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The Past, Present and Future of Protest

28 September 2018

PHM marks the Peterloo Massacre 200 years on

From left to right: Peterloo 1819 commemorative jug, Peterloo commemorative medal, Peterloo museum interactive in Main Gallery One and Peterloo Massacre newspaper coverage @ People's History Museum

People’s History Museum (PHM) in Manchester is commemorating the bicentenary of the Peterloo Massacre, a monumental event in the city’s history, and a defining moment for Britain’s democracy.  It will do this through a programme of exhibitions, events and learning sessions that will explore the past, present and future of protest.

On 16 August 1819, 60,000 people gathered on St Peter’s Field in Manchester (now the area around St Peter’s Square) seeking some of the rights that we take for granted today.  When local government troops charged at the crowd, the peaceful protest was turned into a massacre with 18 people losing their lives and around 700 injured.  The aftermath of Peterloo is felt 200 years later, in the evolving story of democracy and collective memory of protest.  As the national museum of democracy, the stories of ideas worth fighting for live at the People’s History Museum.

The commemorations begin with a collaboration with global arts organisation Cities of Hope which will see internationally acclaimed artist Axel Void creating a 9m x 9m piece of street art on the museum’s riverside wall.  The piece has been commissioned ahead of the premiere of Mike Leigh’s new film Peterloo (17 October); work commences on Monday 1 October 2018 and is due to be completed on Wednesday 3 October 2018.

Protest banners – January to December 2019

The museum cares for a world renowned collection of historic and contemporary banners.  In January 2019 the banners currently on public display will be changed to focus on examples that capture powerful reflections of protest, disruptive flashpoints and the direct actions taken to achieve democratic reform; from Peterloo to today.  The new exhibition has been curated to include Greater Manchester moments of protest, demonstrating that the city’s radical roots can be traced back to Peterloo.

The colourful display across two galleries will feature new digital elements including a downloadable podcast, which will give visitors an insight into the stories behind the banners’ messages and the protests in which they played a part.

Community exhibitions – January to December 2019

An exciting programme of community exhibitions will provide a further platform for the exploration of protest through art, technology, memories and photography.  Following an open call for submissions the 2019 selection all highlight issues and ideas worth fighting for today.

Disrupt? Peterloo and Protest – Saturday 23 March 2019 to Sunday 23 February 2020

Opening in March 2019 the museum’s headline exhibition for 2019, Disrupt? Peterloo and Protest, forms a central part of its bicentenary programme.  The nature of Peterloo and the political repression that followed means there are few artefacts remaining, which in bringing together for the first time key items from the time makes this exhibition all the more powerful.  This includes a Peterloo medal, the only one of its kind uncovered to date, which carries the strong and impassioned words of the time, “These things will not endure or be endured”.  A newly commissioned film will feature as part of the exhibition, telling the story of Peterloo and the road to democratic reform.

Alongside the exhibition a gallery will become a Protest Lab, for individuals, communities and organisations to use as an experimental space for creative campaigning and collective action.

Schools Learning Programme

Supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund and in partnership with Manchester Histories, the museum has been developing a series of learning resources.  The aim is to give Greater Manchester school children access to the history of the Peterloo Massacre that took place in their city, which was to be a pivotal moment of protest that shook the nation and the world.

Family Friendly activities

There will be Family Friendly strands of activity running throughout 2019, from the Disrupt? Peterloo and Protest exhibition to dedicated events.  The programme will also include My First Protest Song, a multi-sensory workshop full of tunes from times of change by Lennon, Dylan and Strummer for under 3s and their grown ups.

Radical Lates

PHM’s Radical Lates are every second Thursday each month, when the museum’s galleries, shop and cafe are open to explore until 8.00pm, including a programme of thought provoking and quirky after hours events.  In 2019 they will bring ideas around protest to the fore, and introduce different organisations and individuals.

The story of representation explored at PHM

PHM’s galleries cover over two centuries of the fight for representation; its visitors meet the revolutionaries, reformers, workers, voters and citizens who fought for rights and equality.  Defining moments from Peterloo onwards are illuminated, including the suffragette movement and the development of the trade union movement, which were both born in Manchester, but were to define the lives of people all across the UK.  The experience is enhanced for people of all ages with a host of interactive elements that make PHM one of the UK’s most Family Friendly museums.

People’s History Museum is open seven days a week from 10.00am to 5.00pm, Radical Lates are every second Thursday each month (until 8.00pm).  The museum is free to enter with a suggested donation of £5.  To find out about visiting the museum, its learning programme and more, visit



A selection of images can be found here:

For further information or to arrange a visit / interviews please contact Fido PR: /

0161 832 3588


Notes to editors:

People’s History Museum’s (PHM) resources, collections and spokespeople are available to support the telling of the story of the bicentenary of the Peterloo Massacre through the lens of protest.

