entertaining.”   Janet Williams

Performances coming up

If you’d like to find out about some of the work I’ve been doing as Worcestershire Poet Laureate since I was appointed last June, go to http://worcslitfest.co.uk/worcestershire-poet-laureate/heathers-wpl-blog-january-2016/

To find out what I’ve got coming up, read on ….

A week on Saturday I’ll be at the National Waterways Museum performing Idle Women and Judies and some new poems, all of which tell the stories of women who worked on the canals during World War 2.

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In March I’ll be featured poet at Howl in Moseley with a 15 minute set of performance poetry and in July I’ll be presenting an hour-long family show of poetry and music based around my book The Page-Turner’s Dilemma (poetry & tales from behind the music stand) in Evesham.

TPTD cover cartoon by Jules

Cartoon by Jules ~ cartoonist

Right now I’m working on a project about Black Country dialect. It’s called Where’s Our Spake Gone and I’ve been commissioned to work in Cradley Heath which is where I grew up. I’m having a wonderful time collecting together dialect words and phrases so that I can write new pieces to be shared at an event in April. I’ve you’d like to get involved, do come to my drop-in session on Thursday February 11th (see poster below).

Details of all these events are below.

Saturday 13th February between 10.00 and 4.00
Idle Women and Judies
National Waterways Museum Reopening Weekend
South Pier Road, Ellesmere Port, Cheshire CH65 4FW

https://canalrivertrust.org.uk/enjoy-the-waterways/museums-and-attractions/national-waterways-museum

Wednesday 9th March 7.30pm
Featured Poet – Howl
The Dark Horse, 145 Alcester Road, Moseley, Birmingham B13 8JP
Free entry

https://www.facebook.com/howlspokenword/
http://www.darkhorsemoseley.co.uk

Where's our spake gone drop-in

Wednesday 6th April 7.30pm
Where’s our spake gone?
Cradley Heath Library, Upper High Street, Cradley Heath B64 5JU
http://ourspake.co.uk

Sunday 3rd July 3.00-4.00pm
The Page-Turner’s Dilemma
Evesham Festival of Words
Unitarian Chapel, Oat Street, Evesham, Worcs WR11 4PJ

http://eveshamfestivalofwords.org/programme/