Peterloo campaigners vow to install own memorial on anniversary of massacre

Article published: Wednesday, August 15th 2012

Artists fed up with Manchester City Council’s “undemocratic” decision to restrict the choice of the new Peterloo Massacre memorial to just three people have vowed to install a DIY monument of their own – a 15ft tall Liberty Cap outside Manchester Central Convention Centre.

Marchers commemorating the 190th anniversary of the massacre in 2009

The sculpture, inspired by an ancient symbol of freedom in the days of the Roman Empire and a revolutionary icon in the early 1800s, will be raised tonight to commemorate the working people cut down by soldiers when they marched for the right to vote in 1819.

Once in place, campaigners from the Peterloo Massacre Memorial Group will hold a candlelit vigil until midnight to ensure the memorial is in place on the massacre’s anniversary date of Thursday 16 August, before gathering at the site of the massacre outside the old Free Trade Hall at 1pm to lay a wreath.

The cap will then reappear at the annual commemorative rally on Sunday 19 August outside the convention centre, where it will be surrounded by flowers and messages in the hope it will be left unmolested for as long as possible.

Over the past five years campaigners have kept up pressure on the council to ensure a prominent, respectful memorial in keeping with the spirit of the Peterloo marchers is chosen to commemorate the event.

Revelations emerged last month that one of the options under consideration was to dedicate a proposed set of bronze gates across Library Walk in commemoration of the event. The move sparked strong opposition, and provoked campaign chair and Manchester artist Paul Fitzgerald to ask how gates could be appropriate to commemorate “civilians who gave their lives struggling for democratic freedom?”

Campaigners say they have since received verbal assurances from council leader Sir Richard Leese that the gate proposal has been dropped.

The decision to commission the memorial however will now rest with just three senior councillors; Leese, culture executive Rosa Battle and the town hall’s city centre spokesperson Pat Karney. Two council officials, regeneration head Pat Bartoli and head of Cultural Strategy Frans Toms will act in an advisory role.

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

In a letter to campaigners, Leese said any chosen artist would need to have a “track record” of “working with and involving a wide range of interests”. He added, “We do not propose to prescribe either the form or the location for the memorial, other than it should be in the area where the events 16 August [sic] took place, and whatever the form, should be a piece that can be used to tell the story.”

Fitzgerald said the campaign would continue to push for a prominent memorial, saying “we insist that a range of short-listed designs by professional artists be displayed for all to see, and subjected to a recorded and published indicative public vote, before the final choice is made. Anything else flies in the face of the meaning of Peterloo itself- democracy.

“The Council need to remember they were elected to represent, not to dictate.”

Richard Goulding

The Liberty Cap will be first erected on the plaza outside Manchester Central Convention Centre at 9.30pm, Wednesday 15 August, and will return at the annual commemorative rally at 12pm Sunday 19 August.

“Peterloo – soldiers on the rampage”, a commemoration in words and song, will be performed at 3pm on Sunday 19th August at the People’s History Museum, Left Bank, Manchester city centre.

More: Council, Manchester, News


  1. Forgive me, but can someone explain how this self-appointed bunch are any more democratic than the people they are so critical of? Yet they dictate that their way is the only way. At least Carney, leese and battle were elected

    Comment by hancock on August 15, 2012 at 7:14 pm
  2. Hi, I’m chair of the self appointed bunch. We’ve had 800 backing our call for the memorial to meet some basic criteria- prominent, explanatory, realistic and respectful.

    We’re not trying to dictate any one design (tho we’ve plenty of ideas), we’re simply asking that there should be at least three designs subjected to (at the least) a recorded, published, indicative vote.

    Yes, the 3 Councilors were elected, but as it says above, they were elected to represent not dictate. This new policy of three deciding totally turns its back on the written assurances we received that there would be an open design competition- as there was for Central Library all those years ago.

    You seem quite upset and agitated with us for asking that the process (for a memorial to those who died giving their lives in the struggle for democracy) should be as democratic as possible.


    Comment by Paul Fitzgerald on August 15, 2012 at 8:37 pm
  3. Without the campaign would elected Cllrs have remembered to include a memorial to Peterloo?

    I doubt it. In nearly 200 years they have blocked all previous attempts to have a monument or memorial.

    Without pressure chances are that any design would be handed to the very companies whose fore bearers were at Peterloo – on the side of the Magistrate who gave the order to attack the people.

    Let the people today decide the most fitting memorial. We could always have a vote …

    Comment by Mark Krantz on August 15, 2012 at 11:07 pm
  4. HI Hancock

    It’d be very interesting to hear your reply as to why you object to us asking for more democracy..?


    Comment by Paul Fitzgerald on August 16, 2012 at 10:20 am
  5. I’m neither upset nor agitated mate, just making an observation. Sorry if I hit a nerve. What I don’t like about groups like yours is the way that you present yourselves. With peterloo, personally I’d rather someone just got on with it as the council has been pussyfooting around for years. But clearly my view is worth less than yours.

    Comment by hancock on August 16, 2012 at 12:35 pm
  6. Well, nothing at all would have ever been done about it if it wasn’t for people in ‘groups like yours’. If the honourable commentator hancock has any ideas for the memorial himself, I’m sure everyone would like to take them into account- if indeed, you DO have any thoughts and are not just being needlessly picky about ‘groups like yours’ who HAVE just ‘got on with it’ as you say you’d rather they would..?

    Comment by sarah on August 16, 2012 at 4:36 pm
  7. Well, Hancock, we’re installing our own memorial on Sunday at noon, in front of G Mex, so seriously, and with positivity from us- come and help us get on with it. It’s a good try, isn’t it? It helps apply pressure, no? Surely that’s a good thing? Come and help. : )

    Comment by Paul Fitzgerald on August 18, 2012 at 12:07 am

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