top of page
Anchor 7


Information about films and TV programmes which relate directly or indirectly to the subject of Peterloo. This section includes both factual and fictional content. Where possible there are links to other websites such as Wikipedia, Youtube  and IMDb (Internet Movie Database) where further information can be found.

Anchor 1


Mike Leigh - 2018


Roy Boulting - 1947

OUR SAM - The Middleton Man (Cinema, DVD)

ReelMcr 2019


BBC Television - 1982

PETERLOO (Famous Protest Documentary)


peterloo manchester

manchester histories - 2019

Anchor 2


Anchor 6

An epic portrayal of the events surrounding the infamous 1819 Peterloo Massacre, where a peaceful pro-democracy rally at St Peter's Field in Manchester turned into one of the bloodiest and most notorious episodes in British history.


The massacre saw British government forces charge into a crowd of over 60,000 that had gathered to demand political reform and protest against rising levels of poverty. Many protesters were killed and hundreds more injured, sparking a nationwide outcry but also further government suppression.


The Peterloo Massacre was a defining moment in British democracy which also played a significant role in the founding of The Guardian newspaper.

Director:  Mike Leigh     Writer:  Mike Leigh     Stars:  Rory KinnearMaxine PeakeNeil Bell 


OUR SAM - A Radical Returns

Anchor 8

‘Our Sam – The Middleton Man’ 

A Radical Returns  


Show) Strength, (Find) Unity, (True) Liberty, (For/My) Fraternity! 

‘Our Sam – The Middleton Man'  is a new film, based on the life and work of Middleton’s most famous son; parliamentary reformer, radical, poet, writer and handloom weaver, Samuel Bamford.  


REELmcr joined forces with Middleton Councillor Kallum Nolan of RKid Media armed with a passion and drive to make Sam Bamford a household name, believing he’s long overdue for a serious commemoration. They spent two years designing the ‘Our Sam’ project with support from many local people and organisations.  The hard work paid off when the project was granted ‘Our Heritage’ funding from Heritage Lottery Fund in August 2017.  


Bamford’s best known as a campaigner for universal suffrage, he fought for worker’s rights and better working conditions. He helped to plan, train and lead a contingent of 6000 Middleton men and women on a march from Barrowfields, Middleton to St Peters Field, Manchester on the 16th August 1819. The demonstration was broken up by the military at the cost of fifteen deaths and over 600 hundred serious injuries, it became known as the ‘Peterloo massacre’. Bamford was himself arrested for his (entirely peaceful) role and was sentenced to a year in Lincoln Jail.  His poems and songs became anthems for the reform movement, and his ‘Song of the Slaughter’ was sung by mass gatherings all over the north of England, he was a nationally known figure for a time.  


He became a journalist, reporting on the changing Manchester region in the industrial revolution, and he also took an interest in local history and folklore. He was a pioneer of Lancashire dialect writing.  He loved the countryside and walked it well into old age.  


He was however, no saint; he had a somewhat wild youth, he could be prickly and difficult. He fell out with some people but was intensely admired by others. This makes his story all the more compelling.  The diaries he kept late in life, published in 2000, (The Diaries of Samuel Bamford) are a remarkable social document.  His funeral in 1872 was one of the biggest public events in Middleton’s history, a memorial obelisk was put up in Middleton Graveyard and stands to this day.   


REELmcr widely promoted the project inviting Middleton people of all ages to take part in the first phase of the project, a series of investigative workshops; visiting The People’s History Museum; Touchstones, Rochdale; delving into archives in Middleton and The Working Class Movement Libraries. Exploring artefacts including Middleton’s very own banner from Peterloo - the oldest political banner in the world, at the Fishwick Street Archives in Rochdale. They navigated heritage trails led by Middleton historian, David Lees, where they learnt about Sam’s life in Middleton, from the end of the 18th Century through the development of Middleton into a mill town as the result of Industrialisation.  Participants watched a live performance of ‘Soldier’s on the Rampage by the wonderful Free Radicals in the Old Boars Head and engaged with interactive living history drama ‘Peterloo’ at the PHM.  


The second stage of the project began Feb 2018, a casting call with a difference was distributed across social media, inviting young performers, writers and film makers from across Middleton and the surrounding towns. Rather than prepare an audition piece each participants was asked to research and prepare a presentation about Sam Bamford or Peterloo. Not one of the young participants had ever heard of Peterloo before this project, let alone knew who Sam Bamford was, we even had participants who didn’t know what voting is. 


REELmcr spent 6 months working with this group, introducing them to Sam’s autobiography, poems and diaries. The group had access to all the research collected from the heritage visits with additional workshop led by Professor Robert Poole (Sam Bamford Diaries) and input from local historian David Lees. 


