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Voices from the Past: Peterloo and New Historical Fiction

The Open University is running a historical fiction conference: ‘Voices from the Past: Peterloo and New Historical Fiction’ on Saturday 11th May, 2019 at the People's History Museum, Spinningfields, Manchester.

The conference commemorates the 200th anniversary of the Peterloo Massacre in 1819, and we’ll be looking at ways in which Peterloo inspired fiction on the page and screen, and sharing ideas about historical fiction and its ability to help us see the past differently, celebrating forgotten or marginalised voices.

The day will consist of talks, workshops and Q & A sessions. It is free and open to all. Spaces are limited and booking is essential. Please book via our Eventbrite page:

The keynote speaker is Jacqueline Riding, historical advisor to Mike Leigh on his epic film ‘Peterloo’.

Other speakers include: Emma Darwin, whose novel ‘The Mathematics of Love’ re-imagines Peterloo; Michael Green, professor in Creative Writing at Northumbria University and author of novels including ‘The Ghosting of Anne Armstrong’; Heather Richardson, author of ‘Doubting Thomas’ set in 17th century Edinburgh; Vivienne Richmond, senior lecturer in History at Goldsmiths, University of London who specialises in the history of working class dress; Jerome De Groot, senior lecturer in English Literature at the University of Manchester, an expert on historical fiction; Sara Hunt, managing director of independent publisher Saraband, and Eva Schlunke and Paul Fitzgerald (Polyp), the authors of the graphic novel ‘Peterloo’.

Participants can choose one of two workshops: starting to write historical fiction with Sally O’Reilly or a Big Book Group with Emma Darwin, focusing on Emma’s books ‘The Mathematics of Love’ and ‘This is not a book about Charles Darwin’. Anyone joining the book group should read one or both books before the event, but books by all the speakers will also be available on the day.

For further information contact the organisers on or follow us on Twitter: @OU_Writers


 Dr Jacqueline Riding specialises in British history and art of the long eighteenth century. She studied History at the University of Leicester (BA Hons), and History of Art at Birkbeck College (MA) and York (PhD). Formerly Assistant Curator of the Palace of Westminster and Director of the Handel House Museum, she is now a consultant for museums, galleries and historic buildings including Tate, National Trust, Historic Royal Palaces, and film, notably Mike Leigh’s Mr. Turner (2014), Peterloo (2018) and Wash Westmoreland's Colette (2018).

Her publications include Jacobites: A New History of the '45 Rebellion (Bloomsbury 2016), Basic Instincts: Love, Passion and Violence in the Art of Joseph Highmore (Paul Holberton 2017), Peterloo: The Story of the Manchester Massacre (Head of Zeus 2018) and is currently writing a biography of William Hogarth (Profile 2021) while curating an exhibition at the Foundling Museum, Hogarth & the Jacobites (2021). She is a Honorary Research Fellow in the School of Arts, Birkbeck College and a lecturer and tutor in history and art history for the Oxford University Department for Continuing Education.

 Emma Darwin’s debut The Mathematics of Love is possibly the only novel ever nominated for both the Commonwealth Writers Best First Book and Romantic Novelists’ Association Novel of the Year; her second novel A Secret Alchemy, was a Sunday Times bestseller as well as forming the major part of her PhD in Creative Writing from Goldsmiths. Her blog This Itch of Writing gave rise to Get Started in Writing Historical Fiction, and her new memoir, This is Not a Book About Charles Darwin, was published in February 2019.

 Michael Green is a novelist and Professor in English and Creative Writing at Northumbria University. He is the author of Novel Histories: Past, Present, and Future in South African Fiction and numerous journal articles and book chapters. He is currently chair of the interdisciplinary Northumbria Practice Research Group. As Michael Cawood Green he has published two works of historical fiction, Sinking and For the Sake of Silence, winner of the Olive Schreiner Prize for Prose. His latest novel, The Ghosting of Anne Armstrong, which was completed under the auspices of an Arts and Humanities Research Council Fellowship, is published by Goldsmiths Press/MIT Press.

Jerome de Groot teaches English at the University of Manchester. He is the author of Consuming History (2008/16), Remaking History (2015) and The Historical Novel (2009). His research interests include: historical novels, popular history, history on television, historical film, museum and heritage studies, the ethics of historical representation and re-enactment studies. His book Consuming History, also published by Routledge in 2008, concerns the ways in which contemporary popular culture engages with history: there are chapters on historical film, television (documentary and drama), museums, computer games, re-enactment and novel writing.

Vivienne Richmond is a Senior Lecturer and Head of the History Department at Goldsmiths, University of London, where she teaches an undergraduate module, The Fictional Nineteenth Century, which explores and advocates the use of fiction as a  source for historians.  Her research focuses on the social and cultural effects of industrialisation, especially in relation to poverty, dress and needlework, and she is the author of Clothing the Poor in Nineteenth-Century England (Cambridge University Press, 2013). She is currently writing a biography of nineteenth-century Quaker philanthropist Ann Ecroyd and a cultural history of the apron. She is co-editor of Textile History, the journal of the Pasold Research Fund, and co-editor-in-chief of the Bloomsbury Encyclopedia of World Textiles (2023).

 Sally O’Reilly is a Lecturer in Creative Writing at the Open University. She has also taught at the University of Portsmouth and Brunel University. She is the author of three novels: The Best Possible Taste and You Spin Me Round, (Penguin, 2004 and 2007) and Dark Aemilia (Myriad Editions/Picador US, 2014). Her research interests focus on historical fiction and its relation to genre and literary fiction, and the status of the novel as practice-based research.

 Heather Richardson studied for an MA in Creative Writing at Lancaster University and in 2014 completed a PhD with the OU. She recently completed a creative nonfiction project called A dress for Kathleen which combines text and textiles. She charted the progress of the project on Instagram @a_dress_for_kathleen. Heather is also the author of two historical novels Magdeburg (Lagan Press) and Doubting Thomas (Vagabond Voices).

'Polyp' (Paul Fitzgerald) is a full time political cartoonist whose work has been published around the world by many different educational and campaign groups. He is author of SPEECHLESS a word free cartoon history of the world, The Co-operative Revolution a graphic novel about the history of the co-operative movement, and is joint author (with Eva Schlunke) of the children's book Little Worm's Big Question and co-author of the graphic novel Peterloo – Witnesses to a massacre.
He is the chair and founder of the Manchester based Peterloo Memorial Campaign.

 Eva Schlunke is a fine artist/illustrator, author and campaign prop builder. She is a prominent member of the Peterloo Memorial Campaign and a lead artist behind mass participation Peterloo commemorative events such as the Peterloo Picnic (2015) and the Peterloo Tapestry (2016). She is joint author (with Polyp) of the children's book, Little Worm's Big Question, and co-author of the graphic novel Peterloo – Witnesses to a massacre.

 Sara Hunt is the founder and director of award-winning independent publisher Saraband. She worked in publishing in London, including at Penguin and Octopus, and New York before founding Saraband. The Saraband The list focuses on narrative non-fiction – particularly in nature, arts and memoir – and literary and historical fiction, whilst sister imprint Contraband is dedicated to literary noir, mystery and dystopia, and is the publisher of Graeme Macrae Burnet’s His Bloody Project, shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2016 and an international bestseller.  Now in its 25th year and recently relocated to Manchester, Saraband works with publishers around the world and publishes authors from all parts of the UK and elsewhere, including underrepresented voices.