Carolina SoďŹ a Del Valle Ortega
The Barlow RC High School
Loreto High School
The Barlow RC High School
King David High School
The Barlow RC High School
The Barlow RC High School
Abraham Moss High School
Parrswood High School
The Barlow RC High School
Hannah Quigley Niamh Burn
Dorothea Tite Ahern Thanks
The Barlow RC High School
The Barlow RC High School
Loreto High School
The Peterloo Anthology has been created as part of Radical Read.
Radical Read explores young peoples involvement in peaceful protest over the last 200 years. It is inspired by the Peterloo Massacre which happened in Manchester in 1819. The project was conceived by Read Manchester and led by Manchester Histories as part of the Peterloo 2019 programme. Radical Read has 15 themed Learning Resources available online. It is free to use for schools and community groups, and anyone who has an interest in how peaceful protest has made a diďŹ€erence to young people's lives.
One of the aims of Radical Read was to seek out new talent and encourage new writing by young people. A creative writing competition was hatched. It asked young people in Manchester to submit a poem or short story from the perspective of a young person present at Peterloo. The winner and runners up were selected by a panel of professional writers, teachers and people passionate about the history of Peterloo.
Olivia McFadden was the winner of the competition. Olivia received a cash prize and mentoring support to edit and work on her story. This was then published in the Radical Read Learning Resources and on the British Council's School Resources site. Olivia and the runners up went on to perform and read publicly at a number of Peterloo events. You can now read their poignant words and stories in this anthology. The work has also been beautifully illustrated by Thea Tite Ahern and Carolina Del Valle Ortega aspiring young artists from Loreto High School, Chorlton. They worked over a number of weeks with Rose Sergent, an artist from Contact Manchester, using various techniques and materials to produce the gorgeous illustrations you ďŹ nd in this book.
Olivia MCFadden The Barlow RC High School
Welcome To The End I’m standing here. In the middle of St Peter’s Field. We’ve been marching for hours, just for this moment. To get here, in amongst all these people with one thing in common. We’re all hungry. Some of us are starving. We’re determined to tell everyone what we need and what we want. We want to be heard. We want our voices to count. 16th of August, 1819, a year of industrial depression and high food prices. I can see more and more people filling the field. There are banners from Saddleworth, Oldham and Mossley. For years we’ve been working morning till night for next to nothing. We can’t feed our children. But today there’s a chance, with all of us together here, we can change that. We want representation in Parliament. We want equal representation. I’m excited! Today, something is going to happen that will change things for ever. That’s why I’ve come with Eliza. She’s only four, but I want her to see this.
By the way, if you’re wondering, I’m Nancy. Nancy Steele. My body may be gone but my broken soul is still here and forever will be. I was 22 when I died and up until this point my life was far from perfect. But I had a home, a family, a job in a nearby mill and the sweetest little girl you would ever have set your eyes upon.
Let me tell you about the day. It started oﬀ great. The bands were playing as the banners
swung in the breeze. I’ll never forget the sight of those hundreds of women from Oldham all in their white dresses, their white silk banner saying ‘Universal Suﬀrage’. Could you imagine? Votes for all of us?! Votes that could lead to better use of public money, fairer taxes, an end to restrictions on trade, food for everyone.
This was a peaceful gathering. 60,000 of us came together in St. Peter’s Field and not one of us armed. For most of us, violence didn’t cross our minds. But that’s not what the local magistrates thought. They brought in their constables, soldiers and cavalry. Their glaring eyes followed our every move. As if in a way, they were strangely intimidated. I could feel a sudden change in the atmosphere. The crowds started to move but it was confusing. Something was happening but I couldn’t quite work out what it was. People began shouting, screaming and running. I could hear the distant sound of horses charging. I could see people being arrested and carried oﬀ. Innocent men and women arrested, for simply voicing their opinion. What happened to free will? What happened to human rights? What happened to human worth? Well… us, the lower classes, don’t deserve that. If you didn’t own land, a big house, servants, you weren’t worthy. If you weren’t rich and wealthy, you guessed it, you weren’t worthy. The ruling classes were alarmed by the size of this crowd because in their minds, who cares about
poor people? There was no negotiation, there was no reasoning. The government’s first response was arrest, capture or murder! Herds of drunken guards charged towards us. We all stood tightly surrounding the children. That was our only defence mechanism. The guards rapidly rode in on horses carrying, deadly swords hitting everything in their path. The ﬁelds were cleared except for the bodies. Eighteen killed, over 700 people were injured. All the leaders were convicted and sent to prison.
