The Road to Peterloo

2019 is the bicentennial year of the ‘Peterloo Massacre’ in Manchester, and together with Brian Peters and Laura Smyth, we have been performing our show, ‘The Road to Peterloo’, since June.

On 16 August 1819 it’s estimated that over 60,000 people from Manchester and the surrounding towns and villages gathered on St Peter’s Field to listen to Henry ‘Orator’ Hunt campaigning for universal male suffrage and parliamentary reform. At that time Manchester had no MP’s. It was a legal and peaceful demonstration with families wearing their Sunday best. What followed is documented in Mike Leigh’s film ‘Peterloo’, released last year, when the magistrates, in a panic, gave orders to The Manchester Yeomanry to arrest Hunt and disperse the crowd. They were a drunken, ill-disciplined, part-time cavalry who attacked with sabres killing 18 and wounding at least 600, including many women who were specifically targeted.

It has taken Manchester 200 years to provide a substantial memorial, designed by Jeremy Deller, to be located on the site. Engraved on the memorial are the names of the victims and above these names are the towns where the wounded, and others came from: Stockport, Oldham, Rochdale etc. as you’d expect, but one place name is unexpected… RIPPONDEN. Records state that William Slater, from Ripponden, had his ‘shoulder much bruised by the constables.’ It seems he had a lucky escape. So, who was William Slater and can we find out more about him? Does he have descendants still living in the area?

‘The Road to Peterloo’ tells the story of one of the most notorious incidents in British labour history – the ‘Peterloo Massacre’ in Manchester in 1819 – through some of the many broadside ballads that were printed around the time of the event. Laura, Brian and Pete present a trove of freshly-discovered material, with ballads sourced from Alison Morgan’s new book on the broadsides of the day, and from their own research, with many set to original tunes. Between them they offer three fine voices and instrumental skills on concertina, melodeon, bouzouki, guitar, cello and banjo, and add to the mix period dance music from the Manchester area.

Road to Peterloo CD

REVIEWS – “The Road to Peterloo”:

“These songs may be 200 years old but they still have the power to shock, amuse and inspire, especially when handled as empathetically and powerfully as by this trio of musicians.” Tykes News

“An ambitious and stirring undertaking that shines an uncompromising light on a still under-represented part of the people’s history.” Songlines

“The three participants make a fine team, they are already individually renowned for their keen research and musical expertise” Living Tradition
Read the review of the CD by Dave Kidman in the Living Tradition magazine HERE

“It is brilliant!!!” Broadstairs Folk Week

“Thank you so much – it was a blooming brilliant event!” Manchester Central Library

” A burning, urgent and necessary album.” Folk London

Find out more about ‘The Road To Peterloo’, the concerts, the CD & reviews on

To purchase a copy of the album as CD (Backshift Music BASHCD 65) or download, please visit our Bandcamp page
CD’s (which come with extensive liner notes) are £10 + £2 postage (for within UK), £4 (to Europe), £5 (to rest of world).
Or, if you would like to order and pay by cheque, then please make cheques payable to Backshift Music, and send along with your name and postal address to:
Backshift Music,
103 Oldham Road, RIPPONDEN
West Yorkshire HX6 4EB

I’ve been asked for the words of the songs on the “Road To Peterloo” CD. You can download them from the links below:
The Triumph of Liberty
Arise, you Sons of Freedom
The Drummer Boy for Waterloo
The Weaver’s Sweet Home
Jone O’Grinfield
Cropper Lads
Tom Paine
You Tyrants of England
Spoted Borders
With Henry Hunt we’ll go
Rise, Britons, Rise
John Stafford’s Song
St. Ethelstone’s Day
The Pride of Peterloo
Chartist Anthem
Kersal Moor

World Listening Post – a New York-based music site – will be reviewing “The Road to Peterloo” by Coe, Peters & Smyth early in the New Year. Watch this space for more information.
World Listening Post covers music from around the globe. Since 2015 the site has published review of albums from 85 countries and been viewed by readers in 160 nations. Below are links to reviews to a few reviews from the site.

Pete Coe CD’s and Digital Downloads via Bandcamp

You can buy CD’s and digital downloads from my DISCOGRAPHY page or via the Bandcamp app.

My latest CD is ‘The Road to Peterloo’, with Laura Smyth and Brian Peters.

CDs are £10 + £2 postage (for within UK), £4 (to Europe), £5 (to rest of world).

Or, if you would like to order and pay by cheque, then please make cheques payable to Backshift Music, and send along with your name and postal address to:

Backshift Music
103 Oldham Rd
West Yorkshire

Follow this LINK to sample “The Man in the Red Van”(released in 2017) and buy the CD and/or high-quality download in MP3, FLAC and unlimited streaming via the free Bandcamp app.

Pete and Sue Coe – EFDSS Gold Badge Award 2016

On Wednesday 16 November Pete and Sue Coe received their Gold Badge awards from the English Folk Dance and Song Society (EFDSS) presented by the Chair of the EFDSS Board, Alistair Anderson.

Photo: Annie Dearman

Over 100 friends attended the event, which included songs and music from many of the performers that Pete and Sue have collaborated with, taught, or encouraged over careers of more than half a century of Folk song, music, and dance. Four other Gold Badge holders were among the friends attending: Bill Leader, Alistair Anderson, Derek Schofield, and Vic Gammon.

Photo: Annie Dearman

For more information about EFDSS Gold Badge awards, go to us/gold-badge-award.

Photo: Georgia Stone

Pete’s contributions include traditional song research, song writing in traditional style, the founding of several seminal bands, plus solo and duo performances, dance calling, recording, field research, local folk activism in Ryburn Three Step and teaching at various levels. He has  worked extensively in schools throughout the country as a visiting musician both on his own account and for the EFDSS on the Take 6 Project. He was the founder member and visionary force behind three particularly ground breaking groups – The New Victory Band, Bandoggs and Red Shift – all of which brought something new to the folk scene.

As well as developing a wide range of traditional songs for performance, Pete has had an illustrious songwriting career with many songs covered by other artists. His collecting of a single verse of Marching Down through Rochester with its Waltzing Matilda tune, and its subsequent expansion to a full song has made him the focus of attention by various researchers in search of the roots of the famous Australian song. Most recently Mark Radcliffe featured his rather personal Rolling Down The Ryburn on his BBC Radio 2 programme, sung by Greg Russell and Ciaran Algar.

Pete has contributed a number of field recordings including Caleb Walker (musician for Manley Morris), travellers Charlotte & Betsy Renals and Sophie Legge, and Willy Taylor. He has carried out extensive research into the work of Frank Kidson, which resulted in a touring show and a CD under the title of Five Finger Frank.


Sue successfully gained funding and promoted Ryburn Three Step in the early days as well as teaching Appalachian step dance and the Ryburn Longsword dance team, which she formed 22 years ago. As well as Appalachian dance and Longsword, Ryburn Three Step also organises a range of regular activities for local people including clog step dance classes, a singing group, an offshoot rapper side, a mummers side, monthly folk club and dances, occasional workshop days plus weekly music sessions in the local pub.

Sue led and developed Ryburn Longsword for many years, recruiting youngsters from local schools and including their mothers in the dancing, resulting in a junior and a senior team. Along with team members she developed new dances with a local flavour and has presented the team regularly at dance festivals. In addition to her ongoing Longsword and Step dance activities she now runs weekly workshops around West Yorkshire for disabled and wheelchair bound youngsters, developing dances suitable for their abilities and providing for them a very necessary inclusion.