The Peterloo Massacre was a watershed moment that would mark Manchester as a radical city like no other and become a defining moment for Britain’s democracy.
On Monday 16 August 1819, a 60,000-strong crowd walked to the meeting point at St Peter’s Field in Central Manchester from as far afield as Wigan, Rochdale, Saddleworth and Altrincham to call for parliamentary representation.
Shortly after the meeting began and whilst the orator Henry Hunt was making his address, local government forces charged into the crowd on horseback and with swords drawn, injuring 700 and killing 18 men, women and children. A story that is told by writer and director Mike Leigh in his new film Peterloo, this is a moment in Britain’s history that he says all schoolchildren in the UK should be taught. The timing of the announcement comes ahead of the UK premiere on Wednesday 17 October 2018 and nationwide release on Friday 2 November 2018.
Thanks to money raised by National Lottery players, a Heritage Lottery Fund grant will enable Manchester Histories and People’s History Museum will work in partnership with Manchester City Council, Historic England, University of Manchester, Manchester Metropolitan University as well as a host of other partners and individuals across Greater Manchester to deliver the Peterloo 2019 project, which will commemorate one of the most significant episodes in the history of Britain’s struggle for universal suffrage.
Karen Shannon, CEO Manchester Histories, says, “The Peterloo Massacre plays a significant role in the history of Manchester. The fall-out from what followed was felt across the country and continues to be felt two hundred years later. We want to ensure that more people know about what happened at Peterloo and consider some of the parallels of what happened then and what is happening in today, not just in Manchester but also globally.”
For Peterloo 2019, Manchester Histories will produce a programme of public events, learning, creative exploration and community projects led by the themes of protest, democracy and freedom of speech for people across Greater Manchester and beyond to get involved in. It will include the largest Manchester Histories Festival to date hosted in the iconic Manchester Central Library where a vast programme of activities will take place from June to August 2019. My Family Tree will trace the stories of the descendants of Peterloo and Soapbox will enable young writers and the general public to have their say around the themes of the programme.
Jenny Mabbott, Head of Collections & Engagement at People’s History Museum, says, “We are delighted to be partnered with Manchester Histories in this National Lottery funded project, which will mark the bicentenary of the Peterloo Massacre with a diverse programme of learning, public events and community engagement. As the national museum of democracy and home of ideas worth fighting for, visitors go on a journey exploring these ideas, starting with the Peterloo Massacre. We are passionate about engaging people with this watershed moment in the history of democracy and its legacy, which has shaped the lives of us all.”
New learning resources will be produced by Manchester Histories in partnership with People’s History Museum and Historic England, which will include lesson plans, activities and assembly presentations. Alongside these an animation will be created with RECLAIM, a youth leadership and social change organisation that supports working class young people. In partnership with HOMEmcr young people will also have the opportunity to make their own film inspired by Peterloo as part of the HOME BFI Film Academy 2018.
A cohort of Peterloo Ambassadorswill be recruited and trained to help share the story of Peterloo and the stories of the people who helped define Manchester as a radical city of thought and progression. There will be a specially designed website (www.Peterloo1819.co.uk), which will place users in the setting of Peterloo for them to explore, showcase the wider events happening across the city region, and bring news and stories to a global audience.
Nathan Lee, Head of Heritage Lottery Fund North West, said:“The Peterloo Massacre is perhaps the most important moment in the history of democracy and the fight for universal suffrage. The events that took place on St Peter’s Field in Manchester in August 1819 still shock us today, and it is thanks to National Lottery players that Manchester Histories will now be able to ensure that people can engage with, learn about and remember this pivotal moment in our history.”