“What’s your story?” I hear you ask. Well… in the centre I stood, carrying Eliza in my arms, both of us trembling with fear. My heart was racing. I could feel it pounding. I knew exactly what was going to happen, there and then. Everyone else; ﬂed or dead. So it was just me. With my little girl
tightly in my clutches. That was when it happened. A drunk, angry roaring soldier charged towards me. Whipping his horse, with sword in hand, that was it, it was over. Someone rescued Eliza from beneath me. I prayed she’d be alright. I prayed that she’d grow up and have a better chance at life than I did. You may be wondering why I am writing this. Why now? Because it has been 200 years since this happened. And I’ve been watching. It’s like nothing has changed. Yes we have the vote but there’s still so much to be done. There still so much inequality and discrimination. Some people with so much, most with so little. We’re all human and in a way, all the same! So take a moment. You’ve heard my story. Be kind. Make a change. Make a diﬀerence.
Carolina Del Valle Ortega Loreto High School
Coats of Red I’ll set the scene,
Late in the evening
16th of August 1819,
a revolution, they’d said we’ve been conceiving.
In the ﬁeld we gathered for the rally, Soldiers hid in every alley,
A general cry of “stand fast”
Chanted loudly by outcasts,
Tightly packed, shoulder to shoulder,
You slay the hungry,
Looking smart in Sunday clothes
Slaughter the peaceful,
Perhaps mistaken us for soldiers,
Of which I’m sure you did oppose. Slicing through us,
exactly how me mam sliced our lemon cake,
Each Sunday morning, A sea of screams,
Without no warning,
Then in you streamed, Heads held high,
Upon your horses,
You end the poor,
Killing those you don’t view equals You’ve brought a lethal evil,
A wrath upon these people, People who are feeble, No way to pay,
Your price on bread,
No chance to vote, to change,
No right to say what must be said, No voice to ask a decent wage.
The battle cries,
So we hold up these ﬂags,
A sound like that of thunder,
Stood tall in our ﬁnest rags,
Followed by noises,
Hundreds of workers, you did sunder. You cut us up,
No questions asked, Almost eager,
To kill the massed, To kill the meagre, To kill us fast.
Hoping to make history, UNIVERSAL SUFFRAGE,
These banners waved with pride, FRATERNITY,
For this cause we’ve died,
The cause for which we’ve cried, The cause we’ve been denied.
We came in search of something just Our lack of wealth, you do not trust, Too low of class, No regal past,
You struck us down because we’re diﬀerent No Sir or Lord, none to adorn, Our names.
Yes, our names, each and every one of us,
Not subjects, not workers, not numbers, but people. People with names.
And hunted he will be,
For standing at the “battlefront”, Standing tall for all to see,
Yes, he lead the charge with words of passion Talked of food that we must ration Fought for what we needed, New ideas, dreams seeded.
A worker of the working class
You said, “either by law or the sword” Well, thank you my lord
Because we’ll not ﬁght with sword, We’ll ﬁght even when ignored, Fight with mouth and brain, Even if now it was in vain.
You’ve painted us in shades of crimson left us with this sweet vermillion
A hero of the poor, Alas!
Now we’re equal,
We used our words
You and I, now we’ll both bare
So we’d be heard
We came equipped with hope and drive
We’re met with nowt but sword and knife
Fought bravely with our caps and banners No hesitations, and no stammers.
Now it’s fair,
with pride, our coats of red
Stained in St Peter’s Square
A promise, we’ll not forget this bloodshed We will remember, this I do swear.
The Barlow RC High School
Sunrise. Today we march. Today we break the chains. Today we revolutionise the future. My name is Lewis. I am 14. I am alive.
The people in charge of our country neglect that. To them we are just walking debts that they collect. My Mother, my Father, my two older sisters and my baby brother. All of us together can’t make a change, but an entire city with one idea, sharing one belief can.
