These Walls Must Fall campaigner, Ola, addresses the crowd

Since when has a bit of pouring rain stopped Mancunians from getting out and standing up for what’s right?

On Friday 16th August 2019, 200 years on from the Peterloo Massacre, Manchester These Walls Must Fall campaigners joined activists fighting for disability rights, LGBTQ+ rights and climate justice as part of ‘From the Crowd’, a participatory performance weaving eyewitness accounts of the Peterloo Massacre with contemporary accounts of the struggles we are still fighting today.

On 16th August 1819, cavalry charged into a crowd of peaceful protesters who had gathered in St Peter’s Field, Manchester, to demand parliamentary reform, leaving hundreds killed and injured. But 200 years later, the struggle for justice is far from over. In the words of These Walls Must Fall campaigners, who contributed to From the Crowd’s script:

‘It is the 16th of August 2019, and immigration detention still exists. You don’t know if you’re going to be detained a day, a month, a year… you’re counting down to nothing. After you’re released, the way you see the world changes forever’.

Script excerpt, From the Crowd

Ola, a Manchester These Walls Must Fall campaigner, had a solo part in the ‘From the Crowd’ performance – bringing the script to life in front of an audience of over 1000 people. We asked her about her experience:

“I’ve done drama before but I’ve never been in a big performance like this one. Before I went out in front of the crowd I was a bit nervous, but I knew what was going to happen so it was OK.

“It felt good being on the stage. Everyone involved in the performance was supporting each other behind the scenes. Everyone was welcoming each other. It was good making connections with people campaigning on other issues in Manchester too, such as Young Identity and Greater Manchester Coalition of Disabled People, and learning about their campaigns.

“I really liked the woman who performed in sign language about accessibility for disabled people – she was really passionate, you could feel it from the way she was speaking. “

“For me, the best thing about being part of the Peterloo commemorations was getting the message out about immigration detention. So many people who didn’t know about the issue were educated. And it has made me interested in doing more performance in the future”.

Ola, These Walls Must Fall campaigner in Manchester

‘From the Crowd’ brought a crowd of 1000 people in St Peter’s Square, with activists, community members, councillors, local politicians and trade unionists coming together in solidarity – and offering a glimpse of what might be possible when we stand together. As Ola told the packed crowd on the day:

‘Together we can shut detention centres. Together we can bring these walls down. Help us fight’.