Peterloo 2019, 7 June–18 August 2019 - Visit now
16 August 2019 marks the 200-year anniversary of the Peterloo Massacre – when 60,000 women, children and men gathered at St. Peter’s Field in Manchester to peacefully campaign for parliamentary representation and were charged upon by the cavalry, resulting in 18 deaths and around 700 injured. As part of a nationwide effort to commemorate this watershed moment in Britain’s long struggle for universal suffrage, Manchester Histories prepares to launch a major summer-long programme of over 150 exhibitions, performances, events, screenings, workshops and talks across the city that respond to the protest itself, its legacy, and the future of democracy.
To kick things off, on 7 June, singer-songwriter and activist Billy Bragg will be in conversation at Manchester Central Library talking about the ideas contained within his new book, The Three Dimensions of Freedom (2019), which urges citizens to resist the growing authoritarian and algorithmic threat to truth and individual agency. This will coincide with the opening of The Hidden Tableaux’s Peterloo Massacre 1819 – the latest installment in an ongoing project by the acclaimed photographer and co-founder of the Rock Against Racism campaign, Red Saunders, which recreates key moments in the long struggle of working people for democracy and social justice. The vast, visually rich images included in the exhibition will star citizens from Greater Manchester cast in the role of the Peterloo protesters.
Of the many highlights taking place during the June-to-August run, the grand finale – Peterloo Weekend – is not to be missed. Full details are still under wraps but a large-scale immersive public event, From the Crowd, will be held outdoors on the actual anniversary (16 August), uniting voices throughout the city with the Peterloo memorial – a new permanent tribute to the Peterloo Massacre created by artist Jeremy Deller. This will be followed by a family-friendly Peterloo Picnic at HOME, with food, music and performances, and then a Peterloo special edition of the legendary Art Battle Mcr at Manchester Art Gallery, which will see painters, illustrators, tattooists and street artists go head-to-head to create works inspired by the historic event.
The concluding weekend will also feature the opportunity to hear historian, filmmaker and broadcaster David Olusoga (best known for his Bafta-winning TV series, Britain’s Forgotten Slave Owners) discuss his recently published, widely acclaimed book, Black and British: A Forgotten History (2016), which explores Black British history from Roman times to the present day, and lead a conversation around protest and freedom today.
With such a packed line-up, you may struggle to catch everything. But of the many other events in store, we’d especially recommend Peterloo Now: Is devolution the way to a healthier democracy? at Manchester Central Library, where Helen Pidd (The Guardian’s northern editor) will chair a panel discussion with Andy Westwood (Professor of Government Practice at the University of Manchester) and Lisa Nandy (MP for Wigan, Shadow Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change from 2015-16). And Trace Your Peterloo People – a day-long masterclass with Manchester Metropolitan University’s resident genealogist and social historian Dr Michala Hulme, which will help modern-day descendants of the Peterloo protesters discover their ancestry.
Keen to brush up on your Peterloo knowledge in advance? Head over to People’s History Museum where Disrupt! Peterloo and Protest tells the story of the landmark event and highlights its ongoing relevance to society, and Protest Lab offers an experimental space for individuals, communities and organisations to share and develop their views and ideas for collective action.