The 200th anniversary of the Peterloo Massacre was celebrated in Manchester yesterday. Tony Hall, a Manchester poet, tells the story of the mass demonstration that ended with 18 deaths. 17 men, women and children from the 60-80,000 protestors died, variously sabred, trampled or shot; and one Special Constable was killed by a mob.
I knew little of the Peterloo Massacre until last year when I saw the Mike Leigh film, Peterloo. I saw a youtube video interview (that I now can’t find) with Mike Leigh where he expressed his regret that although he grew up in Salford, only a mile or two from the scene of the massacre, he learned nothing about it in school.
This salontalks interview draws the parallels between the political situation in Britain in the five years leading up to the massacre, and the last five years in UK politics.
So marking the bicentenary of the Peterloo Massacre by watching the film, or participating in some of the many events taking place this month, might help us reflect on what we can learn from Peterloo.
Watching the film was a memorable experience for me, and I have seen exhibitions in John Rylands Library, Manchester Central Library, and the Peterloo Tapestry resulting from the public participatory art event (mentioned in this list of events). I saw the Tapestry exhibited in Manchester Cathedral.
Peterloo Tapestry by Frances Bell CC BY-NC-SA 2.0
I particularly enjoyed the Hidden Tableaux photographic exhibition in the Central Library that’s on until 28 September.
“Rise like lions after slumber
In unvanquishable number
Shake your chains to earth like dew
We are many, they are few”
by Percy Bysshe Shelley from