#MondayBlogs Peterloo: the graphic novel

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For many of us working on comics, crowdfunding websites such as Kickstarter have become absolutely vital in ensuring that varied and innovative work reaches new audiences. One of the biggest Kickstarter success stories of all time was Roy Greenhilt’s The Order of the Stick Reprint Drive which aimed for pledges of $57,750 to publish out of print comics but ended up receiving a staggering £1,254,120. The reason it was so successful was due to a simple formula: People pledged money because they wanted to own a physical copy of a comic that was now out of print. Instead of paying a shop, they paid the artist directly. This is a formula which has enabled Kate Ashwin and Amanda Tribble, two of the artists in Dawn of the Unread, to put food on the plate and develop their respective careers.

One kickstarter campaign that we’re currently very excited about is Peterloo – a graphic novel. So we got in contact with Paul Fitzgerald, Eva Sclunke and Robert Poole who have kindly outlined the project in this guest blog.   

4. Peterloo Carlile (detail)

The authors have used original paintings and historical documents to help create an authentic and factually accurate narrative for the project.

The ‘Peterloo Massacre’ of 16 August 1819 was a landmark event in the development of British democracy. A peaceful rally of some 60,000 pro-democracy reformers on St Peter’s Field, Manchester, was attacked by armed cavalry, causing 15 deaths and over 650 injuries. ‘Peterloo’ (an ironic reference to Waterloo four years earlier) became a national cause célèbre, and features in every history of the period as well as many books novels, films and TV and radio programmes. It was the bloodiest English political event of the nineteenth century, and the best-documented crowd event of the age. It pioneered modern peaceful mass democratic protest, and opened the way for the extension of the vote over the next century.

The Peterloo bicentenary in 2019 will be a major public event. There will be a Mike Leigh feature film, a permanent memorial in Manchester, the Manchester Histories Festival, the Manchester International festival, and community-led commemorations of all kinds. And, if the right support gets in place, there will be a graphic novel – one with a difference. Every word, and every event, in the narrative will be taken directly from an original historical source. The artists, Paul Fitzgerald (‘Polyp’ is his signature) and Eva Schlunke, are working with a historian, Robert Poole, in an unusual collaboration.

Robert Poole. ‘There are hundreds of press reports and eye-witness accounts. The reason we can do this is because of the incredibly rich source material. The local magistrates and the Home Office were writing to each other nearly every day for months, exchanging information, spies reports, leaflets, posters, evidence for trials, the lot. You couldn’t make it up – and you don’t need to.’

Paul Fitzgerald. ‘I’m challenged as we’re only using the words of those who were there. Graphic novels should be about images, not clunky, expositional dialogue.  It also allows us to juxtapose the ‘fake news’ accounts of the establishment with the words of the victims who know what they saw that day. We want to create a richly, evocative kind of sound cloud that brings alive these voices from the past in a way that we don’t think has been done in the graphic novel format before.’

Hone HTJB People

Eva Sclunke. ‘Crowdfunding this project feels like we’re picking up the baton of the public subscription efforts people made in the decades after 1819, to expose the truth of what happened. Hundreds of people chipped in to let the victims have their day on court, and to create the Free Trade Hall at the site of the attack. We hope to do the same, and create a popular, authoritative and accessible resource for the future with the next generation in mind as well as the past.’

You can support their Kickstarter campaign here. Pledges vary from £1 – £400. The team need to raise just over £2,500 in the next 18 days to achieve their goal of £10,000. We’ve pledged £25 because this is a tragic story that everybody needs to know about and because we get a copy of the graphic novel when it’s produced.

DOTU Round logoDawn of the Unread is a graphic novel celebrating Nottingham’s literary history. It was created to support libraries and bookshops. It began life online and won the Teaching Excellence Award at the Guardian Education Awards in 2015 and has since been published by Spokesman Books (2017). All profits go towards UNESCO Nottingham City of Literature.

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