Exactly 200 years on, the powerful free event will feature ‘no spectators, only participants’

On 16 August 1819, 60,000 people gathered on what was then known as St Peter’s Field to demand parliamentary reform. Despite protesting peacefully, they were charged by cavalry - killing eighteen and injuring over 700 men, women and children - in what became a tragic milestone on the potholed road to democracy. Thereafter, it was known as the Peterloo Massacre. 

The Peterloo Massacre is a globally significant milestone in the history of democracy that also set Manchester’s path as a radical city of progress, change and where equality is championed

On Friday 16 August 2019, exactly 200 years on, communities from across Greater Manchester will come together once again; this time to commemorate all who sought better representation on the historic day. A day of poetry, song, choirs and more, the Peterloo 2019 Anniversary Event will be a hopeful and moving reflection of where this story began.

2018 08 07 Peterloo Massacre Print By Richard Carlile Copyright Manchester Libraries
The Peterloo Massacre, depicted by Richard Carlisle Manchester Libraries

At the heart of the event will be From the Crowd; a powerful immersive experience that weaves together eyewitness accounts of Peterloo protestors with the words of contemporary protestors and poets. With the participation of the general public, they’ll voice a picture of what happened on 16 August 1819 and the change people want to happen in 2019. At times a single voice will be heard; at times hundreds of voices will amplify the story and charge the atmosphere, all connected to the legacy of Peterloo and what it means today. The soundscape will be set against a musical score, which has been composed and directed by Robin Richards (Dutch Uncles) and will include guest pieces by MC Zani (performed by the Beatbox Collective), Oliver Vibrans and Katie Chatburn.

With no spectators, only participants, it’ll truly be From the Crowd

Manchester Central Manchester Gmex
From the Crowd will take place outside Manchester Central, the site of the Peterloo Massacre

Evie Manning, From The Crowd’s creative director, said: “From the Crowd is a dialogue between 1819 and 2019. In it the words will journey between solo voices, 200 people speaking together and 800 voices strong in unison. The piece explores the power of the crowd, the sense of the unexpected and the galvanising solidarity that manifests when people are together as one. We’ll be remembering those that protested and lost their lives at Peterloo and those whose lives today are affected by different oppressions.”

Helping to lead the experience (which takes place at set times throughout the day) will be 100 people who have volunteered to be ‘Laurels’; some of them direct descendants of Peterloo protestors.  The Laurels are a reminder that Peterloo was a peaceful protest, with one group of marchers from Middleton even carrying laurel branches as a symbol of peace. Accompanying banners told of their purpose, including 'Liberty and Fraternity' and 'Suffrage Universal'. 

2019 04 03 Touchstones Rochdale Peterloo Banner
The only surviving Peterloo banner belonged to Middleton man Sam Bamford Touchstones Rochdale

The From the Crowd performances will punctuate a day filled with song, poetry, choirs and more in the form of Rebel Karaoke. Streetwise Opera, Aziz Ibrahim, Commoners Choir and hip hop artists from Brighter Sound’s recent DISRUPT residency will be amongst those performing, with more to be announced.   

The event will be part of the Peterloo Anniversary weekend, with a host of events from Friday 16 to Sunday 18 August. The unveiling of a blue plaque for John Knight ‘The Radical Reformer’ in Mossley, a Peterloo Picnic at HOME and an Art Battle at Manchester Art Gallery will take place on Friday 16 August, while Saturday 17 August will see a march to the site of St Peter’s Field from surrounding towns. On Sunday 18 August, as well as film screenings of Peterloo taking place at HOME with a Mike Leigh Q&A, a Peterloo Picnic in the Park will be held at Tandle Hill Country Park in Oldham. The full weekend programme can be found here

2019 07 25 Peterloo Picnic
Other events across the Peterloo Anniversary weekend include a Peterloo Picnic at HOME

The weekend is part of Peterloo 1819, a major summer programme marking the Peterloo Massacre bicentenary led by Manchester Histories and supported by The National Lottery Heritage Fund. With over 150 events citywide from May onwards, it explores themes of protest, democracy and freedom of speech through exhibitions, screenings, performances, conversations, takeovers, dramatisations and much more.  

Councillor Luthfur Rahman, executive member for skills, culture and leisure, Manchester City Council, says: "The city looks to artists to help us understand the past and to help vision our future. The Peterloo Massacre was an important event in Manchester's history and should not be forgotten. I hope everyone can join us over the weekend of its 200th anniversary to take part in the activities planned and to find out more about this watershed moment in Manchester's past." 

Fancy taking part in From the Crowd? It’s free but you must book a ticket on eventbrite. Rebel Karaoke performances are unticketed; a full programme will be released at the beginning of August

Timings for the Peterloo 2019 Anniversary Event: Friday 16 August 2019

12.30-1.30pm: From the Crowd first performance

1.30pm: Reading of the names of the dead

2.15-4.45pm: Rebel Karaoke performances

5.30-6.30pm: From the Crowd second performance

6.30-7.15pm: Rebel Karaoke performances

8-9pm: From the Crowd final performance

9.15-12pm: Red Saunders’ Hidden Project images projected onto Bridgewater Hall

All events take place at on the forecourt of Manchester Central, Windmill Street, Manchester M2 3GX