Here’s a good idea – changing the name of Manchester’s main railway station from Manchester Piccadilly to Peterloo.
Last month was the anniversary of the Peterloo Massacre. This peaceful rally on 16 August 1819 radically transformed British politics and marked the beginning of the long march to universal suffrage.
To mark the occasion this year, actor Maxine Peake read out the names of the 15 people who lost their lives in the tragedy. But for the 200th anniversary, in 2019, we want that important day to be given the commemoration it deserves.
We want it to be remembered by having the word Peterloo on the lips of the millions of people who ask for train tickets across a counter each year or type out their request on a web page and say where they want to go. We want to see it on thousands and thousands of train timetables, and day after day night hear it boomed out across the station platforms, from Euston to York, Newcastle to Carlisle, Penzance to Inverness. Everywhere. How? By changing the name of Manchester’s main station from Piccadilly to Peterloo.
Go for it, I say!
We need the support of the Manchester city council, and indeed the councils of the towns around Greater Manchester which sent their people to the demonstration.
It will not cost the council a single penny, only a council resolution and a letter to Network Rail. We need the support of the trade unions, such as the RMT. We need the support of all railway users to get onto their MPs and councillors. We need the support of all the political parties acting together, no matter how divided on other issues, to remember the 100,000-plus men, women and children – ordinary working people from Manchester and Salford and all the surrounding towns – who converged in St Peter’s Fields, right near what is now the Central Library, to demand the vote and representation in parliament which was completely denied them.
The authorities turned the cavalry on them. Fiften were killed, over 600 injured. The shock waves took England by storm. It was the explosion that began the journey to universal suffrage, to this day our most important democratic instrument and right. Uproar and demonstrations followed across the whole country and inspired Shelley to write The Masque of Anarchy, the greatest political poem in the language, his denunciation of the aristocratic land-owning elite who had parliament in its pocket. From that moment no amount of suppression could hold back the tide demanding change. Thirteen years later in 1832, parliament was forced to bring in the Great Reform Act, which for the very first time gave parliamentary representation to the growing populations of the new industrial towns and cities such as Manchester which up to then had no parliamentary representation at all, and with it an extension of the right to vote.
Well worth commemorating, wouldn’t you say?
Anyone who wishes to join the campaign can contact John Browne on firstname.lastname@example.org or Michael Knowles on email@example.com