PHM’s galleries: within the main galleries PHM has a permanent area that focuses upon the story and impact of the Peterloo Massacre.  Displays of artefacts include original Peterloo swords and commemorative pieces including a handkerchief, ceramics and medals.  Filming, photography and interviews can take place in this space.

PHM’s archive: the museum’s archive holds original newspaper articles from 1819 that reported on the Peterloo Massacre taking place.  These include:

  • The Liverpool Mercury
  • Washington’s National Intelligence
  • The Black Dwarf, a London weekly publication

PHM’s conservation studio: arrangements can be made to visit The Conservation Studio which is renowned for the treatment of textiles; maintaining the museum’s own banner collection and undertaking external commissions.

A viewing area from Main Gallery Two enables visitors to see the Conservation Team at work.  This state of the art facility has an internationally regarded reputation.


Jenny Mabbott, Head of Collections & Engagement: 

As Head of Collections & Engagement, Jenny is responsible for overseeing the way that PHM commemorates the bicentenary of the Peterloo Massacre.  In addition to talking about PHM’s approach and collections, she can provide both the historical and contemporary context to Peterloo.

Michael Powell, Programme Officer:

Michael has been working with historians and communities to plan PHM’s programme of activity for 2019.  He has also been responsible for developing the learning programme in partnership with Manchester Histories.  In addition to talking about the 2019 bicentenary, he can share his insight into the museum’s rich collections and archives.

Helen Antrobus, Programme Officer:

Helen Antrobus is a specialist in the history and collections relating to 20th century radical women; from the women who marched at Peterloo, to the female Chartists; the women’s suffrage movement, to the first female MPs.  Helen can bring to life the stories of these women and marry them to the stories of protest and activism today.

Dr Shirin Hirsch, Researcher:

Shirin is a historian in residence at PHM.  She specialises in the history of modern Britain with a particular focus on the labour movement, as well as questions of race and Empire. Shirin is currently undertaking research on Peterloo and the global context of the early 1800s democracy movement in Manchester.  She can talk about the history of Peterloo as well as PHM’s objects and archive material from this period.

Jenny van Enckevort, Senior Conservator:

Jenny oversees The Conservation Studio where the team look after not only the museum’s collection, but also take external commissions.  The studio’s large scale facilities and specialist equipment make this a unique operation.  The work that it does to conserve the museum’s world class collection of banners is just one of the areas that Jenny can talk about.

Kloe Rumsey, Conservator

Kloe specialises in object conservation and cares for the whole collection, including banners, furniture, ceramics and posters.  Kloe has already started work on the artefacts that will be on display in 2019 and can talk about these objects and their stories.

About People’s History Museum (PHM)

People’s History Museum (PHM) in Manchester is the national museum of democracy, telling the story of its development in Britain: past, present, and future.  The museum provides opportunities for people of all ages to learn about, be inspired by and get involved in ideas worth fighting for; ideas such as equality, social justice, co-operation, and a fair world for all.  PHM offers a powerful programme with annual themes; 2018 looks at representation and commemorates 100 years since the first women and all men got the vote, 2019 will see a year of activities around protest movements to mark the bicentenary of the Peterloo Massacre in Manchester and the programme for 2020 will be on the theme of migration and identity. Current winner of Kids in Museums Family Friendly Museum Award.

About Arts Council England (ACE)

PHM is an Arts Council England (ACE) National Portfolio Organisation (NPO).  The work of PHM is supported using public funding by ACE, the national development body for arts and culture across England, working to enrich people’s lives.  ACE support a range of activities across the arts, museums and libraries – from theatre to visual art, reading to dance, music to literature, and crafts to collections.  Great art and culture inspires us, brings us together and teaches us about ourselves and the world around us.  In short, it makes life better.  Between 2018 and 2022, ACE will invest £1.45 billion of public money from government and an estimated £860 million from the National Lottery to help create these experiences for as many people as possible across the country.

About Axel Void

Axel Void (Alejandro Hugo Dorda Mevs) was born in Miami in 1986 to a Haitian mother and a Spanish father. He was raised in Spain from the age of three, where he was strongly influenced by classical painting and drawing. Axel Void has been in contact with graffiti writing since 1999. He studied Fine Arts in Cádiz, Granada, and Sevilla, and based himself in Berlin until moving to Miami in 2013, where he currently resides.

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