I picked up my scruﬀy grey jacket. My Father picked up the blue and golden banner. The 16th August was going down in history. The old gypsy (our next door neighbour) said croakily, “The crows are coming.” My Father told us to ignore her. I was confused but she wasn’t going to survive the winter so we tried to be as kind as possible.
We walked out on to St. Peter’s Square. The wind danced on my skin. 60,000 people, 60,000 men, women and children. This will be the biggest gathering in Manchester’s history.
A man named Henry Hunt stood on a raised wooden platform. He spoke with words as sharp as knives, “We are the forgotten, we are the hungry, the dying and the poor,” As he spoke I looked around and I saw a woman. She was in her window. She saw me and shut the curtains. It was strange. Why wasn’t she here?
The protest continued throughout the day. A man on stage was speaking. When he stopped. Why did he stop? GALLOP! What was that? GALLOP GALLOP! Something was coming. My baby brother began to cry. A murder of crows ﬂew into the Square. A sudden silence loomed over the crowd. The ﬂoor vibrated. The Square lit up with an outburst of squawks from the crows. “CHARGE!” exclaimed a man.
Without warning, masses of men on horseback ﬁlled the Square. Panic spread across the crowd as quickly as the plague spread through England. People ran to the sides of the Square. It was no use. There was no escape.
They came in with sabres out. They came in with drunken rage. They swung their sabres slicing a woman’s arm to the bone. A horse ran between me and my family, separating us. I stared into my Father’s eyes. His eyes ﬁlled with fear. More and more horses ran past. I only saw glimpses of my family. My Mother was crying, holding my sisters in her arms. Something sharp hit my back. I turned to see blood spilled on the ﬂoor and when I turned back around my family was gone. I ran and didn’t look back, scared of the horrors.
A man on horseback sped in front of me, slicing a man’s throat. The man clutched his neck in agony. It was too late, he fell to the ﬂoor as the blood stained his shirt. I spun in a circle, the noise being blocked from my ears. All around, people were screaming. Men, women and children were being cut down before my eyes. They were pushing and shoving to escape the inescapable. In the corner of my eye, above the bloodbath, the woman that was in the window before peered out at the pain and confusion. Amongst all the screams, she chuckled. While we were being cut, she laughed. Whilst we were dying for basic rights, she just smiled.
Out of the blue, my Dad ran at me with my baby brother. He gave me my brother and told me to run. I saw an opening. I ran. I fell on a boy and dropped my baby brother. I crawled to reach him. But not in time. A horse charged and trampled my brother of two years. The man on the horse hit me over the head.
I awoke to silence. I awoke to crows. I awoke to blood. The world felt diﬀerent. The ﬂoor wasn’t vibrating. I looked around and saw my Mother, I looked around and saw my entire family. Trampled and surrounded by an ocean of crimson blood. I held my brother and cried. The blood dried and stained the rocks. It stained the Earth. I looked to the sky and looked at the sunset and the Earth laid still.
The Barlow RC High School
After years of oppression, unemployment, barely being able to eat. Today we have a voice. Today we can make history. Today we can stand united. It started oﬀ great: speeches about what’s happening, what we as united people want. It was splendid. It was peaceful. It was everything. It was nearing the main speech. Anticipation was soaring. Tensions were high. Then John Brooks came out on stage. “Us as a unified people have been suppressed for far too long and we will not lie down and take it anymore.” The crowd erupted into cheers and chants. Laughter was deafening.
I escaped to go and buy some food and heard a huge cheer. I was curious. I lurked around the corner and saw the royal guards celebrating. I quickly headed back to the festival as I know how violent the threat is to us ‘poorer’ people.
With a great surprise, the weather became a thunderstorm. This forced the guards out into the crowds and you could tell they were drunk as they sauntered over to the their horses. Then something unexpected happened.
Three horses charged toward the masses and mowed them down. I was in disbelief. I saw women and children shrieking, “Help!” A littering of mauled bodies sliced up, gushing blood, laid in the middle of the once busy street. Once a bubbling atmosphere, was now a scene of fear and misery. I was in shock. How could we be suppressed even more? How could they live with themselves? We’ll never know, we just have to remember the fallen.
