Weaver’s Cottages an inspiration 

Today I took advantage of a free-to-attend Open Day at the Weaver’s Cottages in Kidderminster, as inspiration for the song-cycle I’m writing about the history of the cottages. The site manager took us up to roof level to see tiles of clay and slate highlighting the fact that the cottages were not all built at the same time. Craftsmen demonstrated and described the making of bricks, wall plates etc and we were able to speak to the project director and volunteers. Everyone spoke with passion and enthusiasm and brought aspects of the cottages’ history to life. A walking talk by Melvyn Thompson, always an inspiration, then took us to the Museum of Carpet where more information was available.

The Worcestershire Building Preservation Trust is doing an excellent job, not just with the building work but also with its programme of events to engage and inform the public. I’m delighted to have been commissioned by the Trust to write songs which will be sung for the first time at free workshops in Kidderminster on 16th August 11.00-1.00 and 2.00-4.00. You’re invited to take part! See www.weaverscottages.info to find out more.


 

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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Street entertainment, I do not love you very much …

This year I’ve watched or been involved in several theatrical encounters on the streets of Worcestershire. Having seen some brilliant performances in August at Kidderminster Arts Festival (see link below) I got the performers-eye view in a KAF commission, How do wars start? with Worcestershire Poet Laureate, Fergus McGonigal.

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Photo: Geoff Cox

To find out how it went see our Facebook page  https://www.facebook.com/how.do.wars.start

Also in August, I was booked by Clik Clik Collective (see link below) to wander the streets of Worcester as Black Country Pat, engaging people as I saw fit, for the Worcester Music Festival. I chatted to lots of people and sang songs.

WMF 11

Photo: Geoff Cox

Last Friday I was with Clik Clik again at Worcester’s Victorian Fayre delivering poetry near the site of Hill Evans & Co Vinegar Works which closed in the sixties. My repertoire consisted of humorous and informative poems about vinegar I’d written specially for the occasion in a Victorian style plus pieces by little known Victorian women poets and Edward Lear.

Clik Clik Victorian Worcs Fayre Dave Grubb

Photo: Dave Grubb

Engaging the public at such events can be exceedingly difficult. (As you can see, I resorted to post-Victorian equipment.) People with their minds fixed on getting from A to B keep their heads down, determined not to be lured into any form of enjoyment. Is the chugger partly to blame for this? Discuss.

Here are some of the responses I got to the question, Can I read you a poem?

  • “I don’t like poetry. I’m not romantic.”

  • A man struggling to walk with a walking stick (hehe, he couldn’t escape) said he didn’t want a poem because he found it difficult to stand still, yet he stood there for ages telling me about the time he worked for Lee and Perrins.

  • A woman rushing by wouldn’t stop to listen because she was in pain but proceeded to tell me in great detail the different household uses for vinegar, especially cleaning the toilet.

Clik Clik Victorian Worcs Fayre 2 Dave Grubb

Photo: Dave Grubb

When 3 teenage lads approached I offered, in a very posh voice, to read them a poem and they said yes please, listening with mock interest. I read a short piece by Amy Levy and one of the lads said, earnestly, that she was one of his favourite poets and agreed that it was tragic that she committed suicide at the age of 27. He asked for more poetry, so I turned to another lad and directed this to him:

I DO not love you very much,
Only your tuneful voice,
Which, in a happy moment, takes
The music of my choice.
I do not love you, dear, at all,
Only your merry ways,
Which linger in my mind, and set
Me dreaming through the days.
In truth, I think it is dislike
You kindle in my heart,
Because you come so joyously
To steal so large a part.

Dollie Radford

He listened intently. “So you love me then”, he said when I’d finished. I walked away, “blushing”. Then the Anti Barber lured him into his chair and drew a moustache which made him look like Lionel Richie and broke into anachronistic song to uproarious laughter. Later I gave a spoken rendition of The Lost Chord by Adelaide Anne Procter to improvised piano accompaniment by a fellow Clik Clik entertainer called Dan. Is it mad? Is it art? Does it matter? Who had the most fun?

http://www.kidderminsterartsfestival.org.uk/gallery/

http://www.clikclikcollective.com/about-us/

Liaisons with a Laureate

If you want to know how the Worcestershire Poet Laureate and I have coincided over the last few weeks … Croome Court, Mouth and Music, and our own show “How do Wars Start” … do read this:

http://worcslitfest.co.uk/worcestershire-poet-laureate/

NOW AVAILABLE FOR BOOKINGS!

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How do wars start

by Heather Wastie & Fergus McGonigal

A Dummies’ Guide to Starting a War, a nameless hand puppet, mother’s advice, song references, borders and disputes over a carpet, poetry which rhymes or doesn’t, plus music and blowing up balloons …. entertaining and interactive; 30 minutes of answers.

Commissioned by Kidderminster Arts Festival 2014

Audience feedback:

“Very clever use of words and everyday phrases to dramatic effect. A totally unique slant on the question asked.”
Worcestershire Poet Laureate Emeritus, Maggie Doyle

“Very moving and thought provoking”
“Thoroughly enjoyable”
“Love the “Facebook” duet”
“Tony Blair!”

More info and photos here
https://www.facebook.com/how.do.wars.start

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

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