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Message of peace

Submitted by on May 26, 2014 – 5:58 pmOne Comment


A reader has written to the council about Manchester’s Peace Garden:

I am writing in connection with the redevelopment of St Peters Square and the demise of the Manchester Peace Garden.

I fully support the redevelopment of the square. It is potentially a wonderful open space that has previously been fragmented by roads and non integrated design. The new design will hopefully create a more human and pedestrian friendly space extending the vibrancy of the city centre into this culturally and historically important part of the city, whilst also enabling the second metro-link crossing through the city.

I am also delighted there will be a Peterloo Memorial included in the finished square.
As you’ll know the square occupies the site of St Peters Church and part of St Peters Fields where almost two hundred years ago armed cavalry charged into a peaceful crowd of around sixty thousand people who had gathered to listen to anti poverty and pro democracy speakers.

The issues of anti poverty and pro democracy are just as relevant today as they were almost two hundred years ago. A memorial to commemorate the events of Peterloo is not just a commemoration of a historical event but a reminder of the struggle of working people against violence and oppression at the hands of the state.

However, its not just against its own people that states have the capacity to commit violence. It is nation states (such as our own) that carry out violence against other nation states. The 20th century was a century where advances in science and technology enabled states to wage war against each other over greater distances and with much greater capacity for destruction than ever before. This has continued into the 21st century, where state violence, wars of aggression, drone attacks, kill lists, missile strikes etc. have become every days news. News stories that for the main part are happening overseas, somewhere else to someone else.

In 1980, at the height of the Cold War, Manchester City Council declared Manchester the worlds first Nuclear Free City. The city council made a stand against the terrible technologies of war and made a commitment to promote the concept and importance of peace nationally and internationally.

Four years later, in 1984, after a competition to design a sculpture the Peace Gardens opened with the winning ‘Messenger of Peace’ sculpture designed by Manchester born sculptor Barbara Pearson forming a focal point in the new garden.

It was around this time that as a child growing up in Manchester I would walk past an air raid siren on an electricity substation on my way to and from school every day. A twice daily reminder that within four minutes the city of Manchester and everything in it, including my school, home, family, and friends could be obliterated by the blast and heat from nuclear weapons raining down on the city.

Back then it seemed that getting caught up in a nuclear conflict between east and west was inevitable, it was just a matter of when and not if, it was going to happen.

Thirty years on and thank god the unthinkable hasn’t happened, but the world is certainly not a more peaceful place than it was back then.

From the information available on the internet and a recent trip to the newly reopened Central Library it appears that the Messenger of Peace and the concept of a Peace Garden has not been incorporated into the redevelopment of the square. This is extremely disappointing.

The old Peace Garden was a small patch of grass, with some flowers, trees and a statue but the whole was much greater than the sum of its parts, it represented an idea, a belief, a hope for a peaceful future, and this was not just the hopes and beliefs of the people of Manchester but the hopes and beliefs of Manchester City Council.

If the Messenger of Peace is not to be reused in the new square I would be very grateful if you could let me know if the statue is to be relocated elsewhere within the city and if a new Peace Garden will be created somewhere to compensate for the loss of the old one.

The Messenger of Peace’s’ message is still as of vital importance today as it was thirty years ago and the Peace Gardens and the Messenger of Peace statue are of great cultural importance as part of the city’s recent history.

Can the Messenger be relocated or is her message of peace too dangerous a message? A message that many people don’t want to hear in the early decades of the twenty first century.

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