Hannah Mehr King David High School
The Peterloo Massacre We stood together – arm in arm –
Sixty thousand who meant no harm, Our peaceful protest was allowed,
Both young and old made up our crowd, We held our home-made ﬂags up high, To ﬁght for change or at least try,
We stood and wore our Sunday best, For reform, equality and the rest,
A child screamed and hit the ground,
Both men and women we should note,
Red-hot pain burst through my arm,
All people have the right to vote,
Our banner poles were topped with red, A symbol that had quickly spread,
We faced the stage and watch men stun, Just sixty thousand of which I was one.
Then, the air shifted as footsteps drew near,
Then my world was lost to sound, As a blade carried out its harm,
I lay on the ﬂoor as men raced by,
And all I could do was question why,
We were sixty thousand - all as one And then for life we had to run.
A moment later men on horseback did appear,
The papers recount the day with dread,
But we were sixty thousand and not distressed.
The army blundered in and then,
As more emerged and led the chase,
And to make all matters worse,
A spark of panic ﬁlled my chest,
We stood up tall and held our place,
The cavalry’s blades shone in the light,
There was fear on our faces at the sight,
They bolted forwards and charged the stage, The cries they spawned will last an age, The sabres cut and slashed and slayed, And all I did was watch dismayed,
The man beside me hissed and fell, A woman heard her ﬁnal knell,
With over seven hundred injured and eighteen dead.
Hurt and killed protesting men,
Our cause was simply just dispersed, Then our leaders were on trial,
The cavalry was cleared meanwhile.
Our day of peace, hope and dreams, Had all but split across the seams. We stood that day – arm in arm –
Just sixty thousand who meant no harm.
Hawaya Hussein Abraham Moss High School
Hounds. Hundreds of lapping, dog-like animals laying in wait for the verdict. It was my job to keep order. To keep the wealth we rightfully deserved, away from the narrow-minded spaniels littering the streets of Manchester. “Sigmund my good friend,” a husky voice sprung up from behind as a hand patted the shoulder of my tweed jacket.
“Alfred,” I replied curtly. The stench of cigars swelled in the room and the man I knew from youth greeted me with a rather crushing embrace. I looked about until my gaze landed on a quivering ﬁgure. I sighed in frustration. “This is no place for a woman, Alfred.” He simply let out a wheezy laugh, pushing his spectacles further up his squished face. “I understand…” he ﬁnally choked, then shooed her out, murmuring how she should ‘take the bloody kid with her.’
“So,” he went on, “What’s with the reunion?”
The I burrowed into my inner pocket for my brass pocket watch. And the clock ﬁnally struck 11 just as the clopping crescendo of cavalry marched through the still fog. The war horses with their masters in tow, cantered lazily into view. The crowd stirred uneasily, the children clinging on to their mothers and the men guarding their wives. It was all falling into place smoothly. It was time.
“So these brutes do have some amount of sense,” I found myself thinking out loud.
Then the bursts of outcry erupted on to the cobbled roads. Harrowing shrieks and cries of pain, the begging of children to spare their dying parents. Men were moved to whining as the crowd dwindled. Twas’ easy work for the soldiers defending their honour and salary, spearing the subordinates like ﬁsh in a barrel. “Oh Lord have mercy,” Alfred croaked, his eyes widened in panic. He lowered his bowler hat to his chest in prayer.
“Not to your taste, Quaker?” I simply jeered. Alfred stared shamelessly, his mouth agape and his hands trembling.
“You condone this?!” he boomed. I felt my lip twitch in irritation, was always a loud one wasn’t he?
“Why I was simply defending what was ours.” Looking back outside to the last of the men cutting down the civilians, I saw one child attempt to get away after trying to pick up his mother.
One soldier looked up to the window in disdain, awaiting the oncoming order. I couldn’t bring myself to more than nod. His head hung low as he reared his horse to move forward after the boy. Behind me, I heard Alfred’s defeated sigh. He blew out a sharp sigh before tossing his hat aside, to stare directly at me, purple faced.
“And here I was, thinking you had changed!” he bellowed, practically shaking the ground with his harsh tone. “I did what I had to do,” I snapped back. He was furious, delirious with anger. “In the modern day it is the survival of the ﬁttest. It’s dog eat dog here! It’s the only way.” “It’s the only way to win.”
