Sarah Cole

Clink Hostel, London
13 May 2010 - 05 June 2010

Audio: Artangel Podcast 2

20 minutes 12 seconds
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Climbing the narrow stairs of a three-sided tower a girl searches for her lost cherries, is pushed aside by a braying buggy and tries not to throw the baby out with the bath water. Quite literally skating on thin ice, this is a world where stability is both sought and fought. Smother was a story of emotional resilience, adaptability, loneliness and joy, of constant battles and glorious victories.

Housed in the dolls-house frame of 101 Kings Cross Road, resting precariously above London’s ancient river Fleet, the inhabitants of Smother showed us a glimpse of a world where young parents navigate their own adulthood amidst the complexities of raising a child.

Conceptualised and developed with a group of parents from age fourteen to mid-twenties and their children, Smother encapsulated the vastly different experiences of these young mothers and fathers as they passed through weekly drop-in sessions at Coram.

Smother was developed over nine months through a series of workshops and discussions. Artist Sarah Cole worked with composer Jules Maxwell and the young parents to direct an experience that offered the audience a rare invitation into an honest and intimate personal space.

The Coram Young Parents drop-in is a weekly opportunity for young parents to share experiences and find support with a wide range of issues whilst their children can play in a stimulating environment.

Smother was previewed as part of Reveal a Create KX initiative during Spring 2010 which animated Kings Cross through a dynamic display of visual and digital art, live music and site specific performance.

Artangel Podcast 2: Young parents, a dictionary, a blunderbuss, a crooked house  is available here, left, to listen to online. It is also available to stream or download from Soundcloud.

Image: A young woman drags a dirty single mattress along the floor of a decrepit attic room; teacups are suspended from the ceiling during Smother, 2010. Photograph: Tas Kyprianou

Coram and Smother

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About Coram

Coram has developed a range of programmes that bring positive change for children today and restore hope for the children of tomorrow. The work of Coram addresses what matters most to children: to feel loved; to feel safe; to feel confident enough to make choices; to believe that hope exists. Coram targets support to those that need it most, drawing on over 270 years of experience. 

Coram Young Parents project

Special thanks to the following parents, babies, and children for their involvement in the project: Agartha, Alfie, Anaiah, Charlie, Diana, Dilan, Elijah, Eve, Faiza, Flavia, Georgia, Holly, Ibisha, Isha, Izaak, Jacob, Janel, Jayden, Jayden, Jevon, Joanna, Jonas, Kadie, Kadiesat, Kamor, Keyara, Kirsty, Kristie, Kristina, Kyra, Lakia, Lorraine, Macey, Martin, Mary, Mifi, Naima, Nebiyat, Nikita, Precious, Pricilla, Raphael, Sapphira, Tia and Victoria. Thanks to Laura, Henry and Javiera at Coram Young Parents Project.

Coram and the Foundling Museum

Image: A woman wearing a purple velour hoodie, balances in a childs pushchair as she hangs a circular mirror onto a white wall  between two windows during Smother, 2010. Photograph Tas Kyprianou.


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The mothers make no eye contact. It is a wistful, angry, vivid piece about motherhood as loss of freedom, as isolation, as house arrest... Reverie is a luxury. — Kate Kellaway, The Observer, 16 May 2010

Selected Press

For this excellent, if hard to classify, Artangel event which explores what it's like to become a parent when you're still a child yourself, artist Sarah Cole spent nine months working with some of the very young mothers and fathers who attend the Coram Centre Young Parents Project Friday drop-in sessions.The stories born of the process, though anonymous, are real. — Sara O'Reilly, Time Out, 10 May 2010
One mother skates on icy blue linoleum. Another lights a blaze in a grate. A third showers on the top floor. The mothers make no eye contact. It is a wistful, angry, vivid piece about motherhood as loss of freedom, as isolation, as house arrest. — Kate Kellaway, The Observer, 16 May 2010
The claustrophobic building itself is pregnant with tension, a soundtrack creating an incredibly uncomfortable atmosphere, a young mum appears, tenuously attached to her child (signified by a balloon clinging to static on her hand) before the child floats up to the ceiling. Her bitter, aggressive frustration in trying to retrieve it is physically difficult to watch - a moving expression of a teenager struggling with the role of carer. — Zena Alkayat, metrolife, 18 May 2010

About Sarah Cole

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Sarah Cole

Sarah Cole is a visual artist who makes work in contexts beyond the gallery or museum.

Her practice involves the orchestration of collaborative encounters and conversations with people in their environments. Her work takes the form of performative events and recordings, multimedia installations and educational presentations.

Past work includes placing a live horse in a classroom, as a response to teachers talking about their ideas on teaching/learning, and creating a spitting performance with students at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

Sarah Cole studied English Literature and Fine Art at Exeter and Plymouth Universities followed by an MA in Media Fine Art at the Slade, University College London.

She has exhibited in Denmark, Finland and Australia as well as across the UK, and been commissioned by many arts organisations including Artangel, The South London Gallery, Creative Partnerships and the National Theatre.

Sarah Cole lives in London and is a senior lecturer at Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design, University of the Arts London.


Image: Sarah Cole along with parents and children attending the Coram Young Parents Project during development of Smother, 2010 (left). A pair of women's legs fitted with white ice-skates, stand motionless on a floor coated in a thin layer of ice, with snowflakes projected on to it's surface, during Smother, 2010. Photograph: Tas Kyprianou

Production Credits

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Production Credits

Director – Sarah Cole
Composer – Jules Maxwell 
Cast – Keli Brown, Vissey Safavi, Danielle Shillingford
101 Hosts – Kristie, Janel, Diana, Joanna, Georgia
Costume design – Vissey Safavi
Furniture fabrication  – Mike Jones
Leaflet design and illustration  – Sara Nesteruk
Lighting – Adam Povey and Liam Cleary
Technical Installation – Rachael Champion and Roberto Sánchez-Camus
Sound Installation  – Simeon Corless and Jack Hems
House model – Thomas Goodey
Wall drawings – Talya Baldwin 
Producer – Rachel Anderson
Production Assistant – Larne Abse Gogarty

Read cast and composer biographies

Image: Sarah Cole photographing a scale model of a building facade during production of Smother, 2010.


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Who made this possible?


Smother was commissioned and produced by Artangel Interaction in collaboration with Coram Young Parents Project, Jonathan Woolf Architects, developers Heights UK, Clink Hostel, the Foundling Museum and Noiceone. Smother is generously supported by John Lyon’s Charity, the National Lottery through Arts Council England and Reveal. 

Artangel is generously supported by the private patronage of The Artangel International CircleSpecial AngelsGuardian Angels and The Company of Angels.