A note about Peterloo

A little intro

Tonight we’re holding a special screening of Mike Leigh’s Peterloo at Cameo in Edinburgh. It’s nearly 200 years since a peaceful pro-democracy rally at St Peter’s Fields in Manchester turned into a bloody massacre, but the events that led up to this atrocity still have significance today.


I’ll be reflecting a bit more about the film after tonight’s screening, but for now I just wanted to explain a bit about why we’re doing this and what it means to us.

Why are we doing this now?

  • The Peterloo massacre happened on 16th August, 1819 and this year marks the events 200 year anniversary.
  • Peterloo was influential for working class men winning the right to vote, it also led to the rise of the Chartist Movement from which grew the Trade Unions.
  • Almost 100 years later, in 1918, all men and women over 30 were enfranchised
  • A further hundred years later, today, in 2019, in Scotland the voting age was reduced to 16 year olds for the referendum on independence but not for other elections – there are still some in-balances when it comes to voting across a nation (whatever we might be voting for).
  • 2019 marks further steps to open government programmes such as participatory budgeting and widening participation and decision making to citizens

Why are we, at Demsoc, doing this?

  • We are working for greater participation and dialogue in democracy – and Peterloo tells a story of our engagement in the decisions that affect us!
  • Peterloo highlights some of the issues of the time that can still be reflected on today – or are directly relevant – such as inequality, community spirit, representation.
  • Peterloo, itself is an artistic and somewhat more engaging and provocative medium of getting people to think about politics rather than relying on the written word. It’s the sort of thing we’d like to do more!

Why is it important to people now?

  • There is an increasing sense of loneliness and isolation (over 9 million people in the UK say they’re often or always lonely). This has a detrimental impact on individual health and wellbeing and community connectivity and public services.
  • While there is a debate about how technology and social media may affect social isolation, it can also be transformative for how we can engage with politics. (As work like Digital Participatory Budgeting proves.)
  • We may all have the vote now, but we also know that not everyone feels the same way about voting. There’s a sense of apathy for some about voting – and going back to the struggle for suffrage is one way to explore that.

What do we want to get out of this?

  • We want to highlight this important historical event on the year of its anniversary so we can remember those who protested, fought and died for the suffrage rights we have today.
  • We want people to reflect on some of these issues and actively get in touch with us whether that be a comment, idea or question to discuss some of Peterloo’s themes that affect us today.

After the screening we’ll want to chat about what the film meant for people so here are some questions I’ve got in my mind for that!

Questions for you to reflect on

  • Do you think film and other creative outlets are a good way to get people engaged in politics and reform?
  • What do you think would help bring people together in your community?
  • Do you think we should be bringing to light more political historic events?

We will be posting a fuller blog piece on this after the film screening, in the meantime tweet us with your thoughts, ideas and questions @DemsocScotland

#FSF2019 #communityspirit #suffrage #equality