New paintings exhibited in the Carmlelite Cafe by Alastair John Gordon inspired by Annie Besant and the 1888 Matchgirls strike.
In 1888 Annie Besant published an article in The Link journal exposing the terrible working conditions at the Bryant and May matchstick factory in Bow. Her publication led to the famous Matchgirls strike which saw 1,400 workers campaign against the factory management. Some accounts record the Matchgirls hurling blood and paint against the factory gates and statue of William Gladstone that now stands above the public toilets on Bow Street. To this day, the hands of Gladstone’s statue are stained red.
Annie Besant later moved to India where she became a leader of the national Theosophist movement, practiced levitation and later campaigned for Indian national independence.
Alastair says "As a postgraduate student at Wimbledon College of Art I made drawings outside the Nunnery gallery that led to an architectural proposal for redeveloping the space with levitating crystals and sculptural forms. After completing my MA I was appointed resident artist for Departure in Limehouse. The drawing project continued inside Carmelite and the subject moved to anecdotal accounts of the Bryant and May Matchgirls whose strike action took place half a mile away from the Nunnery. Their protest seemed to resonate with other strike action witnessed in London last year, not least through the Occupy campaign and industrial action taken by staff at the University of the Arts. I am grateful for the help of local residents who shared their stories and loaned artifacts and photographs for this project."
Alastair is Artist-in-Residence for Departure in Limehouse and recently graduated from MA Masters at Wimbledon College of Art.