This musical play was written by the late Bill Owen (better known as Compo in Last of the Summer Wine), with music by Tony Russell.
Based on fact, the musical tells the story of a strike by the girls in the Bryant and May match factory in 1888. It was a time when unions were still groping for recognition and mass withdrawal of labour was an almost unheard-of strategy in industrial relations. The match-cutters finally rebel against working conditions in which young girls had their jaws rotted away by phosphorus, and discipline was maintained by a system of crippling fines and sanctions.
Although this portrays a grim episode of history, it is not long before the natural exuberance of the traditional Cockney sparrow helps to create bright, sparkling entertainment which is guaranteed to “warm the cockles of yer ‘eart”.
The incongruously named "Hope Court" is the setting for much of the play, where the workers live in shabby tenements. Desperation turns Kate, the tenement girl, into a reckless strike-leader, and complicates her courtship with Joe, a docker. Annie Besant, the liberal reformer, champions the strikers' cause and plays a vital part in bringing about their ultimate victory over what was then a callous management.
Despite the subject matter of the musical, there is a strong emphasis placed on the positive mental attitude and natural enthusiasm of the group. Filled with good humour and a number of cheerful and entertaining vocal numbers, this is a show with a real “feel-good” factor.