Nicola Clowes The Barlow RC High School
16th August, 1819. Our Mother was a strong believer in the end of poor inequality. As a child at the age of six, I was not educated as to how my elders saw the way we would be created. Clothed in broken fabrics and feeling like a bruised family, due to the way we worked hard for little pay.
Twelve armed, strong soldiers on top of black horses. Looking over us like we were a piece of rubbish, picked from the ground itself.
It was a peaceful atmosphere and the sun was shining. The sweet sound of children’s laughter and the sense of belonging.
I would say the whole of Manchester was there, 80,000!
But today my family and others will now be heard. Walking towards St. Peter’s as a proud group of individuals. Banners up and our dignity even higher.
Four people climbed up on the raised platform, all of whom were strong minded people ready to tell the city of Manchester their thoughts on the end of poor inequality.
Their slurred speech powered over us. Until our representative, Henry Hunt began his speech. Which we knew would go down in history. My hand tightly clutching my homemade banner. While my Mother held my opposite hand, the speech continued, “This is a peaceful pro-democracy in our home town.”
All of a sudden the sky seemed to darken, almost black. Crows preying over us, the sound was foreboding. A bang went off. Looking into the distance to see the soldiers galloping towards us. We were pushed from side to side.
Mother held mine and my sister’s hands tighter than ever. Time suddenly slowed. My Mother no longer beside me, but below me, lay on the cold wet ground. Her last words being, “Watch out girls.”
I grabbed her trench coat, my sister and me both ran to the side, trying to pull my Mother’s lifeless body towards us. As a glistening tear rolled down my round red cheeks. I kissed my little sister and told her everything would be ok. I remembered Henry Hunt was a close friend to my Mother. I tried to tower over the people in front of me to see Henry being arrested. The only person I knew that could help me was gone.
The crowd was now starting to shift. But the scene that was left behind was horriﬁc. The screams breaking out, bodies lay on the ﬂoor in pain or even lifeless. Lay there because they wanted fair pay or even just one ﬁnal chance to vote. For a summer night it was almost never this dark. I held my Mother’s body tight, kissing her forehead lightly.
I promised I would never leave her here. To others she looks like a victim of an awful terror but to me she was a ﬁghter of the cruel truth of this world. She may have been a victim, but hopefully her life took a toll on this problem. One day she will be seen as a hero, my hero.
Theo Robertson Parrswood High School
Peterloo Streaks of red lit the new-born sky, not a cloud was in sight to kiss the expanse of heaven. The summer’s dawn was beginning, as honeyed light slathered the hive. It was barely morn, yet humble souls were spinning and weaving, shovelling and hammering, grasping England’s heart with both soot-covered hands and pulling her and pushing her to glory.
I turned my face away from the dawn and down at my ﬁlthy feet. Deciding between buying food and buying shoes is an easy choice to make, especially when your last meal was last week. I started what had now become my morning routine. Knock, knock and knock again, on every door, up and down the cobblestone streets, pleading for work. There had been more competition recently, more dirty feet tapping on the cobbles. People were noticing, adding to the long list of grievances. There were murmurs before. Then the murmurs turned to growls.
Of course, London knew when to bring out the muzzle. Stamped on that wellworn leather: The Riot Act 1714
The hard leather had held, and over the past few years any attempt at protest was silenced. Yet that hadn’t stopped us. Another meeting was today - St Peter’s Field.
Already I knew this would be big, and as I walked onto Quay Street headed towards the centre of my city I was joined by more and more of Manchester’s citizens. On a hot summer’s day like this, something may catch ﬁre.
But there were no shouts of fury as we all marched along. No cries of revolution, nor baying for royal blood. Instead, a silence saturated our journey, and we were joined by more and more, cotton spinners, bakers, purse pinchers and shoemakers. Carpenters, ﬁshmongers, weavers and dreamers all rubbed shoulders, and walked with stoic determination toward the square. And what a square. Thousands upon thousands of souls came into view as our humble procession disintegrated, its members spotting friends and acquaintances gathered on the ﬁeld. Many groups had already formed, each with their own reason to congregate. As I had come on my own, and as I was quite early, I spent the morning wandering the huge ﬁeld, marvelling at the diﬀerent types of people gathered there. People and children sat and lay, enjoying the marvellous weather.
