Director Mike Leigh’s film about the Peterloo Massacre opens on Friday (2), in a Q&A with PCS, producer Georgina Lowe tells us she hopes the film encourages people to use their voices to make their opinions heard in these challenging times
On 16 August, 1819, 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 when cavalry charged into a crowd of 60,000–80,000, who had gathered to demand the reform of parliamentary representation, resulting in 15 deaths and over more than 600 injuries. The film’s producer Georgina Lowe explains why now is the right time for a film about the massacre.
Mike Leigh and I started talking about making this film after we made Mr Turner four years ago. 2019 is the bicentenary of the event and it felt an appropriate time to highlight this piece of history. Having said that, since we’ve been working on the film it has become increasingly relevant and timely.
What challenges did you face in bringing it to the screen?
The challenges we faced bringing the film to the screen were all to do with scale. There are many, many characters in our story and there were 60,000 people in the crowd on the day, with yeomanry and cavalry charging in on horseback wielding sabres. We were determined to portray the epic event with all its horrific brutality as faithfully as possible.
Do you think more could have been made more of the film’s female striker characters?
We could make another whole film about the female reformers. They were such interesting characters who were ground breaking reformers and crucial to the effort. Obviously the film had to be a distillation of events to tell a story as big as this.
Why was the dialogue written in the language of the time?
We always try to be authentic and truthful. We had an extensive period of research with access to the National Archives, the People’s History Museum and Chethams Library, where the period is well documented. Mike and the cast read many documents, speeches and letters, in some cases written by their actual characters, which informed the language and the vocabulary.
What are your hopes for the film?
I hope that our film reaches a wide audience. I hope the viewers are reminded to use their hard-won votes and to use their voices to make their opinions heard in these challenging times. I hope it will encourage people to find out more and to stimulate an interest in our history.
Peterloo is rated a 12A and is on general release from Friday (2).