The Matchgirls

The Matchgirls (ages 12-13)

This scheme of work is inspired by the strike about working conditions in the Bryant and May match factory in London in the 1880s. The key elements – 14 hour days, poor pay, excessive fines and serious health risks – are introduced through mime and improvisation, guided by the key characters the factory foreman, Annie Besant, Mr Bryant and Mr May. Drama skills developed include Mantle of the Expert, Hot-seating and Symbolism.


This scheme of work contains 6 drama lesson plans.

  • Lesson 1: Working in the Match Factory. The poor pay and appalling conditions in 19th century factories are introduced through mime and improvisation with the teacher in the role of the despotic factory foreman.
  • Lesson 2: Annie Besant. The growing unrest amongst the match workers is improvised and attracts the interest of the famous writer. Volunteers playing the roles of Annie Besant, Mr Bryant and Mr May are hot-seated to understand their characters’ motivations.
  • Lesson 3: Effects of the Article. Groups devise a frozen image to show the middle class reaction to Annie Besant’s newspaper article before devising a further scene about a match working family’s reaction to the news of a strike.
  • Lesson 4: The Strike. The difficulties in organising industrial action in the 1880s are brought to life through a spontaneous improvisation set on a picket line.
  • Lesson 5: The Birth of Unions. The class learns how and why unions were created through a Mantle of the Expert improvisation.
  • Lesson 6: The Agreement. The students produce a piece of work about the experiences and courage of the matchgirls using Symbolism. This piece is evaluated and graded.

Supporting materials include

  • The Agreement
  • Cut-out shilling coins

Additional resources are included in the appendices

  • Basic Drama Skills Sheet
  • End Of Unit Self-Assessment Form

The scheme of work is supplied as a PDF file, readable on most computers.


More Lesson Plans

Developing vocal delivery through fun exercises and a little Shakespeare (Year 8)

One night over dinner the Earl is found dead. A classic whodunnit? (Year 8)

Learning to think quickly and creatively with an Olympian Improvisation finale (Year 8)

Victorian stage fun, stock characters and villainous intent (Year 8)

Exploring classic storytelling, stock characters and key elements (Year 8)

Improvised comedy using stock characters and masks (Year 8)

Understanding the plight of the homeless and their families (Year 8)

Greek tragedy with Theseus, Ariadne and a labyrinth (Year 8)

Drama inspired by Aboriginal Dreamtime art and music (Year 8)

Shakespeare introduction with Olivia, Viola and Malvolio (Year 8)

Creating characters using props, improvisation and text (Year 8)

Using music to create tension, mood and atmosphere (Year 8)

Annie Besant and the famous match workers strike of 1888 (Year 8)

An ancient take on comedy, tragedy and pantomime (Year 8)

This entry was posted in . Bookmark the permalink.