Together with a scriptwriter and the REELmcr team, the group created their own story, which brings Sam Bamford to modern day Middleton.  The film follows the journey of a young wordsmith Samantha, who spends her time watching others from a distance, it is through her we meet Sam Bamford as she learns about his life and why people from Middleton walked to the Manchester meeting on the 16th August, 200 years ago. Sam Bamford is brilliantly portrayed by North West actor Tom Charnock (The Hand that shook the Barley) 


The film will be premiered at the Middleton Arena April 2019 – and will then tour the Greater Manchester region.  


In addition the film will form part of an education pack which will be offered free to schools in Greater Manchester.  


Additional Information.  

The project has many partners, Link4life, People’s History Museum, Middleton Library, Working Class Movement Library, Touchstones Rochdale, Local historians, Academics and authors, musicians and actors.   


This project has been made possible by money raised by the players of the National Lottery.  


REELmcr's a dynamic, not for profit social enterprise, committed to giving a voice to the most alienated, deprived, under represented and vulnerable communities. Providing inter-generational community groups across the North West with the opportunity to  produce the personal or collective stories of individuals, heritage and communities.  Groups are encouraged to focus on issues that affect all members of their community rather than individual difference. Promoting cohesion and social history is the goal that underpins all projects.   

REELmcr Director Jacqui Carroll was born and schooled in Middleton during the 1960/70’s when Sam Bamford was taught in schools.  Everyone in Middleton not only knew who he was, but celebrated the great man’s work and legacy.   


“I was lucky enough to learn about Sam Bamford at school, Everyone in Middleton not only knew who he was, but celebrated the great man’s work and legacy.   It really shocks me just how few people know who he is today.  I’m  honoured to have an opportunity to change this, this film and  these young people will ensure Sam legacy is not forgotten” 


Quote from Kallum Nolan, ‘Our Sam’  Assistant Project Manager.  


‘The news of funding from HLF for ‘Our Sam, The Middleton Man’ is nothing short of monumental for the people of Middleton.  I genuinely couldn’t be happier, with this project  we’ve reignited an interest in the towns rich heritage’ 


Quote from Kaiden Nolan:  Young musician and member of Middleton band, Scuttlers. 


“I welcome and support any project that involves spreading the word about Samuel Bamford. His words and wisdom have come a long way from his generation and for them to be forgotten would be a great shame, a loss of hope of our people. For any project to arise on this man will bring great pride within my town, and for the many countless people everywhere who respect this great man’s work.” 


Quote - Doctor Robert Poole – Historian and Editor of Samuel Bamford Diaries   


“The involvement of young people from all parts of the area would earn Bamford’s warmest approval, for he was a great advocate of education and investment in youth, and a believer in the importance of local history for community identity. I  like the way the past and the present leak into each other - it’ll be really good on stage.  And the way it matches the troubles of the past with those of the present even though people seem completely different.  


He was of one of Victorian England’s bravest men, and one of its greatest writers, and Middleton will rise again with him.”  

For more details or to book a screening please contact or call 0793 1234890 

Anchor 3



British drama film directed by Roy Boulting. It stars Michael RedgraveRosamund JohnBernard MilesDavid TomlinsonMaurice Denham and Kenneth Griffith. Its plot involves a British politician who rises to power, abandoning on the way his radical views for more conservative ones. It is based on the novel Fame Is the Spur by Howard Spring, which was believed to be based on the career of the Labour Party politician Ramsay MacDonald.



When Hamer Radshaw, a young man from a North country mill town, commits to help the poverty-stricken workers in his area, he takes as his Excalibur a sword passed down to him by his grandfather from the Battle of Peterloo, where it had been used against workers. As an idealistic champion of the oppressed, he rises to power as a Labour M.P., but is seduced by the trappings of power and finds himself the type of politician he originally despised.

Anchor 4


This short film, narrated by Neil Bell (Sam Bamford in Mike Leigh's Peterloo Film) was produced by Manchester Histories to promote the summer of events to mark the bicentenary of Peterloo in 2019.

In the film Neil visits some of the locations and buildings with a connection to the events of August 16th 1819.

Included are The Briton's Protection pub*, The Free Trade Hall (now Radisson Blue Hotel) The Midland Hotel, The Friends' Meeting House Manchester Central.

Contrary to popular belief the murals in The Briton's Protection do not depict the Peterloo Massacre. In fact they are a representation of the Recruiting which took place for men to join the army to fight in the Napoleonic Wars. The sign outside the pub was only recently changed to show Peterloo. Ed.



 British television series which first aired on the BBC in 1982.[1] It was based on the novel Fame Is the Spur by Howard Spring.


It depicts a socialist politician who betrays his early beliefs as he grows older, and was believed to be based upon the Labour Prime Minister Ramsay MacDonald.


It had previously been adapted as a film Fame Is the Spur by the Boulting Brothers in 1947.

