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About the Work

Mary Seacole was a nurse from Jamaica. Hearing of the terrible conditions in the Crimean War and knowing more than most about wounds and infection control, she decided to travel to London to offer her help. On arrival Florence Nightingale turned her down so she made her own way to the Crimea and started treating wounded soldiers from both sides, often on the battlefield whilst under fire. When the war was over she was soon stranded and destitute but was saved by the personal intervention of Lord Rokeby, Commander of the British Forces. He organized a Benefit and she was lauded. Yet when she died she was forgotten for almost a century.

Here is Mary Seacole wearing her uniform following the Benefit.


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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