Five Quick-fire Questions for Heather Wastie

Today, March 8th, is International Women’s Day and, rather appropriately, marks the 5th anniversary of Heather and Kate’s first phone conversation. The moment they decided that, yes, Heather’s work Idle Women and Judies and Kate’s solo play Isobel’s War would make a rather good double bill and it might be fun to take the show on tour…

The fact that Kate had been contemplating a boat trip along the very canal that goes through the village where Heather lives – the canal her family had been so involved in – clinched the deal. It was meant to be, they decided, and the rest, as we say, is history.

This blog, in our series celebrating Alarum’s 5th anniversary, is an interview with Heather. Alongside her projects with Alarum, Heather is a freelance poet, singer-songwriter and accordion player. In this quick-fire interview, Heather reminisces on her boating past, Alarum’s achievements, and her favourite bits from the shows.

What is your earliest boating memory? 

Sitting inside my family’s 16-foot cruiser (Shelan – pictured in the I Dig Canals book) as we went along, looking out through the doors which opened at the back. I loved the view but probably breathed in a lot of fumes from the outboard engine!  

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Shelan at Cut End with Heather’s Family

What, in your opinion, is Alarum’s best achievement? 

The 2017 Recreating the Journey tour – 50 shows in 15 weeks – the logistics of travelling with two boats (mostly together, but for a period separately) and involving modern women trainees as well… I still marvel that our very small team managed to pull it off so successfully! We even won an award – Highly Commended in the 2018 Living Waterways Awards.

What’s your favourite line from one of your shows? 

It’s hard to choose just one so I’ll choose one from each show.  Idle Women of the Wartime Waterways: “Gongoozlers gawping at an all-woman crew”, a repeating line from my poem Heather BellActs of Abandon: “Mommy Mommy, there are men in our dustbin”, a slogan I came across when researching The Muck and Shovel Brigade. 

What’s your favourite historical fact you’ve learnt along the last five years? 

The significance of Barbara Castle’s 1968 Transport Act, how vital it was to the future of our waterways and what an amazing woman she was.  

What are you looking forward to? 

Creating a show from all the wonderful material we gathered during the I Dig Canals project. 


That’s two posts down, three to go. Keep an eye out for post number three soon as we continue to celebrate to the fullest!

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