EVENT: Research Results Unveiling

Snidge Scrumpin

At this event the Snidge Scumpin’ project will reveal the findings of its research into what specific smells belong to the Black Country, and what particular memories they evoke in Black Country locals. Psychologist Dr Tom Mercer has crunched hundreds of pages of data and will unveil which particular Black Country smells resonated with the participants.

Senior Lecturer in TESOL Judith Hamilton investigated the language participants used to describe the odours used in the experiment. The team will also unveil the Top 5 Black Country smells. To celebrate the success of the research, Kerry Hadley-Pryce, R. M. Francis and Liz Berry will perform short pieces on their olfactory associations with the Black Country.

The big reveal will be part of this year’s Wolverhampton Original Literature Festival:

Fri 1st Feb 2019

5pm – 7pm

Wolverhampton Art Gallery

Free Entry

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Wolverhampton Central Library, Children’s Library, 1980s

Snidge Scrumpin

by Liz Berry

Audio Version here

The smell of it, even now, is like being stroked behind the knees, it makes me buckle.

A wood in September: the warm singe of heat on bark, sweat, leafsmoke, the air all of a sudden freckled with dust, and me kneeling between the stacks, face hidden in the leaves of a book.

I’m in that formless time before school, waiting for her to finish work. My mom, the librarian. In that humming forest of books, she moves gently as a root. Her scent is everywhere amongst the stacks: the tea on her tongue, the vinegar tang of her feet as she slips off her pinching shoes behind the counter, her perfume, anais anais, white lilies over leather and wood. She is a pale bloom in the dim hush between the shelves and swaying ladders, the soft sh shhh of the date stamp.


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Chrysanthemums smell like graveyards

Snidge Scrumpin

by Eileen Ward Birch

Or should it be graveyards smell of chrysanthemums?

My parents always sold flowers in their greengrocers, so I saw the turning of the years in fruits, vegetables and flowers. Daffodils in early spring have a beautiful delicate scent, especially the pretty multi-headed jonquils.

I remember going to visit Leah, the Wolverhampton flower seller who supplied our shop wholesale. She and her family sold flowers in the town centre and outside the hospitals as well as supplying bouquets and funeral tributes. Her HQ was a shed-like structure in Penn Fields.  We went there to talk through and order flowers for my wedding, which being Easter Monday was a tricky one.  The church was easy, as my parents simply paid for the church flowers that would have been there anyway for Easter.  Buttonholes for the chief guests were also a simple decision, as carnations were the order of the day back…

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Engine Oil

Snidge Scrumpin

By Eileen Ward Birch

I was always daddy’s girl and from the time I could stand I loved little better than ‘helping’ my Dad with our cars.  Over the years we had a variety of motors as they were needed for the business and Dad did most of the mechanical work on them himself having learned to drive in the days when you had to know about these things.  In fact, he’d never taken a test to drive a car and only took one to drive heavy goods vehicles when the test for them was introduced.

As soon as Dad had the bonnet up on a car, or started to remove a worn tyre, I would be there ready to follow instructions what to listen for or which pedal I could press.  I even used a foot pump to inflate tyres as soon as I was strong enough.

Mostly what…

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We try to keep Sunday best, though mom hates Sundays

Snidge Scrumpin

By Natalie Burdett

After church, we’d drink Irn Bru,

wipe beefy crisp-crumbs

from our faces with the backs of hands

as mom and dad pulled out the twin tub,

pushed it to the sink to fill,

its whir spreading chlorine’s shock

through heavy whites,

bleach mist making windows opaque.

Our boredom simmered

with the scent of powder’s garden-fresh green flecks.

Their faces reddened

hauling dripping towels washer to spinner,

like drowned otters on the boiler stick –

bone-pale, cracked

but strengthened by hot-cold dry-wet –

as each load filled and drained.

Last, the dark load’s incense and grit

swirled around the space-pattern drum

with soft rinse water – slippy, blue –

gathered a tang of rubber,

splurging the sink through the curved grey pipe,

then a final tipping up

to empty before the washer went back,

a cabbage pan rattling, too, now

mixing metal odours with clean steam

fat spitting…

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Snow Day – Wayne Dean-Richards

Snidge Scrumpin

My granddad once told me about a teacher who wore glasses with little mirrors attached to the frames so he could see behind him: as if he really did have eyes in the back of his head!  

When he saw, reflected, one of the kids in his class messing about, he grabbed whatever was closest – usually the blackboard rubber or a stick of chalk – and threw it at the miscreant: whack! 

Perhaps that story sowed the seeds in me: certainly I didn’t think of teachers as human beings who liked to play in the snow!  

It was why I was surprised when Mr Cannon told me to open all the windows in the mobile classroom. 

The school heating system had conked out that day, and if it was below a certain temperature everyone had to be sent home. 

It was early January and there was a foot of snow on the ground.  

A class…

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An idea once crystalized

Snidge Scrumpin

Emma Purshouse

Maybe it was a weird thing to do
to send a paper bag full of suck
in the post, not so much as a note,
their smell permeating the jiffy bag
waiting to waft out into your room,
that heady mix of the medicinal
and the factory filling your air with
the sort of smell you might put on a wound
or a scratch where the swarf has bit.
The sort of smell that might,
one cold night, remind you of

home, of me, of the Black Country.

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Bella’s Ghost

Snidge Scrumpin

Extracts from R. M. Francis’ novella, Bella

It’s hard to be clear when you’re dead. Nothing holds in the same way. It’s hard. I recall the smell of pig shit and how it slugs at my throat. When I lived I could get that smell in a mood. When the mood was right, I could smell it and every organ in me would flex and shiver. When there was a bad mood. That rank stench and body quiver – I’ll never know where it came from or how it mustered so much feeling. That’s what it’s like now. My life is held in rushes of smells and the moods that flood with each sniff. Memory is difficult when you’re dead.

Mom married Dad when I was still inside her. He worked days and she worked nights, so it was me and Nan. Me and Nan pulled potatoes in the field…

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My Sister’s Wedding – Day Three: The Shaadi

Snidge Scrumpin

Amarjit Nar

Extract taken from the forthcoming book, Stories from my Father’s House

“Two minutes,” Mum said mopping her brow with her chuni. “Two minutes. Don’t say anything to me, just for two minutes. So many things to sort out, so many things, you don’t understand,” she told no one in particular as she riffled through the wardrobe for items she’d stowed away for the wedding.

The wardrobe was full of things in an array of shopping bags from different stores. It was a system she used to denote what was in what bag. But as time had lapsed she had forgotten her system and and ended up riffling through each bag until she ticked everything on her mental list. The remala she had sewn from material printed with the holy sign to cover the pulpit surrounding the holy book; the Guru Granth Sahib. A shirt for the groom. His…

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