100 Women of Croome

Back in December – on 14th to be precise – it was 100 years to the day since women first voted, and I was back at Croome Court to see the new exhibitions. Having been involved in several projects there as poet and performer, I am proud to be one of the 100 Women of Croome whose portraits are projected in succession alongside Amy Jayne Hughes’ Garniture.

Arriving early, I took the opportunity to wander round the grounds and take a few photos. It’s such a beautiful place and there is always pop-up art inside the building. One of my previous projects was Plumlines, a series of poetry-writing workshops with schools, writers’ groups, history groups and Croome volunteers. Click here to read more about the work and the exhibition of paper poetry saplings.

If you fancy experiencing Croome from your armchair, then do listen to this podcast which I was commissioned to create 3 years ago, featuring some of Worcestershire’s finest poets. And if you would like to read my poems about Croome, you will find them in Don’t Oil The Hinges, published by Black Pear Press.

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Don’t Oil The Hinges

My seventh poetry collection will be launched in September!

Don’t Oil The Hinges is a celebration of my year as Worcestershire Poet Laureate — a collection of poems and insights into 2015-2016. On Saturday 15th September the book will be launched at an evening of poetry and song with guests, Kate Saffin — writer and actor; Sarah Tamar — poet; Sunny Ormonde — actor, and Dave Sutherland — singer-songwriter. There may be another special guest too. The venue is Park’s Cafe, 4 Victoria Square, Droitwich Spa, Worcestershire WR9 8DS. I chose it because of its hinges.

My first batch was delivered to my door yesterday by Tony Judge from Black Pear Press who had a hand in the cover design — literally. Talented singer-songwriter and artist Jess Silk produced the artwork and Tony added that final touch by writing the text with his finger, and the whole thing, I think, has a homely feel about it.

DOTH Front cover image

I hope you will be keen to open that door and find out what’s behind it. Here’s a sneak preview:

Wipe your feet

Shag pile, tufted,
high pile, long pile,
loop pile, got a pile!
Wipe your feet!

Don’t bring your muck in here,
our carpet’s cream.
Slippers all lined up,
pick your size.

No foam backing here,
grip gripper underlay,
offcuts in the loft
gathering dust.

Shag pile, tufted,
high pile, long pile,
loop pile, got a pile!
Wipe your feet!

(extract)

You can pre-order your copy from Black Pear Press, price £6.00 + p&p.

If you can, do come to the launch. It’s free to attend and we’re going to have fun!

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!

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

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

 

#TheIdleWomen Spring tour

After six shows in Worcestershire, the Alarum Theatre Spring tour continues tomorrow, Tue 17 Apr, when Kate Saffin & I bring Idle Women of the Waterways to the magnificent Alcester Town Hall in Warwickshire. The show starts at 7.30pm.

Here are two audience comments after our show in Finstall last Saturday:

“Really excellent show. Learnt so much about the trainees.”
“Very enjoyable and inspiring. Simply great!”

We then travel into Birmingham for the next three dates:

Fri 20 7.30pm   St Nicolas Place, 81 The Green B38 8RU
Sun 22 3.00pm   Stirchley Baths, Bournville Lane B30 2JT
Wed 25 7.30pm   Two Towers Brewery, 29 Shadwell Street B4 6HB

Splashed across the Evening News
“Idle boats in need of crews”
so young girls, greenhorns
applied and went off for interviews ….

Come and find out how they came to be called ‘Idle’!

For all Spring tour dates and information about the show click here for the Eventbrite page.

Heather at Foxton, Photo by Andrew Carpenter

Heather at Foxton, Photo by Andrew Carpenter

Heather Wastie, Kate Saffin nb Scorpio, Stourport

Heather Wastie, Kate Saffin nb Scorpio, Stourport. Photo by Paul T Smith.

Tiller, Kettle, Windlass

I’m delighted to be featured in this wonderful new film by Erin Hopkins:

Tiller, Kettle, Windlass – A Narrowboat Film

Windlass100 year old windlass – backdrop, NB Tench, 2017

A poem for World Poetry Day

Navvies in Salwarpe Cutting

Fifty years of debris, wet mud, dead trees and silt,
a mine of old bottles, lobbed from the bridge.

Small in the world of cranes,
Priestman Cub and Priestman Wolf will be halted
for Bromsgrove Fitches, too plain,
the hope of a rare Worcester Spreckley intact.

According to Dave, there are three kinds of silt:
Slurp, which goes a long long way;
Wobble, less wet; and Crumble. What you need
is a little bit of slurp and the right amount of wobble
for the silt to roll like lava out of the skip and down the bank,
below the makeshift railway, narrow gauge tracks,
the pop pop of diesel loco.

Mommy Mommy, there are men in our dustbin!
The navvies’ cartoon, a carnival slogan.

Look at them now in the channel
and there where the drag lines and buckets can’t go,
under the bridge hole, standing in mud that’s five feet deep,
digging it out by hand.

© Heather Wastie

From The Muck and Shovel Brigade, published March 2018, available to view at selected venues and online here https://theringart.org.uk/projects/droitwich-canal-restoration/

On Wednesday 4th April at 2pm I will be performing the whole collection in a free event at The Railway Inn, Kidderminster Road, Droitwich. Click here for details.

 

 

 

Finding an emotional connection

My Dad, Alan T Smith MBE, was a waterways enthusiast and a dedicated, hard-working campaigner for the restoration of derelict canals. It all began when my brother and I were young and the doctor advised my mother that we could do with more fresh air and exercise. So Dad bought a boat and our lives changed. Our small cruiser was soon replaced by a 70 foot ex-working narrow boat and Dad spent a great deal of his spare time digging in the bottom of dried up canals, hauling rubbish out of lock chambers etc or trying to move our boat along channels which contained more debris than water. He loved it.

Last December I did something which reminded me of him. While researching for The Ring project, I heard from one of the interviewees that one of the lock chambers from the original line of the Droitwich Canal still exists and has remained undisturbed for many years. As soon as I found out about it I became very excited, like a child contemplating a slightly scary adventure. I knew it could be dangerous going to the lock on my own and remembered the day my Dad went off to look at a stretch of canal which had recently breached. He drove there on his own and somehow managed to sprain his ankle. This was before the days of mobile phones, so he hobbled back to the car and drove home, where Mom was not too pleased!

With that day in mind, I took great care not to let history repeat itself. I wanted to experience for myself what people involved in the Droitwich Canal restoration had been up against, and this was the perfect opportunity. As I approached the lock, the first thing I saw was the footbridge.

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I could see that the chamber was inhabited by trees, and though the gates had rotted away, some of the metal was still intact and in place, the wood having perished around it.

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The trees had taken over, prising bricks apart, straddling edges and blocking the top of the steps.

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I was a fearless adventurer. Once I had made it to the far side of the lock, I tested the bridge and decided that, after all this time, it was safe to walk across. I made it back to the car without mishap, having made an emotional connection with my Dad, with the lock, with engineering and nature, with history, and when I got home I wrote a poem called All that remains.

The poem is one of nine which will be published by The Ring project in March, along with archive photographs, in a collection called The Muck and Shovel Brigade. All that remains will be opposite this intriguing photo, from Max Sinclair’s collection, taken in 1965. I wonder what this explorer felt as he stood in the water and peered behind the remains of a gate, and I wonder what he saw.

No 3 Unidentified lock,1965

Previous posts on The Ring Project (most recent first): Negotiation & shopping trolleys, Sandstone, slogans & poems to be found, Salwarpe to Porters Mill, Update on The Ring project, The Ring Project