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Top 5 Radical Manchester
By freelance writer Ruth Rosselson. Whether it's lobbying, campaigning, theorising or out-and-out direct action, Manchester has seen it all.
Using the authorities to control pro-democracy demonstrators isn’t a recent tactic. On 16th August, 1819, St Peter’s Field, Manchester, saw a crowd of 60,000 people come together to call for democracy and demonstrate against poverty; at the time, just 2% of the population could vote, and hunger and poverty was rife. The demonstrators were charged by cavalry, resulting in the deaths of 15 people and between 400 and 700 injured. Despite its significance, there is still no major memorial to the event. More info.
The Co-operative movement as we know it started just a stone’s throw out of Manchester when the ‘Pioneers’ started the first consumer co-operative in Toad Lane, Rochdale. Owned and run by its members, the founders laid down a set of values & principles which have been developed into the framework used by co-operatives around the world to this day. Manchester is home to many successful and award-winning co-operatives, including the Unicorn Grocery in Chorlton and the head offices of the UK’s largest mutual retailer, the Co-operative Group. More info.
Free Trade Hall
Built on the field of the infamous Peterloo Massacre, the Free Trade Hall might be a swanky hotel now, but it used to be centre of public debate and cultural activity within Manchester. Suffragettes Christabel Pankhurst and Annie Kenney were ejected from a meeting there in 1905 after calling for votes for women, while Bob Dylan’s 1966 concert prompted a heckler to call him a ‘Judas’ for betraying his ‘folk’ roots and going electric.
The campaign for votes for women began here in Manchester in 1903 when Emmaline Pankhurst formed the Women’s Social and Political Union. The campaign began to gain momentum in 1905 after the arrests of Christabel Pankhurst and Annie Kenney and involved thousands of women over the next nine years until the outbreak of the 1st World War. Their bravery, tenacity and militancy, as well as women’s contribution to the war effort, paid off when universal suffrage for adults over 21 was finally achieved in 1928. More info.
Both figures spent long periods of time in Manchester, and its juxtaposition of rich and poor helped shape their writing and ideology. The poverty and social conditions of the slums in the late 1800s horrified Frederik Engels when he arrived here in the early 1840s and inspired him to write The Condition of the Working Class in England. He collaborated with Karl Marx to write the Communist Manifesto in 1848 and later, Engels financially supported Marx by working for the family firm in Manchester. The alcove where Engels & Marx worked together in Chetham Library can still be visited. More info.