17 It was probably around lunchtime when a row of immaculate constables formed two long lines cutting through the ﬁeld. They had created a passageway, connecting the podium (two wagons lashed together) to a building on the edge of the ﬁeld. The crowd was electric, and by now almost the entire ﬁeld was absolutely ﬂooded with people. From my vantage point I could just make out a line of well-dressed gentlemen proceeding through the cleared path towards the podium. Standing on the podium, they began to speak. They all were convincing, calling for change and stirring the heart of the crowd. With passion and anger, they spoke of the disgraceful state of our city. They talked of children sleeping in slums, maimed by the mouths of cotton machines, which were driven by the greed of factory owners. They spun yarns of young men in their prime, taken down by diseases that the elite had never even heard of. They demanded action from parliament, yet these were not uproarious revolutionaries, merely citizens demanding change. They were a voice – a voice interrupted by the thunder of hooves.
The crowd gasped as cavalry pounded through the narrow lane, the constables practically diving out of the way. Intent on arresting the speakers, the riders failed to see that the passageway was too narrow for their horses. Their foolish tactics turned to mania, and as the August sun glinted oﬀ their falling sabres, cries were permanently silenced. Chaos reigned. The crowd recoiled in shock and fear, and attempted to flee the field as men and women were trampled underfoot. Barring their escape were more soldiers, bayonets lowered. The mass of people where now trapped, desperately running from the cavalry. Breath hoarse and lungs heaving, I managed to sprint free of the main mass. To my infinite relief, a captain had managed to collect the cavalry back into a formation. At last, there would be an end to this madness. My stomach lurched as I watched the captain motion with his arm, and upon his orders the cavalry charged, sabres raised straight towards the crowd. I saw everything. Streaks of red fell upon the empty vessels, as everything else had been claimed by heaven.
The Barlow RC High School
All I can hear is deafening cries, people screaming and saying their goodbyes.
There are bodies lay all over the ﬂoor and suddenly I hear the sound of a slammed door, a voice shouts in my ear and goes to say, “Come on wake up, let’s start your day.” That night I had the most fearful dream, one that would make the strongest scream. I thought I would never have to see that again. Instead all I do is question when, when will I forget the things that took place that day?
Maybe there, things that could have gone a diﬀerent way.
But here I am telling my story, despite it being evil and gory.
And I will stand up for what I think is right, because I know it was wrong what happened that night… I walk down the cobbled old road, laughing, chanting, singing a load.
My clothes may have been scruﬀy as always, but I didn’t mind.
Despite all the shouting we were still kind. The condition we lived and worked in were just unbearable, but we still carried on. As if our hearts were untearable.
We all decided enough was enough, after all we were people too. Not just scruﬀs, so we started a peaceful protest, just so they could see what we were going through.
Everyone tried to escape but no one could go anywhere. The whole thing was scarier than my worst nightmare.
It was going great, it was such a happy day, but no one knew that it would turn out this way.
So many people are either lay on the ﬂoor or being hurt, or even being thrown into the dirt.
But who were they kidding? They don’t care about me nor you.
We were all sharing food and drinks happily, and then all of a sudden there were shouts of fear all around me.
The people started falling to the ﬂoor, there were babies crying, a whole uproar.
The bad men on horses they really hurt my Mummy, and when I looked down there was blood all on her tummy.
Why were they doing this?
The protest, until they turned up was peaceful and kind. But most importantly why was Daddy leaving Mummy behind?
All I could hear was deafening cries, people screaming and saying their goodbyes.
Charlie Stanley The Barlow RC High School
Hi, my name is Peter. I’m dead. I died during the Peterloo Massacre. But, I was not a protestor, I was simply looking for my Father.
While growing up, all I wanted to do was be like my Father. I looked up to him with everything he did, he was my idol. Little did I know, just how wrong I was… 16th August, 1819.
I don’t remember much of the day…. It seemed quite ordinary, my Dad seemed stressed, but he always was…he blamed it on his job. I woke up and briskly opened the curtains revealing St. Peter’s Square, however, something was diﬀerent. People were gathering throughout the Square. I didn’t recognise any of them, I was confused. I walked down my stairs and I was instantly attacked by my Father’s angry screams.
