Heather Wastie

Droitwich Canals & Online

The Muck and Shovel Brigade

March – September 2018

Book available to view at selected venues and online (see below)

Go native and hire a canal boat for a weekend and, as you cruise at a leisurely pace along The Ring, sit back and enjoy Heather Wastie’s new book of poems, The Muck and Shovel Brigade.

Former Worcestershire Poet Laureate, Heather was introduced as a child to the canals of the West Midlands. She has written a series of poems that sparkle with wit and warmth, inspired by the Droitwich Canals, some of the people who helped restore them and the photography of Max Sinclair. Heather has selected photos from Max’s archive, in which he documented the completion of the Mid-Worcestershire Ring canal system: its journey from an overgrown and unloved place to the lively network it is today was a labour of love for hundreds of volunteers over several decades. The limited edition book of poems and photographs come together to create a unique artwork, conjuring the spirit of the ‘muck and shovel brigade’.

From 15 March 2018: copies will be available to read at selected venues, view an online version below or by clicking here. Look out on social media for a chance to win a copy of the book to keep – @theringworcs



Poetry performance by Heather Wastie from The Muck and Shovel Brigade The Railway Inn, Droitwich Wed 4 Apr, 2.00pm – book a free ticket here.

Heather is on tour in Spring 2018 with her Alarum Theatre project Idle Women of the Wartime Waterways, as the company travels along the Worcester and Birmingham Canal. See www.alarumtheatre.co.uk for performance dates.


About Heather Wastie

Heather Wastie has been involved with canals since she was a child with her family on ex-working boat Laurel, getting involved in campaigns with her father, Alan T Smith, who was awarded an MBE for his services to inland waterways.

Heather was Worcestershire Poet Laureate 2015/16 and is well known for her interpretations of oral history. In 2013 she was Writer in Residence at the Museum of Carpet, turning people’s memories into poems, monologues and songs which she now performs. This work was published in November 2015 by Black Pear Press under the title Weaving Yarns. In 2017 she was commissioned by Worcestershire Building Preservation Trust to compose a children’s song cycle, Loom in the Loft, to celebrate the restoration of the Weavers’ Cottages in Kidderminster.

In summer 2016 she began touring a double bill of theatre, poetry and song, Idle Women of the Wartime Waterways, with writer and actor Kate Saffin (Alarum Theatre). In 2017 the company was awarded Arts Council funding to support a 15-week, 50-show tour between April and August. The show will continue touring into 2018.

In 2017 she was commissioned to write and perform poems for the popular Nationwide Building Society ad campaign, Voices Nationwide.

The photos show Heather as a girl on Laurel and an updated version on NB Tench in 2017 (photo by Kate Saffin).