150 local musicians will join forces on 1 July to give the premiere of A Fair Field by Jonathan Pease, which tells the story of the Bow Matchgirls’ Strike of 1888. Aldersbrook Community Choir, Victoria Park Singers, Poplar Singers, Queen Mary Choir, East London Children’s Choir, and East London Community Band will take the stage in the People’s Palace, Mile End.
On 5 July 1888, fourteen hundred girls and women walked out of the Bryant & May match factory on Fairfield Road protesting poor working conditions and low pay. Just twelve days later the factory owners agreed to all the demands set out by the striking workers. This inspiring episode of East London history is the basis for a new musical work for choirs and wind band by local composer Jonathan Pease.
The work, entitled A Fair Field, will feature four community choirs, a brand-new children’s choir, and East London Community Band performing in a 150-strong massed ensemble. The 45-minute account is an entertaining yet sophisticated retelling of the story, full of catchy tunes and witty turns of phrase.
This event is co-organised by East London Music Group and The Matchgirls Memorial, an organisation which exists to raise awareness of the strike and raise money for permanent memorials to the Matchgirls. Sam Johnson, Director of The Matchgirls Memorial and great-granddaughter of one of the leaders of the strike said:
“We are overwhelmed by the enthusiasm and talent right here in the heart of the East End to bring the story of the Matchgirls Strike to a new audience. This vibrant and ambitious project, ably led by Matthew Hardy, brings together musicians of all ages to tell the story of the 1888 Matchgirls Strike as you’ve never heard it before.”
This project is the latest in which East London Music Group have joined forces with local musicians in order to explore a fascinating moment of local history. Matthew Hardy, Artistic Director of East London Music Group and conductor of the 1 July performance, said:
“It is thrilling to be bringing this incredibly important local story to life, especially with so many musicians who live in the very same streets as the Matchgirls did. Jonathan Pease’s new work is a masterpiece which exuberantly depicts the Matchgirls’ world; it is full of memorable tunes that the audience will be humming all the way home.”
Tickets are priced at £7 (£5 concessions) and are available on the door and online at eastlondonmusicgroup.co.uk/events-1/matchgirls