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Manchester Sound: The Massacre

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by David Keyworth (subscribe)
I’m a freelance journalist and published poet, based in Manchester. My debut poetry pamphlet is available at
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Acid beats and political protest
Rave music and political history are set to form a powerful cocktail in a new play at a secret location. Manchester Sound: The Massacre is the third and final site-specific production by the city's Library Theatre Company.

The play, written by Polly Wiseman, interweaves two key movements in Manchester's history: the Peterloo Massacre of 1819 and the heady days of the acid house scene in 1989.

Polly Wiseman writer of Manchester Sound: The Massacre
Writer Polly Wiseman at the Symposium

The Peterloo Massacre is the name given to a peaceful gathering of 60 000 people, in St Peter's Manchester, who were demanding the right to vote. It became known as a massacre after 18 people died and many more were injured when troops charged through the crowd.

The actors, including ex Hollyoaks star Leah Hackett, will play characters from both 1819 and 1989. Those characters include clubbers, DJs, doormen, Peterloo protestors, police chiefs, soldiers and gangsters. A 25-strong community company, who will also switch between the two eras, will support the main actors.

Speaking at a symposium event to introduce the production, Polly Wiseman said that her script will require actors to make lightning costume changes.

In a nod to rave culture, the audience will only find out where Manchester Sound: The Massacre is taking place when they buy a ticket. Director Paul Jepson revealed only that the venue is a rather beautiful and extraordinary place.

Both writer and director have been supported in their work by two expert researchers. Richard Poole, from the University of Central Lancashire, shared his in-depth knowledge of Peterloo. Sarah-Jane Haughey interviewed veterans of rave culture. She also related her own memories of the era, including how ravers would arrive in minibuses from Lake District and Wales. Paul Jepson half-jokingly said, "There were people who would go off on a Friday night and not come back for two years."

Paul Jepson director of Manchester Sound: The Massacre
Director Paul Jepson at the Symposium

In 2011, the Library Theatre Company staged a version of Charles Dickens' Hard Times in an old mill. Last year Jackie Kay's Manchester Lines, about a lost property office, was performed at one of Manchester's modern office buildings.

The Library Theatre Company was originally resident at Manchester's Central Library, which is currently being refurbished. In 2015 they will move to a newly created venue at First Street. The company will be joined by the Cornerhouse arts centre. HOME, as the new social and cultural hub will be called, will include a theatre, studio space, gallery, cinema screens, a café bar and restaurant.

Walter Meierjohann will take over from current Artistic Director, Chris Honer, to put together a creative programme for HOME.
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Why? Learn about history while you relive the acid house scene
Phone: 0161 200 1500
Where: Manchester
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