Suitcase Stories: Grandma’s little box

I started work on a new project yesterday. Organised by Arts Uplift under the title Suitcase Stories, it’s an 18 month reminiscence and music project for people living with dementia and their carers in the Wyre Forest, Redditch, Bromsgrove and Wychavon districts running from November 2018 to March 2020.

Yesterday we held a taster session in Redditch, singing familiar songs and looking at objects from a suitcase containing all sorts of things to trigger memories as a starting point for conversation and songwriting. Here are some lines I wrote using what one of the participants told me:

Grandma’s little slipper-shaped box

I’d never seen her take it before,
so it came as quite a shock
the day I saw my grandma
open up her little box,

pinch out the yellow powder
and push it up her nose
then try to hide her fingers
behind the dominoes.

Her handkerchiefs were horrible –
stained by that yellow stuff
but the little box was beautiful,
filled with grandma’s snuff.

© Heather Wastie

Here is a link to more information about the project. There are places available, should you know of anyone who may be interested, and there’s a mentoring opportunity for music students too.

Tonight I’ll be performing in Malvern with four other Worcestershire Poets Laureate. Happy National Poetry Day! 

Wild Man Dances

On 27th October I travelled into Birmingham for a lunchtime concert of music for 2 pianos performed by Andrew West and Ronald Woodley at the Adrian Boult Hall. My reason for going was because my good friend Liz Johnson, a composer based in Malvern, invited me to hear the premiere of her piece Wild Man Dances. Liz was delighted to see me and said that of course I would be writing a poem about it, wouldn’t I? The thought hadn’t crossed my mind, but I listened intently to her exciting piece, watched the performers and took in the spectacle of two shiny black grand pianos wrapped around each other so that the pianists faced each other, each with the silent accompaniment of a page-turner ….

I love the piano. It’s a wonderful instrument to play and to listen to. My third collection of poetry, The Page-Turner’s Dilemma, has a cartoon of a grand piano on the cover with a sweating page-turner suspended mid air, hovering over the head of the pianist. The title poem is written from the point of view of the page-turner worrying about all the things that can go wrong and is based on personal experience as pianist, page-turner and concert-goer. You can see the cover and an extract from that poem on my website www.wastiesspace.co.uk

But I digress. My Wild Man Dances poem does not feature page-turners. On the train on the way home, I began by jotting down words and images suggested by what I had seen and heard. The poem I ended up writing is nothing like anything I would have written without the stimulus of Liz’s brilliant piece which will be up on YouTube at some stage so I’m looking forward to hearing it again, though you really can’t beat a live performance. Liz has posted my poem on her website with a link to my site. I have also posted it below. Do go to Liz’s site and listen to some of her other pieces http://www.lizjohnson.co.uk. And I recommend writing using other artforms to inspire different ways of writing.

Wild man dances
for Liz Johnson

Cell walls sweat,
drip mercury,
muscles twitch,
throb against blood

a flash mob of corpuscles
hammers on lungs,
polished black boots
stamp on the heart

tendons and ligaments
check like chains,
nerve endings clench
a furious flamenco

strictly self-contained,
rib cage rattling,
inside each measured man
a wild one dances

© Heather Wastie
October 2015

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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