English workers after Peterloo, theatre play

This 8 April 2019 video says about itself:

Rob Johnston on writing The Riot Act

THE RIOT ACT, Saturday 20 July, 1.30pm and 3pm, Manchester Central Library, St Peter’s Square, Manchester M2 5PD.

On August 12th 1842, just 23 years after the Peterloo Massacre, Lancashire cotton workers again marched in protest at appalling pay and conditions. Reaching Preston’s Lune Street the protesters were confronted by the authorities and read The Riot Act. A gripping mix of tragedy and humour from Rob Johnston and Breathe Out Theatre, who won the award for BEST DRAMA at Greater Manchester Fringe Festival 2017. Performed as part of the Peterloo 2019 commemorations.

Video: Jo d’Orville and Jasmine Carter. Photography by Craige Barker.

By Bernadette Hyland in Britain:

Monday, July 22, 2019

Theatre Review

Riot Act, Central Library, Manchester

Excellent dramatisation of the revolutionary upsurge in the aftermath of Peterloo

1842 was a year of great hardship for workers across the north-west of England.

High bread prices, reduced wages and the dismissal of calls for universal … suffrage by Chartists led to strikes and disturbances in the summer.

In this new play, writer Rob Johnston has chosen events in Preston to tell the story of workers and mill owners as the political situation reaches boiling point, with Jake Talbot and Christopher Ward playing both the mill owners and the weavers.

Set on the night before a planned mass protest by striking workers, two weavers meet and discuss their lives and what could happen the next day.

It’s 23 years after the Peterloo Massacre and the older weaver (Ward) counsels the young man over using violence and his hopes for a better future.

But the illiterate George (Talbot) feels he has nothing to lose. He believes that the soldiers are just workers wearing uniforms and thus pose no threat.

Both actors then assume the roles of the mill owners Horrocks and Denholm. The former, the mayor of Preston, wants to use force to get the workers back at the mills and rejects Denholm’s liberal ideas.

Challenged about using the army to attack the workers, Horrocks proclaims that he has no scruples about reading the Riot Act.

The scene is set. On August 20 1842, the Riot Act is read in Preston. Four men are killed and many injured in what is the only occasion during that year that the military is used to attack workers with bullets.

Johnston’s play is thus a welcome relief from the constant imagery of passive workers that has been flogged to death around the Peterloo commemorations. Particularly striking is the referencing of women and children hitting back at the police and army with stones.

Riot Act, wordy and worthy, stands out from the Peter-lite fare that has been served up so far to mark the bicentenary of the Manchester massacre two centuries ago.

We need more plays like this that recover the revolutionary nature of the 1840s and the workers who made that leap forward in working-class history.

Peterloo massacre commemoration in Manchester, England

This video from Britain says about itself:

The Masque of Anarchy, by Percy Bysshe Shelley, narrated by Malc Cowle

9 January 2014

In the month of August in 1819, Manchester’s leading Magistrates disgraced that town in the eyes of the civilised world. Over sixty-thousand peaceful working men, women and children demonstrating for Parliamentary Reform had assembled on Saint Peter’s Fields. They were slashed with sabres, trampled by horses and crushed to death by panic for having the temerity to do so. Shelley wrote The Masque of Anarchy as a result.

Not surprisingly, many workers of the subsequent period could recite every single verse, word for word, and the scarcely hidden revolutionary message they contain wasn’t lost on them. As a result Manchester and Salford took the lead in the struggle to advance the rights of working children, men and women and spear-headed the fight for social justice, universal suffrage and Parliamentary Reform.

By Peter Lazenby in England:

Ye are many, they are few

Saturday 16th August 2014

PETER LAZENBY reports on the increasingly popular Peterloo massacre commemoration which takes place in Manchester tomorrow

THOUSANDS are expected on Manchester’s streets to mark the 195th anniversary of the Peterloo Massacre, the cavalry attack in 1819 on a mass meeting of 60,000 in the city which left at least 15 people dead and up to 700 seriously injured. It is not known how many of the injured died later from wounds inflicted by sabre-wielding cavalry.

The mass meeting was being addressed by radical speakers calling for parliamentary reform. Men, women and children had marched from communities in what is now Greater Manchester to the gathering. It took place as demands for democracy and freedom continued in the aftermath of the French revolution and amid growing poverty and unemployment.

Local magistrates in Manchester panicked and ordered in the military to arrest the speakers. The cavalry — hussars — charged and attacked the meeting, riding their horses into the crowds and slashing and stabbing with their sabres.

The attack, the deaths and the injuries provoked two reactions.

The government cracked down on all public gatherings and passed what are now known as the Six Acts — suppression of public expression of opinion, debate, gatherings and dissent.

The second was an outburst of public anger and protests and a growing tide of demand for reform, leading in 1832 to the Great Reform Act, the introduction of increased, though limited, suffrage. It was the precursor to today’s still limited parliamentary democracy.

Other outcomes of the massacre were the founding of the Manchester Guardian and Shelley’s mighty poem about the event The Masque of Anarchy, described by Paul Foot as “the greatest political poem ever written in English” and including the words, still relevant today “ye are many, they are few.” Last year the poem was performed movingly and brilliantly by actor and Morning Star supporter Maxine Peake at a theatre near the site of the massacre.

Today the massacre is commemorated annually. The event is beginning to replicate Peterloo’s history, with marches of working people from the communities around Manchester, some more than 12 miles distant, and support is growing every year.

In 1819 10,000 people had marched from a single town, Oldham, and, as in that year, the feeder marches will finally merge for a rally where the 1819 meeting and massacre took place, St Peter’s Field. The name Peterloo was given to the massacre in an ironic allusion to the Battle of Waterloo which had occurred four years earlier.

