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Saturday Night by Debbie Rolls

Saturday Night is the Flash Fiction category Runner Up in the 2020 Matchgirls Creative Arts Competition, run in partnership with Pen to Print

We put on our armour on a Saturday night. Dress pressed as well as can be, sponged down then placed between bedstead and mattress. Boots blackened with soot so the scuff marks won’t show.

But its our heads that make other heads turn. The heavy earrings that sway when we walk. Hats make a statement, feathers floating above us, in all colours of the rainbow.

The dockers might unload goods from faraway places but we let them know there is nothing more exotic in the East End than us.

Nor anyone more determined.

We are not looking for whistles, a glass of gin or good looking boys.

We are here to find support; to tell our story.

Tonight, we are speaking to the Trades Council. Listing the reasons why we had to strike. How Bryant and May fined us, made work dangerous, refused to listen to our grievances. When Annie Besant exposed their exploitation they tried to scare us into submission.

Now we speak for ourselves. Saturday means solidarity. Collecting our strike pay together. Explaining the justice of our cause to others.

Matchgirls will dance again on a Saturday night.

Today, we are dressed for battle.


Debbie Rolls is an educator, freelance writer and trade unionist. She recently gained a distinction on a creative writing MA in Travel and Nature at Bath Spa University. She is researching the writing of ex-mill girl Ethel Carnie Holdsworth.

She works in teacher education and is writing a children’s book presenting the history of the world from a spider’s point of view.

She lives in Leeds and is a regular contributor to Leeds Living website.

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