200 Years Since Peterloo

Crowds gather at the site of St Peter’s Fields

I’ve made mention of Peterloo a few times over the years, but the 16th of August 2019 finally came around, and with it, the 200th anniversary of the Massacre.

Jofli Bear carrying the alternative Union Flag as popularised by Henry Hunt

The sixteenth itself was marked by a lot of rain, which didn’t stop a small intrepid bunch of us meeting in Didsbury, where I was staying with Harriet, my usual companion for such events, and walking into Manchester. Harriet and some others of our regular group had managed to get tickets for the midday outdoor event; however, I had missed out. Rather than try to sneak in, I elected to wait for them in the Central Library, where I explored the interactive displays about items in the Manchester Archives, and looked at a pop-up display featuring Art Activist Barbie.

Once reunited, Harriet and I made our way to the People’s Museum to inspect their Peterloo exhibition and to enjoy some of their fine refreshments. Thus fortified, we returned to St Peter’s Square to take part in a slightly impromptu parade of papier-mâché Liberty Caps. And that was quite enough excitement for one day, other than a quick visit to the Briton’s Protection for a drink or two.

Peterloo Bicentenary 170819 (6)
Stockport Walkers Assemble

Saturday’s weather was far better suited to marching. Harriet and I made our way to the usual meeting point in Stockport, where we found far more people than expected: seventeen (eighteen if you count Jofli Bear) as opposed to the usual half dozen or so. Setting off slightly later than in previous years may have had an effect but the bicentenary was likely the bigger influence. As we made our way along the route, we were joined by other groups, so that around sixty of us entered Manchester together.

Peterloo Bicentenary 170819 (80)
Harriet adds to the Tapestry

We met up with more groups at Manchester Central, home to the new memorial, which I was greatly impressed by, and listened to a wide range of speakers on ways in which democracy could be improved. There was also the launch of the Six Acts Project, which hopes to further that aim, and the Peterloo Memorial Tapestry was held up for all to see. Harriet added a new piece of embroidery to the tapestry in memory of a prominent member of the Memorial Campaign, who died this year. There were also stalls on behalf a number of campaign groups, a range of entertainers (I particularly liked Cacophany Arkestra), and opportunities to buy Peterloo merchandise.

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Cacophony Arkestra interact with the raised portion of the Memorial

Following another visit to the Briton’s Protection, I made my way home and Harriet headed off to Stalybridge for a concert by the modern day version of one of the brass bands whose members played at the original St Peter’s Fields meeting.

All in all, an excellent couple of days, and a firm reminder of why we need to challenge and improve the processes of democracy, now as much as then.

Peterloo Bicentenary 170819 (26)Peterloo Bicentenary 170819 (87)Peterloo Bicentenary 170819 (95)


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