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The Road to Peterloo – Doors open 7pm Show 7.30pm

Pete Coe, Brian Peters and Laura Smyth

‘The Road to Peterloo’ tells the tale of one of the most notorious incidents in British labour history – the ‘Peterloo Massacre’ in Manchester in 1819 – through some of the many street 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, begin the story in the early 19th century, sketching out the background with songs of the Napoleonic Wars, the Luddite uprising, and the poverty and hunger suffered by handloom weavers, cotton spinners and other workers. Ballads written in the immediate aftermath of the carnage, describe the terrible events of the day, when mounted soldiers charged a peaceful crowd of pro-democracy demonstrators and killed or injured many men, women and children by their indiscriminate use of sabres. The show concludes with forward-looking songs describing the legacy of Peterloo, and the rise of Chartism.

Laura, Brian and Pete present a trove of freshly-discovered material, sourced partly from Dr. Alison Morgan’s new book ‘Ballads and Songs of Peterloo’, and partly from their own research, with many set to specially-composed 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.

Pete Coe, from Cheshire, has been a professional musician since 1971, playing at festivals, concerts and clubs throughout the world. During the 1970s he toured and recorded with Chris Coe, was a member of the legendary New Victory Band, and formed the folk supergroup Bandoggs with Nic Jones, Tony Rose and Chris Coe. More recently as a soloist he has earned an enviable reputation, enhancing his strong, distinctive voice with instrumental versatility on bouzouki, dulcimer, banjo and melodeon.

Laura Smyth is a talented young singer and musician specialising in repertoire from her home region of Manchester. With clear strong vocals accompanied by English concertina and ‘cello, she delivers stripped-down, uncompromising and heartfelt songs. Usually performing as part of a duo with Ted Kemp, their EP and subsequent album, The Poacher’s Fate, received high praise from fRoots, Rock’n’Reel, and The Living Tradition magazine alike.

Brian Peters cut his teeth in the Manchester folk music scene of the 1980s, working on several projects with the legendary Lancashire singer Harry Boardman. He’s a true all-rounder, a top ballad singer, and a multi-instrumentalist acknowledged as one of England’s leading exponents of the concertina and melodeon, to which he adds skills on guitar and fiddle. He regularly tours in America, Europe and Australia, but always retains a deep commitment to the musical traditions of England, particularly the North West.


There is a guided walk around Newcastle city centre in the afternoon organised by Newcastle City Guides.

The Peterloo Massacre – Newcastle’s Campaign for the Vote

Meet at Grey’s Monument 2.30pm. Finish at the Central Station.

The walk commemorates the 200th anniversary of the Peterloo Massacre when people from the North West lost their lives while peacefully campaigning for the vote. We explore the part played by residents from the Newcastle region demanding universal suffrage.

£5 for adults, £3 for under 60’s, free for accompanied child under 16

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