Cap & Dove was a tiny travelling arts centre, housing a one-window museum, theatre, and shop. It was a Peterloo legacy project, celebrating protest, liberty, and equality. Commissioned by Greater Manchester Arts, the ‘art centre on wheels’ took art, performance, and storytelling to the heart of Greater Manchester communities, Bury, Bolton, Manchester, Oldham, Rochdale, Salford, Stockport, Tameside, Trafford, and Wigan in the summer of 2021.
The design, build and tour of Cap & Dove emerged from research into local histories and contemporary concerns. It was a commission to Joshua Sofaer to mark the 200th anniversary of Peterloo. The Peterloo Massacre took place at St Peter’s Field in Manchester on 16th August 1819. Cavalry charged into a crowd of 60,000-80,000 people who had gathered to demand reform and parliamentary representation.
The title comes from the ‘cap of liberty’ and the ‘dove of peace’, two symbols of protest. Each element of the design incorporated references to the region’s industrial past and social history. Based on the platform of an election cart, used widely on campaign trails in the early 19th Century, elements from the paintwork, based on Regency-period textile samples and the river system that powered the region’s industrial boom, to bespoke wallpaper celebrating the first NHS patient, refers to Greater Manchester’s rich and radical history. The solid brass nose door handle was cast from the Middleton Cemetery memorial to the author, Samuel Bamford who, being an advocate of public defiance, led Rochdale’s people to protest at Peterloo. A decorative, tiled floor, using natural dyes including red cabbage and onion skins, was inspired by techniques of traditional Salford tile-makers of the Victorian era.
You can read a full account of the symbolism of Cap & Dove and the meanings behind its decoration here.
At each stop on the tour a mini day festival of activities was curated. The strands of programmed work on each day included:
- MUSEUM: Works of art and objects of social importance from local collections were taken to the people and displayed in the one-window gallery. They included the only surviving banner from Peterloo and ‘Birmingham Race Riot, 1964’ by Andy Warhol.
- INFORM: A part of the day was given over as a platform for local pressure groups, including social welfare and ecology grass roots organisations.
- COMMUNITY: Local performance, dance, theatre, circus, and spoken word groups were invited to make work in and around Cap & Dove.
TOURS: Local tourguides and ‘ambassadors’ developed tours of the space to interpret the design and decoration as a way of telling people about the history of the locality.
- PERFORM: The Cap & Dove Ensemble developed bespoke performances for the tiny theatre that dealt with issues of personal freedom, care, and panic in a post-pandemic digital age.
- SHOP: The shop sold items handmade by the Cap & Dove team as well as other local artists and makers.
Cap and Dove was created by Joshua Sofaer, 2020. Designed and built with Tim Denton. Additional design by Maisy Summer, Caroline Dowsett, Standard Practice, Zaynah Arif (Textiles and Surface Design, University of Bolton) and workshop participants across Greater Manchester. Commission research and development was by Rule of Threes.
The Cap & Dove Ensemble were Afreena Islam, Amy Lawrence, Anna FC Smith, Chanje Kunda, Jenny Gaskell, Klaire Doyle, Mark Croasdale, Megan Griffith, Richard Shields, and Steph Reynolds.
Cap & Dove was produced by Debbie Chan, Caroline Smith, and Sarah Bond. It was project-managed for Greater Manchester Arts by Kirsty Connell.
Photography by Debbie Chan, Alan Hamer, Jamie Kruse, Richard Tymon, and Simon Webb.
The project was commissioned by Greater Manchester Arts. The commission was part of the Greater Manchester Combined Authority’s Great Place programme, funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) and Arts Council England.