Resting Place - Rediscovering the past

We have all been there. The ultimate spring clean that delves into the darkest, undisturbed crevices of the house and unearths a treasure trove of memories. But what when your discoveries not only open up the past but ones imagination and creativity?

Discovering Clarice’s diary in her parent's attic along with photographs and notebooks, artist Dawn Cole was fascinated to learn she had a great aunt who took a fit of fancy and headed to France to assist the British war effort and became a Voluntary Aid Detachment nurse.

 Inspired by Clarice’s diary, ‘Resting Place’ is a series of live performances of contemporary dance and spoken word that accompany the laying of the pillowcases as a representation of the suffering of Clarice’s charges, in public spaces over two years. It tells the war experience of Cole’s relation Clarice Spratling but also draws in the viewer to consider aspects of the war more often left untold; from the viewpoint of a young woman on the frontline.


The first event, “On wishing her goodbye” happened in March at Ellington Park, opposite Clarice's home in the Kent coastal town of Ramsgate. This first events as well as starting at Clarice’s journey, also illustrates Clarice’s first encounter of army life. Clarice came across the usual lack of celebration and ceremony that women were given when leaving England to Nurse in France. Via Social Media, people across the country were invited to make bunting flags, expressing what they would say to a young woman heading off to war. Cole has since collated and bound the bunting flags into books for a permanent record of Goodbyes to the unsung heroines.

Cole delves further into the inequalities of the sexes in WWI. Men upon entering service would be given a shilling for joining up, hence the phrase “taking the King’s shilling”. Women wishing to enlist on the other hand had to pay a shilling. During the live performance Cole went around the audience collecting or giving shillings accordingly, which unsurprisingly raised a few eyebrows and indignant questions.

Cole has documented her experiences in bringing together ‘Resting Place’ on her blog – Embroider The Truth

Further events will take place at Charing Cross Station and Folkestone Seafront, mirroring the stages of Clarice’s physical journey to the western front. The final live performance will be in spring 2015 at Wimereux, France – where the WWI cemetery is located which was near to where Clarice was posted, and where some of the men she nursed are buried.