Matchfest: Women’s History Matters

Dr Louise Raw is a trade unionist, author and organiser of the annual Matchwomen’s Festival. Her book, Striking a Light, tells the true story of the Bryant & May Matchwomen’s strike of 1888.

Role models matter

It’s been well said that if you can’t see it, it’s much harder to be it, and psychological experiments have proved it- both Black and minority ethnic people and girls get an instant and measurable confidence boost when told about, or even simply shown images, of, women and BME men and women who have ‘made a difference’.


I see this when I talk about the Matchwomen to schools – girls generally love the fact that young  (not to mention working-class and largely migrant heritage) women influenced millions of workers with their successful strike against one of Britain’s most powerful, well-connected and exploitative firms.

The Matchwomen were supposed to be powerless- but they used the ‘secret weapons’ of courage, resourcefulness and solidarity their hard lives had given them. They changed the course of British history, becoming the mothers of the modern labour movement and, by extension, the Labour Party.

As every teacher knows, ministers like Gove and Morgan are not in favour of a diverse and inclusive reading of history: David Starkey, the historian who has the government’s ear, has said that the history of Europe ‘is a history of white men’. This is not only demonstrably untrue; but dangerously so. Children, as well as adults, need to see their faces in the ‘mirror’ of their history and culture.

Screen Shot 2016-05-11 at 20.29.19That’s why I would like every child to know the story of the Matchwomen and the millions of men and women like them, who truly ‘made’ the history of this country, but have been pushed into the wings by the real minorities- Kings, Queens and ‘Great Individuals’ . Let’s put them back centre stage, where they belong.

The Matchwomen’s Festival


Come and join us for the annual Matchwomen’s Festival which celebrates the remarkable achievement of these women and links their fight to our struggles today.

The Matchwomen’s festival has had amazing support from NUT members and branches since it began in 2013; I hope you’ll join us on Saturday 2nd July for our fourth annual shindig.

This year, on Saturday 2nd July, we have a really exciting line-up, and will be at Nambucca, a music venue a few minutes’ walk from Archway tube.

Dangerous Women

We love a dangerous woman at Matchfest and are delighted this year to have the incredible Shami Chakrabati, labelled the ‘most dangerous woman in Britain’ during her time with Liberty, as our lead speaker. Chakrabarti was also hailed by the Times as one of the ‘Makers of the 21st Century’, and has gone from Liberty to another relaxing, uncontroversial role, heading the independent inquiry for Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party…

Our other unmissable speakers:

Screen Shot 2016-05-11 at 17.58.30


You’ve seen the movie, hear the real story! Sara Jackson, author of East London Suffragettes

International journalist, activist and author of bestselling political thrillers, Sunny Singh (‘Hotel Arcadia’).

Rachel Holmes on her superb biography of Eleanor Marx

Staying Mum: Esther Parry on Maternal Feminism

Nikki Dancey on the science behind sexism

GMB’s Nadine Houghton on organizing women today.

Nina Malik– on personal experience of surviving domestic violence, and the struggles of Asian women

Who made your shoes? The answer could surprise you. Nesta Holden on homework and women

Class War’s Lisa MacKenzie on fighting austerity- and getting nicked for it!

Historian Terry McCarthy on the betrayal of women war workers

We have an amazing line-up in the evening, with comedy, bands and poets: and we’re going though till 1am, so get your dancing shoes ready.

Children welcome

We love to see children at the Fest and will have a children’s corner for little ones. You can bring them for free (though please make sure you book them a kids’ free ticket) and they can stay until 8pm.

Evening Events

We’re going through till 1am so bring your dancing shoes: we’ve seen you in action at NUT conference, we know you can move!

*Swingerella* Raven Garcia* The Fireflys * Gaptooth * The Wimmin’s Institute

*Steve White and the Protest Family* Thee Faction*

Where’s it all happening?

Screen Shot 2016-05-11 at 18.00.23Venue: Nambucca, Holloway Road, London N7 6LB

Book tickets here

Follow us on Twitter @Matchwomen1888

Find us on Facebook

#matchfest 2016

Can you help with funding?

Matchfest is a completely independent, unfunded, and not-for-profit festival and relies on your donations to run.

You can donate in three ways:

1) By cheque payable to Matchwomen’s Festival: send to Dr L Raw, 6 Abbey Court, Holywell Hill, St Albans, Herts AL1 1HA

2) Donate via the option on the ticketing page

3) Via Co-op account Matchwomen’s Festival sort code 089299 Account 65618220

Media Sponsor The Morning Star



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