Matchstick Girls

Title: Matchgirls
Logline: Teenage girls kick corporate ass and win
Genre: 4 x 60 mins TV Drama
Production Company: Whistling Thorn Films
Writer: Lou Spain

Director: Richard Clark (Midwinter of the Spirit, Outlander)

An audacious 4 x 60 minute TV drama, inspired by a true story about how a group of illiterate, disenfranchised teenage girls in 1888 take on the biggest industrial giants of their day, and win!

On a drunken midnight raid, a gang of adolescent girls commically vandalise a statue of Gladstone, their 'esteemed' Prime Minister, near the site of the Bryant & May factory where they work. But when Mighty, our rebellious teenage heroine, deliberately cuts her hand and drips blood onto the hands of the statue paid for out of their wages, the mood darkens and the gang of Matchgirls follow suite in what turns a teenage pact into the tipping point of a policitical period drama with a strikingly modern message.

Bryant and May, a ruthless cartel with a self-serving ethos, not unlike bankers today, typify the capitalism of the time. In a drive to make huge profits to pay greedy shareholders massive dividends, Wilberforce Bryant decides to cut the factory girls' pitiful wages and introduces an illegal system of fines. The fines are so punitive the girls joke that he'll actually introduce one for farting. Well, it would be funny if it weren't so tragic.

In this drama you'll find no trace of the waif-like Matchgirl that inhabits the Hans Christian Anderson tale of the day. Or the sentimentalised, idealised poor of Dickens. Mighty, the fiesty leader of our gang, doesn't give a shit about rocking the establishment. With girls imprisoned by 14-hour days, and some struck down with the grisly industrial disease called Phossy Jaw, what do any of them have to lose by flicking a 'V' at corporate greed.

Still, it will take some kind of woman to harness a raw force like theirs and Annie Besant, middle-class radical and savvy manipulator of the press, is up for the fight when the girls come out on strike - the first of its kind in British history. The alliance between these women, from very different worlds, is about to change everything they believe in.


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