I placed my ear to the door, I could only pick up a few words…”Scum,”… “What are they doing here?” I could also pick up another voice, one I had never heard before, it was a young voice, laced with fear and panic. I then heard the slam of a door, they had both left. This left me even more confused, my Dad never really went out, what was going on? Eventually I decided to go outside, by this point the Square was extremely full, hundreds of people surrounded me. I’d never seen anything like it. I was starting to worry, where had my Dad gotten to? I wandered around for a while, still clueless as to what was going on, by now all I could see was a sea of happy people, my nerves were calmer now, this crowd seemed harmless. I had also noticed that there were some men standing on a stage, it looked like they were about to talk.
I looked around and I could see sinister faces staring out of the surrounding buildings, they did not look happy. I didn’t see what was wrong, yet again I didn’t know what was happening. The scary men in the windows seemed like they were plotting something, it was if the crowd was mocking them.
The men on stage were now speaking and the crowd was reacting with screams and cheers of joy. This seemed to make the men in the windows face’s go purple with rage, the crowd didn’t seem to care, they were just enjoying themselves.
Then out of nowhere, screams erupted. Out of the corner of my eye I saw men charging towards the crowd upon horses. I was scared now, screams of pain echoed through the Square. Everyone was in shock. The men were closing in on me now…who were they? Why were they here? The men were now in reaching distance of me and I noticed something strange…. My Dad was on a horse, he was heading towards me, he was going so fast I don’t think he recognised me. It was too late, a ﬂash of fear spread across his face.
The Barlow RC High School
Today was meant to be the day. The day everything changed. The day everyone looked down on, would stand together. The day we would ﬁnally make a diﬀerence. Butterflies were zooming around my stomach. I was so excited. Wish I knew. I wish I could have stopped it. I could have stopped my Mother and Father from taking us. We would all have been ok. We left ﬁrst thing in the morning. I’ll never forget the feeling of happiness and excitement that we were ﬁnally free to say what we wanted. Now it is replaced with a deep sinking feeling of dread. We didn’t mean to start a ﬁght. We were just peacefully protesting.
When we got there hundreds of people were already gathered. There was a buzz of excitement throughout us. We had been waiting for a day like this our entire lives. People were swarmed like bees in the streets, weaving in and out of each other, completely unbothered and unaware by the world around us. Maybe that was the problem. We were in denial. I will not let my hope and excitement make me stupid again. Ever again.
The protest began. It was incredible. Hundreds of different people joined together all with one thing in common: we were all poor. We were all looked down on by society. We were all stuck at the very bottom of the social ladder.
We were all stood together, willing to ﬁght to make a diﬀerence and it ended in death and violence and horror. All we want is to be people. People with rights to speak up. People with rights to an opinion. People with rights to a life. I can’t forget it. The way my Mother held so tightly to my hand. Her eyes sparkled with hope that one day me and my brother would have chance in a world where so many of us are overlooked because of the way we dress and act. Because of where we come from.
Thud. What was that sound? People looked around curiously. Anxious and confused glances exchanged. THUD THUD THUD. Again. Only this time we knew what it was. The soldiers. Charging in on us like we were a huge enemy. Like we were threatening their country. Like we weren’t part of their country. Why were they doing this?
I felt my Mother grab my hand again. Only this time it wasn’t excitement. It was like someone had taken every ounce of hope and excitement and replaced it with a cold deathly fear. People running. Shouting. Screams of fear and agony. Pleas for mercy.
Crying out for help. Silence. I don’t remember it. Almost like the memory has been put in a small box and buried. Far out in the desert. Deeper and deeper until I am no longer able to grasp it. Maybe I don’t want to remember the frantic running. Maybe I don’t want to remember the fear I will have seen in my Mother’s eyes as she tried to shield me from danger. I’m not sure. But I do remember the feeling of complete betrayal. We had worked for so long and it was all ruined. We’re people too. We just wanted the freedom to speak out and to try and better our world. I just want to live in a world where I can go out to protest my own rights, without the fear of being trampled by drunk soldiers on horses. I want to be seen as a real person, not just as poor hooligan who is always in trouble. I want to be free.
