Just as thousands of peaceful protestors came together in Manchester’s St Peter’s Fields on 16 August 1819, exactly 200 years on, the general public will have the opportunity to do the same – with From the Crowd announced as the central, mass-participation event for the Peterloo 2019 Anniversary. Part of the summer events programme led by Manchester Histories, it will take place at what was the site of Peterloo, now the forecourt of Manchester Central, on Friday 16 August 2019, with an inspiring day of music, song, choirs and more.

From The Crowd invites members of the public to join in an immersive experience that will take place at different times throughout the day (12:30pm, 5:30pm and 8pm), featuring eyewitness accounts of those present at Peterloo 1819 woven together with the words of contemporary protestors and poets. This will be presented through a series of powerful performances where everyone can be a participant - at times a single voice will be heard, whilst at other points hundreds of voices will come together.

There will be three performances of From the Crowd during the day, and tickets are free (available from the 25 July 2019) - though capacity is limited, so booking now is essential for this one-of-a kind historic event. Booking link: https://fromthecrowd.eventbrite.co.uk

From The Crowd

This spirit of collaboration and unity is very much inspired by the principles upheld by the peaceful Peterloo protestors themselves, gathering in their thousands on the 16 August 1819 in St Peter's Fields to campaign for parliamentary reform. Tragically, this was a day that turned to devastation when armed guards charged into the 60,000-strong crowd of men, women and children – resulting in the deaths of 18 people and leaving over 700 injured.

From The Crowd will be a poignant event to remember and reflect – with a reading of the names of those who died taking place at 1.30pm. After all, a number of events beyond From The Crowd will take place at the site of St Peter’s Field over the course of the anniversary day: engaging with the themes of protest, democracy and freedom of speech. These are themes that have been explored across the Summer for Peterloo 2019, an events programme led by Manchester Histories and supported by The National Lottery Heritage Fund – the subject of a previous HAUNT Manchester article here.

So what can be expected at From The Crowd? Set to a soundscape composed and directed by Robin Richards (Dutch Uncles), this will be a unique immersive experience allowing people to reflect on the legacy of Peterloo and what it means today. There will also be music from a range of special guests – including pieces written by MC Zani (performed by the Beatbox Collective), Oliver Vibrans and Katie Chatburn. Leading participants and encouraging public involvement on the day will be 100 people who have volunteered to be ‘Laurels’. The Laurels are a reminder that Peterloo was a peaceful protest, with one group of marchers that made their way to St Peter’s Field from Middleton carrying branches of laurel as a symbol of peace.

 In addition, there is a Rebel Karaoke to get involved with! Streetwise Opera, Aziz Ibrahim, Commoners Choir and hip hop artists from Brighter Sound’s recent DISRUPT residency will be amongst those bringing non-ticketed and free Rebel Karaoke performances to life throughout the day… and participation is encouraged! In the evening, from 9.15pm until midnight, there will be a profound visual spectacular too, as Red Saunders’ Hidden Project images will be projected onto the Bridgewater Hall.

The extent of the commemoration marks a real collaborative effort with communities and contributors including the Peterloo Ambassadors, Greater Manchester Coalition of Disabled People, These Walls Must Fall, Young Identity and Linda Brogan. The day’s events are co-produced by Manchester Histories, Manchester City Council, Walk the Plank and Brighter Sound. 

Karen Shannon, CEO of Manchester Histories, reflects:

“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.  In From the Crowd we’ll see echoes of the themes that continue to see Manchester’s voice leading conversations on the global issues of today.  But most importantly it will be a poignant occasion in remembrance of those that led the way in achieving some of the rights that we have today, a reminder that change and progress take time, but can be achieved.”

So what are you waiting for? Book From The Crowd via the ticket link above and there is a full event programme for the Peterloo 2019 Anniversary Weekend (16-18 August 2019) online www.peterloo1819.co.uk/home/peterloo-2019-anniversary-weekend/, which also includes a Peterloo Picnic at HOME and an Art Battle at Manchester Art Gallery. There will also be screenings of Mike Leigh’s Peterloo film, and it was recently announced the Salford-born film-maker has been given freedom of the city of Salford.

Remember, you can watch the Peterloo Visitor Film featuring Neil Bell here, commissioned jointly by Marketing Manchester and Manchester Histories.