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About the Work

Mary Prince, a West Indian slave was brought to London by her owners from the Caribbean. She discovered not long after her arrival, that slavery was illegal in England. She promptly walked out and was taken in by a sympathetic family living in Claremont Square, Islington to whom she dictated her autobiography. She described in shocking detail the treatment she and other slaves suffered in the Caribbean colonies. When her book was published it attracted huge interest, fueled by a High Court libel action brought by her former owner, which he lost. The autobiography and the legal case provoked questions in Parliament about the condition of slavery in the British colonies leading to its abolition.

Here is Mary Prince with the welts from her many beatings, informing her owners that she is about to bid them good-bye.


The women I portrayed in this work were role models for my mother, Muriel. Together they make up her personality and like her they had charisma and chutzpah.
Muriel, a war-widow's daughter, left school at 12 to bring some money into her poverty-stricken family. Hardly able to read and write, she sold programmes and did odd jobs at the Theatre Royal, Nottingham. When she was 14 she was talent-spotted. Beginning as a hoofer in a chorus line, she became a lead dancer and singer with the stage-name Muriel Melford in a long-forgotten musical at the Prince of Wales called Bonjour Paris.
When she was in that show she met her future husband, my father. He was an Oxford-educated schoolmaster over twice her age. He introduced her to a middle-class world of unfamiliar concepts such as politics, ethics and causes. Muriel took notice. Married and back in the Midlands she spoke up about what were embarrassing issues in the provincial England of the 1940s and 50s - pacifism, the abolition of the death penalty and the sexual liberation of women.

″I still use the same approach to my work: I get an idea, think of the title and then make the work. So not much has changed since 1964″

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