Dorothea Tite Ahern Loreto High School
From Where I Stand She is walking in between two lives. Behind her; small, simple buildings, cramped in rows of dirt and brick. The air is thick with the stench of smoke and people. People getting along with what they are given, no matter the consequence or cost, they stay, they work. They walk on. In front of her; the city stretches across the horizon, mills stretch up to meet the sky, opaque windows reﬂect the glint of the August sun. It’s strange to see the sun again, so clearly after so long hidden behind those dark clouds. She knows they’ll come back again, once the wind dies down and stops picking up the dust. But the view from where she stands is enough for now.
The city seems to becoming denser the further she walks, as if all the buildings and lamp posts, carriages and people were being drawn to one spot. She’s getting closer to the square now, the thousands of diﬀerent noises of city life hitting her all of a sudden. A carriage screeches as it’s dragged around a corner, horses huﬃng through the eﬀort and whips cracking across their backs. People talk as they rush across the cobbled streets, skirts hitched up and hurried nods exchanged as they rush through their lives. But new noises have been added to the usual collection; a large group laughing and shouting, picnic blankets are spread across the ground. Banners are being spread out, people bickering about where they should be placed.
Children race after one another, ribbons gripped in their ﬁsts. One boy is complaining to his mother about his aching feet, another cries after being told to not pet the horses carrying the cavalry that seem to skirt around the edges of the crowd. Her heart swells with every new face she sees or voice she hears. The pride threatens to overﬂow her watering eyes, but she swore to herself she wouldn’t let it. She didn’t want to miss a single moment.
Not a single word or face, she just wants to take it all in. She wants to remember every second that she was there, to remember why she should keep ﬁghting. She ﬁnds it easy, sometimes, when the sun goes down and she’s staring at her blank ceiling, to give up. She sees hundreds luxuriating in their easy lives, and she sees even more suﬀering far more than she could ever imagine, and that is all she can think about. But this scene that is playing out before her is a reminder that the best things are yet to come. From where she stands, even with the sun blinding her, she can tell that the people before her are bringing the future. 15th February, 2019. A red plaque sits on the side of Free Trade Hall in St Peter’s Square, Manchester. It is almost unnoticeable to a passer-by, barely a blemish on the wall. But once you know it’s there, and why it’s there, it’s impossible to miss. Just down the road, hundreds of
young people pour out of a tram just beneath the plaque; our signs wave high in the air, our songs can be heard over the buildings, past the tram tracks and the pale buildings. We are walking in between two lives. It can be difficult, at points. Sometimes the light behind us seems brighter than the one before us. But now, surrounded by people cheering and singing, I canâ€™t bring myself to think of the worst. From where I stand, I can tell the people before me are bringing the future.
Thanks Thank you to the people who made the creation of this book possible. To the young people who made a contribution to this anthology with their fresh and insightful writing about Peterloo and to the teachers, parents and guardians who support them in their creativity.
Thank you to artists Carolina Del Valle Ortega and Thea Tite Ahern for their tireless work on the illustration of the book and to Rose Sergent, from Contact Manchester and Donna Shepherd, from Loreto High School for guiding them through it.
Thanks also to our partners, funders and supporters
" Thea and Caroline developed a clear vision for the anthology. Inspired by reinventing historic interpretations of Peterloo and using ink work in a totally new way. They thoughtfully
responded to each piece of writing through their art work." Rose Sergent Artist
" A powerful set of stories, poems and illustrations written and created by such talented young people from
Manchester. It's so important that
we remember the events of Peterloo. This book brings the story to new
younger audiences, ensuring the next generation know about the history of Peterloo. It is a ﬁtting legacy of the Peterloo 2019 programme." Councillor Luthfur Rahman
Executive Member for Skills, Culture & Leisure, Manchester City Council
" The Peterloo Anthology is an exciting
outcome of the Radical Read project.
The stories, poems and artworks here are a powerful testament to the
enduring signiﬁcance of Peterloo and is continuing presence in Manchester’s cultural and political life." Hannah Barker
Chair of Manchester Histories and Professor of British History at the University of Manchester
" It is always wonderful to see young people writing poetry, expressing
themselves and ﬁnding a creative
voice from the things that we know
have been a part of our past. Equality, democracy and freedom is a human right and we should always ﬁght for each other." Shirley May
Author of She Wrote Her Own Eulogy