Animation brings history to life

11 August 2019

UCLan student’s animated film will be a highlight of the 200th anniversary of the Peterloo Massacre festival

A University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) student’s animation skills will be a highlight of a major event to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the Peterloo Massacre.

Beth Joy has created a 90 second animated film which tells the story of George Dewhurst, who was fighting for worker’s rights at one of the darkest times in British political history.

The 19-year-old researched the life of George, who was imprisoned for high-treason in Lancaster Castle after being part of the movement which fuelled the gathering of workers 200 years ago in St. Peter’s Square, before sketching up to 20 drawings. The images, some of which have taken up to 20 hours each to produce, have been scanned and digitised to create the animated film.

The first-year student, from Wigan, said: “It’s been great for me to adapt my hand drawing skills and combine those sketches with digital technology to bring George’s very moving story to life. It’s been fascinating learning about a man whose story has been lost from the history books.”

Beth, who was granted special permission from a judge to draw the interior of Lancaster Crown Court, has been working on the project for the last two months. Some of the history about Blackburn born George was provided by his distant relative Emma Speed, UCLan’s Creative Industries Innovation Manager.

Her work will be screened on Friday, 16 August, in St Peter’s Square, in Manchester, to an audience of 800 people, including world-famous directors Danny Boyle and Mike Leigh, as part of the Manchester Histories Festival.

"We are delighted to be able to show the film and include George’s descendants in the 200th anniversary event on 16 August in St Peter’s Square."

The former John Rigby College and St Edmund Arrowsmith Catholic High School pupil added: “I’m very proud to have been given this special opportunity to produce an animation which showcases an important part of our history. To know that a huge audience will see my work, including two huge names in the film industry, is mind-blowing. It shows that if you put your mind to something then you can make your dream come true. I now can’t wait to see everybody’s reaction.”

Karen Shannon, CEO of Manchester Histories, said: “Using creative and innovative means, like animation, to bring history alive is a vital part of what is taking place as part of the Peterloo Festival events this summer. To be able to include the film from the University of Central Lancashire, depicting George’s life, adds a great deal of context and detail to the picture we are painting about the lives of those individuals who helped drive the workers’ rights movement. We are delighted to be able to show the film and include George’s descendants in the 200th anniversary event on 16 August in St Peter’s Square.”