‘The Road to Peterloo’ tells the story of one of the most notorious incidents in British labour history – the ‘Peterloo Massacre’ in Manchester in 1819 – through some of the many broadside ballads that were printed around the time of the event. Three singers and musicians from North West England – Pete Coe, Brian Peters and Laura Smyth – trace the story from its roots in the poverty and hunger suffered by handloom weavers in the early 19th century. Their songs describe the terrible events of the day itself, when mounted soldiers charged a peaceful crowd demanding votes for all and killed or injured many men, women and children by their indiscriminate use of sabres, and tell of later political developments inspired by the carnage.
Laura, Brian and Pete present a trove of freshly-discovered material, with ballads sourced from Alison Morgan’s new book on the broadsides of the day, and from their own research, with many set to original tunes. Between them they offer three fine voices and instrumental skills on concertina, melodeon, bouzouki, guitar, cello and banjo, and add to the mix period dance music from the Manchester area. ‘The Road to Peterloo’ toured in the bicentennial year of 2019, with full houses at several folk music festivals and a number of well-attended standalone concerts, and will be back on the road for a limited number of appearances in 2020 (check out the “Gigs” page for dates). The music and songs from the show are also available on CD (“Shop”).
“A thoroughly enjoyable night, not to be missed… I learned much from the dialogue between the songs and tunes, which told the story leading up to Peterloo… Superb music from Brian, Laura and Pete… I give it 5 stars”
Bob Dobson, The Lancashire Society.
“A benchmark in its musical portrayal of a key historical event… a fine team brings the essential narrative to life through authentic sources, good musicianship and vital, committed performances… the songs are brilliantly reinvigorated to emerge entirely fresh. Congratulations!”
The Living Tradition, June 2019