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FLJS Films opens its 2019-20 programme with acclaimed director Mike Leigh’s latest film Peterloo, which, by bringing to light a little-known atrocity in Manchester 200 years ago, makes a timely comment on the resonances of public protest.
The film depicts the nascent labour movement of the nineteenth century, as the hunger and poverty brought about by the Corn Laws (which barred imports of cheap grain from the continent) drove 60,000 peaceful protesters to Manchester’s St Peter’s Field to demand the reform of parliamentary representation.
When the demonstration was brutally put down by the cavalry, killing 18 people,the government moved to suppress reporting by a nascent free press and the event has since been largely forgotten.
On the bicentenary year of the massacre, and with the current resurgence of popular demonstrations and civil disobedience over Brexit and the climate crisis, Peterloo offers an invaluable reminder of the power of political resistance.