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About the Work

Vera Brittain became famous after the publication of Testament of Youth, which told of her experiences in the First World War. Before the outbreak of the Second World War she joined the Peace Pledge Union. When the war started, she began her Letters to Peace-lovers. Regarded as the leading female pacifist, she was reviled by the press, most of all for speaking out against the saturation bombing of German cities. In 1945 the Nazis' Black Book of people to be arrested after a German invasion was discovered. It included her name.

Here is Vera Brittain in World War 1 as a VAD nurse on the Western Front, having changed her bloodied uniform for a clean one.


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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