To end what was an extremely busy week in rehearsals for Manchester Sound: The Massacre, Leah Hackett, Rachel Austin and Stephen Fewell decided to go on the popular historic Red Flag Walk in Manchester, The Story of Peterloo. Leah tells us more…
Led by local historian Michael Herbert, we set of at 10.45am on a very drizzly Saturday morning, meeting at the Friends’ Meeting House, just behind Central Library, and set off around the city. We later discovered the Friends’ Meeting House, was a safe haven for those involved in the Massacre.
Although all the cast have researched the Peterloo Massacre in depth for the piece, it amazed me how much knowledge Michael has about the history of the city, and how much we were able to learn from him. We were able to put the events of 1819 into context of the city, and it was incredible to think that nearly 200 years ago, as we were standing outside what is now the G-MEX building near the Midland Hotel, the Massacre took place on what was St Peter’s Field.
What started as a peaceful protest turned into the deaths of 18 innocent victims, and almost 700 people were injured. Michael was able to point out which direction the Hussars entered the field, along with where some individuals fled. As we walked around the city, we followed the events of what happened on the day.
As an actor it was great to be able to put a physical image of the scale of the massacre into our minds, and although Rachel and I are both from the Manchester area, it was incredible to see different parts of the city come to life. Along with a map of Manchester, we were able to work out where we were in relation to the massacre, and what buildings are now on the sites of what were significant landmarks of the time.
Michael spoke at length about what happened on the day and the written accounts from Jemima Bamford and Henry Hunt. As these two characters are pivotal within our piece, it was invaluable to us to hear the written accounts to help develop characters. During this period, Michael informed us that most political messages were put across through the use of flyers, and Michael gave us copies of a few key flyers.
The walk took us to key places within the city; Manchester Town Hall, Parsonage Gardens, The Royal Exchange, with Michael explaining the political significance in relation to the Peterloo Massacre and finished at the same place we started, The Friends’ Meeting House. A few of the other participants of the walk seemed keen to hear more about our production, so hopefully a few will come along to watch a performance!