Anchor 11

THE PETERLOO MASSACRE (Famous Protest Documentary) 


A drama/documentary detailing the curtailed inquest into the death of John Lees, of Oldham.


Originally shown on Btitish Television iot is now avilable from a number of sources (see below)

Anchor 9


Anchor 10



"They say there’ll be thousands pouring into Manchester tomorrow. From all over the county, north and south. It’ll be a piece of history. People will remember this!"

Lost in the smog of the Industrial Revolution, the TARDIS crashes four miles south of Manchester, in the grounds of Hurley Hall – a grand mansion belonging to a local factory owner, a proudly self-made man. But while Hurley dreams of growing richer still on the wealth of secret knowledge locked up in the Doctor’s time and space machine, his servants hope only for a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work. His young maid Cathy, for instance, whom Nyssa learns is looking forward to joining the working people’s march to St Peter’s Field, in the heart of the city. There’ll be speeches and banners and music. It’ll be like one big jamboree…

Or so she thinks. For the city’s establishment have called in their own private militia, to control the crowd. One of the darkest days in Manchester’s history is about to unfold – and the Doctor, Nyssa and Tegan are right in the thick of it.

B.B.C. 2016 Written By: Paul Magrs Directed By: Jamie Anderson


PETERLOO - A Radio Musical

An original work by Eccles-born folk musician Ted Edwards. The story is told through songs and dramatic narration.

Produced by Oldham Community Radio and performed by a  cast of local folk-musicians.


The show is usually broadcast around the time of the Peterloo anniversary and may be made available as a download.

Anchor 5






By Jeremy Aspinall

Radio Times Wednesday, 17th October 2018 .


“Mike Leigh’s reconstruction of a dark chapter of English history reaches epic heights”

The 1819 massacre of peaceful protesters at a field in Manchester may be news to many, but this blast from the past is brought vividly to life by an ensemble cast including Maxine Peake and Rory Kinnear.

With politicians and commentators recently raising the spectre of civil unrest in England over the thorny issue of Brexit and the potential damage of rolling out universal credit across the country, director Mike Leigh’s epic reconstruction of a dark chapter of English history has timely resonance. Not that the carnage at St Peter’s Field in Manchester on Monday 16th August, 1819, was caused by rioting radicals incited to violence by unpopular government policies and austerity.

On that hot summer’s day, thousands of men, women and children were there peacefully to hear rousing speeches about getting the right to vote, so their parliamentary representatives could tackle the twin burdens of high bread prices and a wage slump prevalent since Napoleon’s defeat at Waterloo four years earlier. They weren’t expecting to be attacked, trampled and killed by their own troops, an atrocity that added a new word to the historical lexicon: “Peterloo”.

Salford-born Leigh has admitted when he was at school in the late 1950s, little was taught about this notorious local disaster. (I was lucky enough in my history lessons in the 70s to learn about Peterloo in the context of seismic social change in early 19th-century England that included electoral reform, the battle for trade union recognition, the abolition of slavery and an end to child labour.)

This sobering blast from the past, superbly shot by regular cameraman Dick Pope, begins with the last throes of the Battle of Waterloo where traumatised young bugler Joseph (David Moorst) survives, but in a shell-shocked daze then seemingly is left to walk all the way back to his family home in Manchester. Leigh then proceeds to knit multiple strands together, with an excellent ensemble cast playing a vast array of characters.

There’s Joseph’s salt-of-the-earth family of weavers headed by Maxine Peake’s doughty matriarch Nellie, who’s determined to keep her brood out of poverty. Meanwhile, in London, the government of Prime Minister Lord Liverpool is at the command of a mercurial Prince Regent (Tim McInnerny), reigning in lieu of sick George III but petrified by the spread of revolutionary ideas that could see him lose his head (an encounter with a potato illustrates his paranoia to a tee). And then there are the Manchester magistrates led by the Reverend Ethelston (played with fulminating fury by Bodyguard star Vincent Franklin), who pompously believe the people, especially those from Lancashire, are incapable of knowing their own minds.

Opposing that view are moderate reformists like John Knight (Leigh regular Philip Jackson) and supporters from the local press, who are instrumental in inviting tub-thumping speaker Henry “Orator” Hunt (a terrific Rory Kinnear) to address the masses. A group of female activists are also affiliated: they are as heated in their debates but are treated no less brutally when it comes that fateful August day.

At 155 minutes, the film does meander but Leigh’s ability to seamlessly move between the lives of disparate characters means it’s never plodding or one-note. Indeed, there’s humour here, whether it’s Franklin’s permanently apoplectic magistrate, Karl Johnson’s twitchy Home Secretary Lord Sidmouth or McInnerny’s indolent royal glutton. Yes, they border on caricature but let’s cut Leigh some satirical slack here. Even “Orator” Hunt’s self-importance and southern snobbishness is sent up when he’s unexpectedly forced to stay in a humble northern abode for a week.

