Celebrate the pioneers who fought for workers’ rights in Luton play

St Andrews Players present The Matchgirls
St Andrews Players present The Matchgirls

A protest by women in Victorian Britain that changed the world of work forever is the subject of a lay being staged in Luton this week.

In 1888 the London Matchgirls, working at the factory of Bryant and May, made history when they went on strike. This action was taken by young women who faced poor wages, heinous fines for minor misdemeanours and the possibility of death from ‘phossy jaw’. a kind of cancer caused by working with white phosphorus.

With the help of social reformer Annie Besant they eventually won their battle, forcing Bryant and May to change its policies and improve the lives of their workers. Their success sparked the modern Trade Union movement.

Now, the story is being told in The Matchgirls, which is being presented by the St Andrew’s Players at St Andrew’s Church from Thursday May 17 to Sunday May 20.

The show was written in the 1960s by comedy actor and writer Bill Owen, with music by songwriter Tony Russell.

Players spokeswoman Jo Yirrell said: “Despite the subject matter the musical emphasises the positive mentality and natural ebullience of the so called ‘Cockney Sparrows’ leading to plenty of cheerful and entertaining numbers.”

Tickets cost £12. Visit standram.co.uk or call 07778 241457 to book.