Loading Events

Upcoming Events

Find Events
  • This event has passed.
March 9, 2020 @ 7:00 pm - 8:30 pm
  • Fiction

Secrets of the Homefront Girls

Kate Thompson
Kate Thompson and Secrets of Homefront Girls cover


Basildon Library, The Basildon Centre, St Martins Square
Basildon, SS14 1EE
£5 concessions (27 years and under)

Box Office:

Mercury Theatre
01206 573948

This event has sold out.


As iconic brand Yardley celebrates its 250th anniversary, this is the story of the courageous women of World War Two, working in the Yardley factory in London’s East End.

1939. ‘Beauty is your Duty’ was an official propaganda campaign, backed by Winston Churchill, encouraging women to embrace beauty and femininity despite the hardship that they had to endure, and discouraging the notion that devoting attention to their appearances was trivial or vain.

Secrets of the Homefront Girls book cover


Secrets of the Homefront Girls

Although England may be at war, for the young women working the lipstick production line at Yardley’s cosmetics factory in East London, it’s business as usual. Wearing bright red lipstick went from being seen as risqué to patriotic. A slick of red was an easy way to create an accessible flash of glamour in an otherwise grey, tiring and frightening world. British firm Yardley cottoned onto this and took on the big boys of the cosmetics world like Max Factor, telling girls that ‘good looks and good morale are close companions, so put your best face forward’.

For headstrong and flirtatious Renee Gunn, that means taking Esther, a young Austrian refugee, under her wing and teaching her how to be a true cockney. But when Lily, Renee’s older sister, suddenly returns home after six years away, it’s clear that life in Stratford is changing for good. In the face of the Blitz, could the secrets that Renee, Lily and Esther are keeping be the most dangerous weapon of all?

The richly colourful characters and events in Secrets of the Homefront Girls are inspired by Kate’s research, speaking to those who worked at Yardley, and even reuniting factory friends after 70 years.

“My research has taken me into the homes of so many women and I have listened rapt as they explained how they lived through cataclysmic times. It is often the quiet voices, which are the most revealing. Working-class women and their unassuming thoughts and feelings tell us so much about how difficult, but also how rewarding it was to be a woman in pre-welfare state Britain.” Kate Thompson




Basildon Library
The Basildon Centre, St Martins Square
Basildon, SS14 1EE
+ Google Map
0345 6037628