'Peterloo’s about the past – and today'

A scene from the film Peterloo
A scene from the film Peterloo
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Letters: I would urge readers to get along to Longridge’s local cinema, The Palace, to see the film Peterloo by director Mike Leigh.

The film is being screened throughout November, with the first showing on the 16th.

The film tells the story of the Peterloo Massacre of 1819, which was a watershed in British political history.

The Yeomanry Cavalry rode into thousands of unarmed protesters in St Peter’s Field, Manchester, killing 18 and injuring 653.

The journalists present, at what was then the biggest demonstration ever seen in England, called the event Peterloo to echo the battle of Waterloo, where four years earlier British forces had won a famous victory against Napoleon.

Peterloo was the culmination of a revolt against the mill owners, magistrates and Tory government of the day, who were determined to maintain the exploitation and oppression of the new emerging working class.

Almost half the population of Manchester, along with thousands from the cotton towns and villages across Lancashire, descended on St Peter’s Field in a peaceful demonstration against cuts in wages, unemployment and increased poverty.

The huge crowd’s central demand of the day was political reform and the right to vote.

The massacre was a severe blow to the emerging working class movement but it did not stop the thirst for political reform. The Chartists, Britain’s biggest ever mass movement, were to continue the fight in a new wave of struggle beginning in the 1830s.

It is therefore a fitting tribute to those who died almost 200 years ago in Manchester, that Mike Leigh’s film is so historically accurate.

In the film, Leigh shows the brutality and ruthlessness of the ruling elite and also the potential for radical change when working class people act collectively.

It is therefore not simply a film about the past. It resonates with today’s realities for millions of working class people – food banks, increased child poverty, growing inequality, zero hours contracts, the gig economy, crumbling public services and draconian welfare reform.

If we are to build a future out of the wreckage of neo-liberal economics and Tory austerity and create a better society based on fairness, equality and social justice then, in the age of Corbyn, we not only need political representation which acts in the interests of the many and not the few, but also a social movement rooted in the spirit of St Peter’s Field.

Such noble aspirations make Percy Shelley’s poem, which was inspired by Peterloo, as relevant today as the day when it was written.

“Rise like lions after slumber

In unvanquishable number

Shake your chains to earth like dew

Which in sleep had fallen on you

Ye are many; they are few.”

Mick Mulcahy

Longridge

development

More cars, poorer air

Seventy-nine car parking spaces at St George’s Works on the quay in Lancaster have been given planning permission by Lancaster City Council as part of the package of new student accommodation.

This decision raises concerns about the lack of imagination of our council, which continues to provide yesterday’s solutions for our current and future needs.

Air pollution levels around our city centre, especially on the gyratory, are well above both the safe and legal limits, as indeed they have been for many years.

So why are students being encouraged to use cars to drive to university, especially as the package includes new cycle and walking infrastructure?

It is, after all, only a short walk to the nearby bus station from where regular buses run to the university.

Cycling could be made more attractive for students by replacing most of these car parking spaces with secure cycle parking cages.

Moreover, by building a cycle crossing at the end of the quay as part of the long overdue junction improvements, all cyclists are provided with a safer route into the city centre and beyond.

When students come to live in our city, the message should be: help us detoxify our city centre not poison it further, and don’t make the traffic congestion even worse.

And the message to the city council is to think ahead when granting planning permission. To imagine what sort of city we need in the future. Surely a city centre which is less polluted and less traffic-congested than it is currently.

Dick Follows

Dynamo Lancaster and District Cycle Campaign Group

danger

Ban dangerous fireworks

As a libertarian, I am not in favour of banning things, left right and centre. But I do feel the time has come when the Government must ban the sale of fireworks to individuals and restrict displays to licensed organisations.

Fireworks are inherently dangerous, particularly in the hands of reckless youths, and we’ve all heard about incidents where they have been thrown at firefighters, as well as members of the public.

Although they can only legally be sold to 16-year-olds and over, not all shopkeepers bother to check the age of purchasers, and an under-age child with an item containing gunpowder can only be a scary prospect.

Serious attention needs to be given to the idea of limiting the sale to organisations, which will adhere to health and safety regulations. A properly run display makes for great entertainment. Unlike anti-social yobs who cause only distress.

Philip Griffiths

Broadcaster and commentator

community

New members for the Lions

Two new members, Steve Martin and Mark Harrison, were inducted recently into the Garstang and District Lions Club by our president David Lewis. This takes our total to 25 and makes this group one of the largest in the zone. Another member, Allan Townsend, a past president of the club, received a certificate for his long-standing membership of the Lions for over 44 years. Last year, the Lions Club donated over £12,000 to a wide variety of organisations and are on course to the same this year too. Many thanks for your continued support.

Chris Wilkinson

Garstang and District Lions