Alongside growing public support for the annual commemoration is a campaign for a permanent memorial monument to the massacre. One was created in 1842 but it deteriorated and was demolished in the 1890s.

A contemporary artist of the time, George Cruikshank, (1792-1878) created a design for a new monument, which the campaigners are using.

Though the Peterloo Memorial Campaign has the support of Manchester Council, the only memorial at the moment is a plaque on the wall of the Radisson Hotel, formerly the Free Trade Hall, near the site.

Paul Fitzgerald, chairman of the Peterloo Memorial Campaign, says the lack of an appropriate memorial in Manchester is a “neglected landmark in the history of democracy.”

“We hope these marches will be the first step in our aim to recreate the entire web of thousands of people who marched into the city centre on that fateful day,” he says.

“Interest in remembering the massacre has been growing at an amazing rate in the last five years and by the 200th anniversary in 2019, we’re hoping that every town that originally sent protesters will have a presence at the “Peterloo picnic” we’re in the process of planning. We invite everyone interested to join us on the day.”

When the marches converge tomorrow at 1pm at the site of the original protest, the plaza in front of the Manchester Central Convention Centre, the names of the dead will be read out.

After the ceremony at 3pm, musicians from a delegation from Middleton — one of the communities whose people marched to St Peter’s Field in 1819 — will stage their performance of the play Soldiers On The Rampage at the People’s History Museum in Manchester.

The annual commemorations are a foundation for a huge event planned for 2019, the 200th anniversary of the massacre. It is hoped that by then the memorial, in the form of a monument based on Cruikshank’s design, will have been completed and that it will be unveiled at the commemoration then.

The Peterloo gathering, the demands for democracy and the Establishment’s response are still relevant today. An example is the cavalry charge, albeit without the sabres, which was repeated at Orgreave on June 18 1984 during the miners’ strike against pit closures. Today the few still seek to control the many. Advances made by the many, such as the National Health Service and the welfare state, are under attack.

And another line from Shelley’s poem springs to mind: “Rise like lions after slumber, in unvanquishable number.”

Still no monument for British Peterloo massacre after 200 years

Campaigners in Manchester erected this 15ft scultpure at the weekend to help remember the 1819 Peterloo Massacre. It is called the Liberty Cap and is based on the design of hats worn by protesters demanding democracy

Campaigners in Manchester erected this 15ft scultpure at the weekend to help remember the 1819 Peterloo Massacre. It is called the Liberty Cap and is based on the design of hats worn by protesters demanding democracy.

By Mark Krantz in England:

11.54am Mon 20 Aug 2012

Manchester’s battle to remember the Peterloo Massacre

Mark Krantz writes on the campaign to build a proper memorial to protesters hacked down by the cavalry in 1819

Statues of bankers and politicians pepper the town squares in Manchester. But the city does not have a monument or memorial to the Peterloo Massacre of 16 August 1819.

Up to 18 people were killed that day and hundreds more injured when local magistrates ordered cavalry to attack a 60,000 strong political rally that had gathered at St Peter’s Fields to demand the vote.

The Peterloo Memorial Campaign has long called for an appropriate memorial in the city that educates and informs people about what actually happened that day.

Campaigners have secured a pledge from the city council that a memorial will form part of the redevelopment of St Peter’s Square, which now stands where the massacre took place.

Commemorating Peterloo has long been a source of controversy. In 1879 the painter Ford Madox Brown started work on a series of murals that now adorn Manchester’s Town Hall.

He wanted to include the Peterloo Massacre as one of the key moments in Manchester’s history, but this idea was blocked by the city council.

For years a blue plaque in the square made no mention of the deaths, referring only to the “dispersal” of the crowd by the military. It was replaced a few years ago with a red plaque that noted the deaths and injuries.

Today the council wants the new monument’s design to be decided by a panel of three led by council leader Richard Lease. Campaigners are unhappy with this process.

“The key issue now is that it’s a democratic process, or we might all drop dead of irony”, said artist and campaigner Paul Fitzgerald. “You can’t have less people than the number who died making this decision.”

After much argument it is now accepted by historians that Peterloo was indeed a massacre. But we should see it as much more.

The rebellion that started there was taken up later by the Chartists, and then the Suffragettes. That struggle—to secure political representation and power for the working class—continues today.

The events of the Peterloo Massacre

In August 1819 Manchester was under military occupation. Severe economic depression had swept across the industrial areas in the north of England. Even those still in work were left hungry and impoverished.

The Tory government responded by deploying thousands of soldiers to those areas to put down a growing mass movement demanding democracy and political reform.

Workers decided to hold a mass meeting on 16 August. The mills and factories were all shut that Monday morning. Everyone was on strike and getting ready to march to Manchester for a massive rally at St Peter’s Fields.

Thousands marched in from the surrounding mill towns. Women and young people were prominent among the 60,000 who came to hear the radical speaker Henry Hunt. He was a passionate reformer who believed that everyone should get to vote.

But before Hunt could speak, magistrates ordered their militia, the Salford and Manchester Yeomanry, to arrest all the speakers. The cavalry charged at the crowd, hacking people with sabres.

The carnage that ensued shocked even sections of the establishment. Journalists named the massacre “Peterloo” in ironic reference to the battle of Waterloo that had taken place four years earlier.

Mark Krantz’s pamphlet on Peterloo, Rise Like Lions, is available from Bookmarks, the socialist bookshop—phone 020 7637 1848. For more on the Peterloo Memorial Campaign go to www.peterloomassacre.org

Tomorrow is the 175th anniversary of the last armed rising on English soil. On May 31 1838, troops of the 45th foot regiment engaged the followers of “Sir William Courtenay” at Bossenden Wood in Kent: here.