Page last updated at 08:41 GMT, Friday, 13 February 2009

Group welcomes massacre memorial

Artist's impression of the Peterloo massacre
The number of people killed is a matter of historical debate

Campaigners have welcomed plans for a new commemoration to the victims of Manchester's Peterloo Massacre.

The "contemporary" work will be built as part of the redevelopment of St Peter's Square in the city centre.

Although designs are yet to be decided, Paul Fitzgerald, of the Peterloo Memorial Campaign, said members were "thrilled" by the development.

A number of people were killed when militia attacked pro-democracy campaigners on 16 August 1819.

In 2007, campaigners won their battle for a plaque marking the fact people lost their lives in the massacre. A previous blue plaque made no mention of casualties.

The latest memorial was revealed by Manchester City Council as part of a £165m revamp of its town hall complex.

We don't want a really negative image of the bloodbath, but we do want it to celebrate the struggle for democracy
Paul Fitzgerald, Peterloo Memorial Campaign

It followed a feasibility study to explore a programme of public art commissions across the city on the theme of Radical Manchester.

Councillors will appoint an internationally renowned artist to create a "major statement about one of the most significant events in the city's and the country's history".

Mr Fitzgerald, who has long campaigned for a fitting monument, said: "My initial reaction is: 'Yes, fantastic.' After all this time, after 200 years almost.

"We'd want something that's explanatory, that if you didn't know about Peterloo - and lots of people in Manchester don't - then you would by the time you'd looked at this thing.

"We don't want to see any kind of abstract spirals of steel that represent the spirit of democracy. We want something that tells people what happened.

"We also want to be respectful. We don't want a really negative image of the bloodbath, but we do want it to celebrate the struggle for democracy."

A crowd of 60,000 campaigners gathered peacefully on St Peter's Fields in 1819 to call for the right to vote.

But local militia on horseback charged the protesters and cut them down with sabres, leaving at least 11 dead and about 600 injured.

The actual number of people who were killed is a matter of historical debate, but the current plaque on the old Free Trade Hall on Peter Street marks 15 deaths.

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