68. The Day After: Bradford and the Bomb

This week, Bradford: the day after – a booklet produced by Bradford’s Council in 1984 to show what a “one megaton nuclear bomb would do to the Bradford Metropolitan District”.

As this map shows, such a bomb would destroy most of the city and its impact would be felt way beyond its boundaries.  The booklet also includes information about likely casualties, impact on food supplies, civil defence plans, and other key concerns.

The Council had declared itself to be a nuclear-free zone in October 1981, which meant that it resisted the deployment of nuclear weapons and the transport of weapons or nuclear waste within the city’s boundaries.   Special Collections has the papers of Councillor Colin Hunter, who played an important role in setting up the Zone, and of the Peace Action Group, which he chaired.

Bradford: the day after is not novel: many councils or activist groups produced similar maps and information, following the example of Leeds and the Bomb (1983).   However, Councillor Hunter believed Bradford’s booklet to be “unique among publications by local councils in that it has been agreed by all parties” i.e. political parties on the Council.  This was crucial, giving the booklet much more weight.  All parties could endorse the booklet because it “bends over backwards to be objective”, laying out the facts and encouraging readers to think about the issues for themselves.  Colin Hunter’s archive includes drafts and letters illustrating the complex process of writing the booklet and getting it approved by all concerned.

Nuclear-free status for Bradford was withdrawn in 1983 by a hung council, re-established in 1985, and removed again in 1988 when the Council became Conservative controlled.

Sources: the quotations from Colin Hunter are in a letter in Cwl CH 2/2 dated 2 February 1984: this section of his archive also contains drafts, minutes etc relating to the creation of the booklet.  Special Collections includes many more archives covering the debates around these issues during the early 1980s.  The full Leeds and the Bomb document has been put online by blogger Matt Povey, whose post illustrates the impact such leaflets had on young people.

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