On 16 August 1819, riven by poverty and disaffected at the lack of assistance offered by the state, 60,000 Mancunians gathered at St Peter’s Field to campaign for parliamentary reform. People came in peaceful protest: men, women and children, carrying picnics and wearing their Sunday best — but that didn’t deter local magistrates from sending an armed cavalry to disperse the crowds and arrest the speakers, killing 15 protestors and injuring hundreds more.
A touchstone event in British history, the Peterloo Massacre and the outrage it spurred ultimately helped to bring about the formation of the trade union movement and the reform of parliamentary democracy. On hearing of the massacre, poet Percy Bysshe Shelley penned The Masque of Anarchy, an indelibly powerful 91-verse epic widely regarded as the greatest political poem in British history.
For MIF, actress Maxine Peake (Shameless, Silk) and director Sarah Frankcom (Artistic Director, Royal Exchange Theatre) will deliver a haunting, provocative new interpretation of this landmark work, as relevant to post-riot, mid-recession Britain as it was when it was first written. The Masque of Anarchy will be staged in the atmospheric Albert Hall, mere steps from the site of the massacre itself.
MUSIC AND SOUND
Peter Rice and Alex Baranowski
Commissioned by Manchester International Festival.
Produced by Manchester International Festival and the Royal Exchange Theatre.