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Michael Symmons Roberts

Michael Symmons Roberts' co-written 'The Anvil' will be performed on July 7

Poet pens Peterloo production for Manchester International Festival

21 March 2019

Manchester School of Art students will also once again produce creative work for the festival

University poet Professor Michael Symmons Roberts has co-written a major new musical production about the Peterloo Massacre for Manchester International Festival 2019.

The Anvil, “an elegy to the fallen and a celebration of our city”, is penned by the Professor of Poetry at Manchester Writing School and the internationally acclaimed composer Emily Howard.

The new work will be performed on July 7 at The Bridgewater Hall by the BBC Philharmonic and a huge massed chorus featuring the BBC singers and three Halle choirs.

Manchester Metropolitan University is proud to be a gold sponsor of MIF – the internationally renowned performing and visual arts and popular culture festival that returns in July. 

Professor Roberts, a noted librettist as well as winner of the Costa Poetry Award, said: “The Anvil is a multi-collaborative project involving great orchestras, choirs, soloists and theatre-makers. It’s been a privilege to be part of it.

“I have worked for years as a librettist but this is the first time I’ve worked with Emily, and it’s been fascinating.”

Librettists are skilled in writing the text of operas or other long vocal works.

Professor Roberts’ previous collaborations with the composer Sir James MacMillan has led to two BBC Proms choral commissions, song cycles, music theatre works and operas for the Royal Opera House, Scottish Opera, Boston Lyric Opera and Welsh National Opera.

The Anvil is part of MIF’s programme to commemorate the bicentenary of the Peterloo Massacre.

The Anvil is a multi-collaborative project involving great orchestras, choirs, soloists and theatre-makers. It’s been a privilege to be part of it.

On August 16 1819, at least 15 people were killed and hundreds more injured at a protest for parliamentary reform at St Peter’s Field in Manchester. The event is now considered a landmark moment in British political history.

The two-part commission also includes a day-long series of immersive performances inspired by the stories of those who died at St Peter’s Field from ANU, one of Europe’s most daring theatre companies. Inspired by the lives and stories of those who died at Peterloo, the company is collaborating with people from all over Greater Manchester to explore what Peterloo meant then and what it means today – reflecting on the events of 1819 while forging a vital new connection with our 21st-century city.

Gold Supporter

MIF is a festival of original, new work and special events, staged every two years in Manchester.

Manchester Metropolitan is one of just five gold sponsors of MIF – the list of supporters that make the festival possible.

Students and staff from Manchester School of Art have collaborated with MIF on a wide range of projects since the inaugural festival in 2007.

School of Art students' designs for Manchester International Festival in 2017

As part of their Unit X work, students from Interior Design, Textiles and 3D Design are involved in designing furniture and interiors for Festival Square, pitching their designs to an expert panel with the winning designs installed for the Festival.

In 2017, Media students created moving images in response to the artist Phil Collins’ Ceremony commission and this year are again creating moving image responses. This time they are working with the team behind the Skepta’s ‘DYSTOPIA987’ commission.

This year’s artist-led festival presents works from across the spectrum of performing and visual arts and popular culture – including from David Lynch, Yoko Ono, Skepta, Maxine Peake and Idris Elba.