Peterloo Massacre

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, 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 The Masque of Anarchy: Written on Occasion of the Massacre at Manchester

#ALTC Preconference Walking Tour details and contact

Whitworth Gallery by the picture drome CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Are you in Manchester for ALTC 2018, and free on the afternoon of Monday 10 September? Then please consider joining me for a walking tour, taking in the Whitworth Art Gallery, and back to the Conference Venue in time to register. You will be free to go around the Gallery on your own or with others. Details of other activities, registration and Monday evening meetup are here . Currently, the weather forecast is 18 deg C, Light cloud and a gentle breeze, but you never know with Manchester.

Here is what I said my  ALTC Blog Post of 2 weeks ago.

If you are in Manchester on Monday 10 September, then you are welcome to join a walking tour with me at 3pm – …..  we will walk down Oxford Road with a brief detour past the Pankhurst Centre, former family home of Emmeline Pankhurst where the first suffragette meetings were held (open Thursdays 1000-1600). The Whitworth Art Gallery (our destination) is a beautiful recently refurbished art gallery situated in Whitworth Park. The art collection includes textile and mixed media art as well as paintings and sculptures, as you can see from the current exhibitions. We’ll leave time for refreshments in the magical cafe in the trees before walking back to the conference venue for registration.

Please contact me to let me know if you will be attending, and ask any questions either via Twitter @francesbell or by completing the form below. I will share my mobile phone number if you contact me, and it would be good if you reciprocated.

I will be waiting at the entrance to Cafe Muse, right opposite the Conference venue, University Place from 1450 on Monday 10 Septemeber, hoping to set off at 1500.

Looking forward to seeing you on the day.

 

Libraries in my life

I have always loved libraries. The first one that I remember is Withington Library from when I lived in Withington in Manchester as a child. It’s great to see it is still there and operating as a community hub.

When we moved to Middlesbrough, I became very excited that I could join two different libraries and double the number of books I could borrow.  I longed to be 12 so that I could join the adult library.

Middlesbrough Central Reference Library by https://www.flickr.com/photos/deargdoom57/ CC BY 2.0
Middlesbrough Central Reference Library by https://www.flickr.com/photos/deargdoom57/ CC BY 2.0

The first floor reference library looks pretty much as I remember it though we didn’t have bands performing there back in the day.

Funnily enough, university libraries tend not to be among my favourites even though I know how important they are for resources and as study venues for students.

Manchester has two beautiful libraries in the city centre, each of which has had a facelift in recent years.   John Rylands Library was built by Enriqueta Rylands as a memorial to her late husband (Manchester’s first multi-millionaire) and opened on the first day of the 20th Century.

John Rylands Library
John Rylands Library

It feels like a cross between a museum and a church and, as well as offering archives and services for librarians and researchers, it has a reading room that offers a truly lovely workspace that I worked in last week .  The silence is almost loud.

Manchester’s Central Library reopened recently and I have visited it twice but feel that I have only just scraped the surface.
new entrance to Manchester Central Library
It has a spectacular new entrance that connects it to the Town hall, with a dimpled reflective ceiling that throws off dynamic and fractured images. The cafe is in the heart of the ground floor right next to  interactive multimedia resources that offer a way into physical archives at various Manchester libraries.The ground floor offers connected social spaces that open into each other. On my first visit, I could hear a performance for the Manchester Jazz festival across the other side of the building.

So let’s celebrate public libraries and defend them from funding cuts.  We still need public spaces where people can learn independently with guidance from librarians.

Screen shot from Google Books
Screen shot from Google Books

They are as important now as they were at the time that Roberts (1971) wrote about in his classic work about Salford slums in the early 20th Century.

Roberts, R. (1971). The classic slum: Salford life in the first quarter of the century. Manchester: Manchester University Press.