Roll Up! Roll Up! Roll Down! Roll Down!

Last Friday was the final show of #TheIdleWomen Summer tour — another water-borne adventure! To see some highlights, do visit the Alarum Theatre Facebook page.

“Roll Up! Roll Up! Roll Down! Roll Down!” *
During the tour Kate Saffin and I were interviewed by Sony-award winning David Bramwell for Waterfront, a monthly podcast from the Canal & River Trust, dedicated to the stories, people and heritage around England and Wales’ historic waterways. Here’s the link to listen. It lasts 16 minutes and includes one of my poems and an extract from one of my songs.

* Our potential audience were above us on a slight hill.

Living Waterways Awards
We’re absolutely delighted that the Alarum Theatre 2017 tour The Idle Women: Recreating the Journey is one of the finalists in the Living Waterways Awards. The winners are announced on 20th September. Fingers crossed!


A photo I took when we were on the beautiful Chesterfield Canal


Kate took this one at the bottom of the spectacular Bingley Five Rise on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal


Persian design and a guest poet

There are 2 contrasting poems in my blog this week. I wrote Persian design after becoming fascinated by the way carpet designers used Persian motifs as inspiration. Mick Lowe showed me some of the books designers worked from and described how traditional motifs were interpreted in a more contemporary way by placing them on a “highlighted ground” which made them stand out. I decided I would like to do a similar thing with words and ended up making a ‘found’ poem which takes elements from several sources and juxtaposes them with very little alteration.


I shared a draft of the poem at my workshop last Friday and the comments helped me improve it. I hope I gave plenty of inspiration in return! The feedback was good anyway from the 2 people who came along. It would be good to have a few more participants for my next one on Thursday June 6th. For details of this and a day workshop on June 9th, do have a look at the Workshops page.

There is one line in this poem, “The length of the line …”, which is deliberately longer than the others but the formatting of the blog shifts the last word to the next line. I can’t see a way of changing it unfortunately.

Persian design
a found poem

In the time that can be spared
from the constant battle for survival
the women and girls of the tribes weave carpets

Oasis to oasis
water hole to water hole
grassland to grassland

“I learned reading and writing
from the Akhund of the village where I was born.
He used to run after me through alleyways,
catch me, tie my thin feet to rough, thorny trees
and beat me with long canes. He had made a scroll
by pasting together letters written by peasants to their relatives.
He ordered me to learn the whole scroll by heart.”

The length of the line should be determined by the depth of the thought

He took poetry out of the court, into the streets,
added colour and flavour to his compositions
by using the natural speech of the people.

Oasis to oasis
water hole to water hole
grassland to grassland

Each tribe had a different motif,
the signature of the village.
Rather than slavishly copying,
we took elements and placed them
on highlighted ground, light to dark
maybe a set of reds,
as if a light shone from behind.

Half drop, stagger, amplify.

Oasis to oasis
water hole to water hole
grassland to grassland

Hey, you over there
The moon beams
the glow worm glows
Yellow hasn’t become red for no reason

© Heather Wastie
May 2013


Book in Museum of Carpet Library: Oriental Rugs vol 2 Persian, Erich Aschenbrenner

Iran Chamber Society website – Persian Language & Literature – Nima Yoshij

Interview with Mick Lowe, Museum of Carpet volunteer, who worked as a designer and won the carpet section of the 1969 RSA competition for industrial designers

First lines from 3 poems by Nima Yoshij – Hey, People, Moonlight and Snow

I run a monthly spoken word and music night called Mouth and Music. This month, we featured a brilliant poet from Manchester, Dominic Berry, and I managed to arrange a free visit to the Museum in exchange for a new poem from him. Dominic asked for feedback on his piece by posting it on Facebook, prompting lots of discussion about punctuation in poetry. When writing poems it’s important to give a lot of thought to line breaks and punctuation so that the flow continues, pauses or halts in the way you would like it to, whether read aloud or for the visual effect on the page. Dominic gave me permission to remove one of his commas if I wanted to. I’m honoured! In the end I left it in because I changed my mind and decided it was necessary after all.

I really like this poem and have found something new each time I have read it. A big thank you to Dominic. Do have a look at his website to find out more about his work.


I like my work and do as I am told.
For every carpet colour, there’s a dye.
The brilliant blue is something to behold.

Became a full time draw boy, twelve years old.
I followed Father in, my head held high.
I like my work and do as I am told.

Bring Mother money from each carpet sold.
Ten pence a yard. I look her in the eye.
The brilliant blue is something to behold.

At Sunday School I’m quiet. I’m controlled.
I pray to God and wait for a reply.
I like my work and do as I am told.

As Father fights bare knuckle in the cold
outside the pub, I stare up at the sky.
The brilliant blue is something to behold.

The carpets, red and green and black and gold,
I hear my Father shout, my Mother cry.
I like my work and do as I am told.
The brilliant blue is something to behold.

© Dominic Berry

May 2013