Manchester’s permanent memorial to the Peterloo Massacre is now on public view – in time for the 200th anniversary of the event.
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The memorial, at the junction of Lower Mosley Street and Windmill Street stands just metres from the heart of the former St Peter’s Field where the massacre took place on 16 August 1819.
A peaceful crowd of 60,000 had converged on Manchester from across Greater Manchester and the north of England to call for parliamentary representation. But 18 people were killed and around 700 injured when government forces charged into the crowd on horseback with swords drawn. The event was a defining moment in Manchester’s radical history.
Now, with a memorial commissioned by the council and designed by acclaimed artist Jeremy Deller and Caruso St John Architects, it will be permanently commemorated at last. The memorial is supported by national charity Art Fund.
The monument is conceived as a landscaped ‘hill’ made of concentric steps. It is designed to be a gathering place and platform for oratory and references the march of people from surrounding towns and villages to demand recognition of their rights.
These place names – along with the names of the 18 men, women and children who died – are engraved on the vertical faces of the steps around the memorial in positions that accurately depict their compass location.
The horizontal surface of the steps also have inlaid decoration, with imagery associated with Peterloo. The design of the top of the memorial also reflects events similar to Peterloo around the world, where peaceful protests have been violently broken up by the state.
A range of stones have been used to create the memorial, including granites, sandstones, slates and marbles from all regions of the UK. The bright range of colours (along with the names, emblems and texts incised into the surface of the stones, makes reference to the bold graphics of banners calling for social reform traditionally held up by protesters.
Councillor Luthfur Rahman, Executive Member for Skills, Culture and Leisure for Manchester City Council, said:
“The Peterloo Memorial will be a fitting and lasting commemoration of the dramatic events of 1819, when people striving peacefully for democracy were killed and seriously injured, and their wider resonance in the struggle for better conditions.
“The spirit of radicalism which was present on that day is still woven into the thread of the city’s character and we believe this memorial will a visual depiction of that.”
The memorial will be the backdrop today (August 16), the 200th anniversary of Peterloo, to a day of events in the forecourt of Manchester Central, close to the site of St Peter’s Fields, from 12pm to midnight which marks the culmination of a three-month programme of commemorative events.
This event, rather than a more formal civic unveiling ceremony, marks the official opening of the memorial. Communities, artists and musicians from across Greater Manchester and beyond will be gathering for a day of performances. As night falls, photographer Red Saunders’ Hidden Tableau Peterloo Massacre images will be projected onto Bridgewater Hall.
All of the events taking place on the site of St Peter’s Field on 16 August 2019, including From the Crowd, are being co-produced by Manchester Histories, Walk the Plank and Brighter Sound with support from Manchester City Council.
Update on disability access issues
The Council has acknowledged that the innovative and imaginative interpretation of the design brief, with a greater emphasis on interaction than originally envisaged for a public artwork, meant that not enough consideration was initially given to accessible design issues.
Council bosses say they have listened to, and engaged with, the concerns of disability access campaigners who have raised this issue, and we are committed to making the monument fully accessible – so that everyone can reach the top.
Details of a proposal for how this will be achieved are being finalised and will be announced in the next few days. Both the council and Jeremy Deller are determined that the solution will be of the highest design quality and make a positive contribution to the overall appearance of the memorial as well as its accessibility and dialogue will continue.
The memorial will be there in its current form in the short term – enabling it to form a backdrop to the 200th anniversary commemorations – with the modification taking place afterwards.
Also published on Medium.