The massacre, when it starts, is unheralded and low key, yet once the mayhem triggered by the marauding military unfolds, flashbacks to more recent examples of crowd crisis like the 1990 Poll Tax riots and especially Hillsborough come tragically to mind.

Atypically for a film about a shameful historical disaster, there’s no “what happened next” postscript, just a poignant fade-out and credits. Maybe the director is encouraging us to go and research those events for ourselves. 

If there is a lesson for the country in these volatile times, maybe it’s that disconnect between governed and governors, North and South, urban and rural, can have consequences that are best avoided by establishing lines of communication. No doubt, if Ken Loach, Leigh’s fellow chronicler of the lives of working folk, had been behind the camera, a different and more strident approach to events may have ensued. To his credit and despite being out of his directorial comfort zone, Leigh manages to take slice-of-life drama to impressively epic heights and expresses a quieter indignation. But it’s indignation, nonetheless.

Peterloo was released in cinemas on Friday 2 November 2018 after showing at the London Film Festival on October 17th.

By Emily Heward

Manchester Evening News  17 OCT 2018

An unflinching and unremittingly bleak portrait of Manchester's bloody massacre

Nearly 200 years on from one of the bloodiest days in Manchester's history, the Peterloo Massacre is still a remarkably under-represented chapter in British political history.

That's about to change with the release of Mike Leigh's historical epic Peterloo, bringing the events of August 16, 1819 to the big screen.

An estimated 18 people were killed and 700 more were injured when an armed cavalry charged a crowd of working class protesters who had gathered on St Peter's Field to peacefully demand parliamentary representation.

The atrocity earned its sobriquet from the Battle of Waterloo, which had brought the Napoleonic Wars to an end four years earlier, and it's there that the film opens with young bugler Joseph walking, shell-shocked, through a burning battlefield strewn with the bodies of soldiers and horses.

As he makes his way home to Manchester, to his mother Nellie (Maxine Peake), Britain's leaders are lavishing glory and riches on the victorious Duke of Wellington while lamenting the 'sickness and dangerous threat of rampant insurrection' in the north.

Back home, times are hard for Joseph's family. Poverty and rising prices are tightening their grip on Manchester's textile workers; Nellie struggles to buy enough eggs to feed her family, while Joseph searches fruitlessly for work.

Maxine Peake in Peterloo.

Desperation drives others to petty crimes, which are met with tyrannical punishments. Magistrates order a woman to be whipped for drinking her master's wine; a man is sent to Australia for 14 years for pilfering a pocketwatch; and another faces hanging for stealing a coat - all real cases tried by the magistrates in question.

The history is meticulously researched, but its exposition is clunky in places. Context like the Corn Laws ("they were meant to help us, they've only made things worse") and the suspension of the habeas corpus act ("a cornerstone of our constitution, without which the common man is reduced to slavery") are clumsily shoehorned into unconvincing dialogue; too often we're told and not shown.

The script leans heavily and at times arduously on the real-life rhetoric of the orators who galvanise the masses into action. There's speech after rallying speech from various reformer factions as the groundswell of discontent simmers over into increasingly impassioned political meetings.

Fittingly for a film about collective action, it's an ensemble cast with no one star turn, though Peake is perfectly cast as downtrodden mother-of-five Nellie, whose family are the human face of history in Leigh's faithful re-enactment.

Dressed in their Sunday best, men, women and children march from all over Lancashire towards the film's inevitable, brutal climax. Meanwhile, the Yeomanry, a horseback militia made up of local businessmen, sharpen their sabres with glee and drink.

A still from Peterloo.

As the crowd gathers in St Peter's Field to listen to orator Henry Hunt (superbly portrayed by Rory Kinnear as a pompous 'Wiltshire peacock'), the magistrates watch on from a window above them. Fearful of a full-scale rebellion, they read out the Riot Act, ordering the crowds to disperse, and send in the Yeomanry to arrest Hunt, followed by the 15th Hussars cavalry.

The panic is palpable as it ripples through the crowd and the violence is visceral; protesters are slashed and gored, a child is knocked from his mother's arms and trampled with the sickening thud of a hoof. It's an unflinching and unremittingly bleak portrait of the atrocity, which echoes the opening scene as the dust settles on a square littered with corpses - "a Waterloo on St Peter's Field."

A still from the trailer for Mike Leigh's film Peterloo.

The events that followed would sow the seeds for the social justice movement and eventually lead to voting rights for working men, and later women. But there's no sense of victory at the end of Peterloo, just a rain-soaked hilltop graveyard and a grieving family.

As Nellie says, earlier: "You've got to start small. From little acorns, mighty oaks grow."

bottom of page