The 200th anniversary of the Peterloo Massacre will be marked by a major programme of 150 events spanning Greater Manchester and beyond between June and August this year.
Led by Manchester Histories and supported by The National Lottery Heritage Fund, the line- up includes exhibitions, screenings, performances, conversations, dramatisations and much more inspired by the themes of protest, democracy and freedom of speech.
The programme leads into the anniversary itself – 16th August 2019 – when 200 years ago 60,000 men, women and children gathered peacefully to demand parliamentary reform. When troops were sent in to break up the crowd, 18 people were killed and around 700 were injured.
The programme opens with Billy Bragg In Conversation focusing on a topic at the heart of Peterloo 2019 – freedom of speech. Writer and broadcaster, Dave Haslam, will join the singer-songwriter and activist, for an evening at Manchester Central Library on Friday 7th June.
Also opening at the library on 7th June (until Saturday 28th September, free entry), The Hidden Tableaux’s Peterloo Massacre 1819 includes a series of photographic artworks created by internationally acclaimed artist Red Saunders, capturing the scenes that unfolded two centuries ago.
Music and song carried along those who marched for miles around from the towns and villages surrounding Manchester to protest for rights of representation on St Peter’s Field, and have featured as part of protest movements ever since.
Protest Music, at Royal Northern College of Music on Saturday 6th July, is a performance of original protest music created by a community of Manchester-based artists. The project has been supported by RNCM and Manchester Histories. Taking place at 3pm and 8pm, tickets for the two performances are £5 for the first 200 tickets and £12 thereafter.
The rallying cries of protest will be heard in a powerful performance, Rise Like Lions, which will take place as part of Manchester International Festival on Saturday 6th July (from 5.30pm) in a free Festival Square event created by The Guardian and Manchester Histories.
Rise Like Lions is also a reminder of the role that the press played in the reporting of the Peterloo Massacre, the government’s attempts to restrain the press and the emergence in the aftermath of what was known at the time as the Manchester Guardian.
Reflecting the stories of those who marched in protest into the centre of Manchester, there are events and exhibitions taking place in the ten boroughs that make up Greater Manchester.
Opening on Saturday 18th May (until Saturday 2nd November, free entry) is Protest & Peterloo at Touchstones Rochdale, showcasing a range of Peterloo artefacts including the only surviving banner, which was marched from Middleton by a group led by Sam Bamford. Made of blue silk it carries in gold the words ‘Unity and Strength 1819’ on one side and ‘Liberty and Fraternity’ on the other.
Sam Bamford’s story is explored through the lives of today’s young people living in Middleton in the film Our Sam, The Middleton Man, which is made by the town’s young people with film makers REELmcr, and will be shown at a free screening at Manchester Central Library on Thursday 27th June(5pm).
Oldham’s Parliament Square will be transformed by Soapbox into a Speaker’s Corner as a line-up of poets, writers, musicians and young people step up to share their thoughts on Saturday 22nd June (from 12pm).
On each Wednesday (1pm to 3pm) of the summer holidays (24th July to 28th August), families are invited to take part in a workshop at the People’s History Museum in which a different print technique will be explored in each session.
This activity compliments the museum’s headline exhibition Disrupt! Peterloo & Protest (until 23rd February 2020), featuring original Peterloo artefacts. The exhibition is free entry and the workshops are pay what you feel.
On Friday 16th August the story of Peterloo will be embraced and remembered across Manchester and the world. From the Crowd will be a moving, interactive outdoor event in which voices of today are united by the spirit of Peterloo.
It will incorporate the Peterloo memorial, which has been commissioned by Manchester city council and is being created by artist Jeremy Deller as a permanent tribute to the Peterloo Massacre.
A Peterloo Picnic taking place at HOME from 2pm will be a free event for all the family featuring food, music and a line up of performances. The evening is when Art Battle Mcr takes place for a Peterloo special, as painters, illustrators, tattooists and street artists go head to head in an art spectacular that will take place at Manchester Art Gallery from 7pm, tickets £15.
Other events taking place over the Peterloo Weekend include David Olusoga in Conversation. The historian, film-maker and broadcaster will headline this free event at Manchester Art Gallery on Saturday 17th August, with David discussing his recent book Black and British: A Forgotten History, drawing upon the themes of protest and freedom.