ON August 16, 1819, hundreds of people left the towns that were to become Tameside and made their way to Manchester to attend a huge demonstration on St Peter’s Fields.
Now, 200 years later, a unique arts project is setting out to unite people in the same way that the demand for social and political change did at the start of the 19th century.
Greater Manchester Arts have commissioned award-winning artist Joshua Sofaer to celebrate the spirit of that fateful day when 18 people lost their lives, and embrace the themes of freedom of speech, democracy and protest.
The project’s journey starts in the next few weeks when Joshua begins making the artwork, which will be a collaborative process with the public. It will tour all 10 of the city region’s boroughs next spring.
Cllr Leanne Feeley, Tameside Council’s executive member for culture, said: “This project is an opportunity to remember our history and recognise the importance of democracy.
“This project brings the two together and I am sure it will result in a stunning, inspiring and moving piece of art that properly honours all those people who, as the song goes, gave their blood for the common good on the field of Peterloo.”
Greater Manchester Arts added: “Our vision is to take the arts to everyone, so we were looking to work with an artist who could bring this vision to life.
“Engaging people in the making process is part of Joshua’s approach as an artist, and we’re excited about his ideas.
“He has vast experience of public art and creating work in public spaces, which is key to the brief. It’s important that the work goes into the heart of communities and creates opportunity for people to enjoy and engage with the high-quality arts on their doorstep.”
Joshua Sofaer commented: “There’s almost no art that isn’t collaborative and ultimately this artwork is about the people. I’m looking forward to working with them as part of the creative process and learning what matters to them in their community today.
“It’s exciting for me, as an artist, to be given the challenge of creating a work which connects with 10 different places, each with their own history and identity. It will be fascinating to explore and decipher how they can be united through one distinctive and unifying theme. It’s a fantastic project with so many possibilities and I can’t wait to get started.”
Joshua Sofaer is an artist, who creates social sculpture, performance and installation art. His art and performance have been seen across the UK at galleries such as the Tate Modern and the ICA, festivals including Manchester International Festival, Edinburgh Festival, Hull City of Culture and in Stockholm, San Francisco and Portugal. Find out more about him at www.joshuasofaer.com
The project is produced by Rules of Threes. The commission is funded by GMCA as part of the Great Place: Stronger Together Programme.
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