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98. Seven Years is Enough! The Free Vanunu Benefit at the Hackney Empire, 1993

This week, archives telling the story of a benefit concert supporting the nuclear whistleblower Mordechai Vanunu.

Fax of sample poster for the Free Vanunu benefit Hackney Empire 3 October 1993 (archive reference Cwl VAN 4/1)

Fax of sample poster for the Free Vanunu benefit Hackney Empire 3 October 1993 (archive reference Cwl VAN 4/1)

The concert, on 3 October 1993 at the Hackney Empire, was billed as “an evening of readings, music and comedy”.  It was organised by the British Campaign to Free Vanunu.  Mordechai Vanunu had been abducted in 1986 by Israeli government agents after speaking to the Sunday Times about Israel’s nuclear weapons programme and had later been sentenced to 18 years imprisonment for treason and espionage.   The British Campaign was founded by his brother Meir with a small group of activists soon after, establishing the Mordechai Vanunu Trust in 1991.

With limited resources, the group sought to raise awareness of Vanunu’s plight and of nuclear issues in the Middle East via lobbying, picketing and vigils, using political and media networks.  The Campaign understood the power of the news media and tried to find stunts and angles which would ensure press coverage, such as  mock kidnappings and “cage-ins”.

Advertisement for the Free Vanunu benefit Hackney Empire 3 October 1993 (archive reference Cwl VAN 4/1).

Advertisement for the Free Vanunu benefit Hackney Empire 3 October 1993 (archive reference Cwl VAN 4/1).

The benefit was timed to coincide with and highlight the eighth anniversary of Vanunu’s solitary confinement in Ashkelon Prison. It was a new venture for the Campaign, which hoped to gain publicity and new supporters as a result.   The concert was publicised around London with “1000 bold and imaginative posters”.   We have not found a colour version of these posters in the archive, but here’s one from 1996 in a similar graphic style.

From the programme for Free Vanunu benefit Camden Centre 28 September 1996 (archive reference Cwl VAN 4/1).

From the programme for Free Vanunu benefit Camden Centre 28 September 1996 (archive reference Cwl VAN 4/1).

Tickets for the 1993 event cost £8 and £12 with 100 specials at £30, which offered the chance to meet the artists at a buffet afterwards.

The evening was compered by the comedian Arthur Smith.  Susannah York read a poem by Vanunu reflecting on the experiences of a whistleblower, “I am your spy”.  Harold Pinter spoke Vanunu’s words in a specially-commissioned dramatic reconstruction written by Michael Rosen, also featuring Julie Christie, Roger Lloyd Pack, and Jenny Stoller, and accompanied by Rivka Gottlieb on the harp.

Postcard featuring image of Vanunu in green under his poem I am your spy.  (Archive reference: Cwl VAN 5/11).

Postcard featuring image of Vanunu in green under his poem I am your spy. (Archive reference: Cwl VAN 5/11).

The evening also featured comedians Mark Steel and Arthur Brown, readings by Sarah Dunant, Paul Eddington and Patricia Scott, poets Christopher Logue and Benjamin Zephaniah, and journalist Paul Foot, music from Dave Gilmour, and many more.

Hilary Westlake, the director, reflected on the programme in a fax she sent to the Campaign afterwards.  Generally she felt it had gone well and ran smoothly, though it was too long, over three hours, and most acts could have been a song or poem shorter.  She singled out Susannah York, Benjamin Zephaniah and Paul Foot in particular as “excellent”.

"Successful benefit at the Hackney Empire".  Report in Campaign Bulletin Spring 1994 page 8 featuring image of Benjamin Zephaniah, Arthur Smith and Arnold Brown.  (Archive reference: Cwl VAN 5/1).

“Successful benefit at the Hackney Empire”. Report in Campaign Bulletin Spring 1994 page 8 featuring image of Benjamin Zephaniah, Arthur Smith and Arnold Brown. (Archive reference: Cwl VAN 5/1).

The event seems to have been seen as a success.  A piece in the Campaign’s bulletin the following spring pointed to considerable press coverage, the impact of the posters, and the way that the event had “brought home the passionate support for Mordechai. It was a great show of strength and a morale-booster for all his supporters”.  The Campaign would go on to held a similar event every year until they wound down their activities following Vanunu’s release from prison on 21 April 2004.

Sources and credits: all images and quotations from the Archive of the Campaign to Free Vanunu and for a Nuclear-free Middle East.  This archive, which we have only recently received and not yet fully catalogued, spans the 90s and 00s, from campaigning via print media and fax into the age of the internet.

 

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News Update: two new exhibitions

We’ll be back with the final three Objects soon!  We put them on hold to get our archives accreditation sorted out – and not to mention working on two exhibitions which readers of this blog may enjoy …

Pots Before Words.  Kate Morrell created artworks inspired by Jacquetta Hawkes.  Gallery II, University of Bradford, until 22 May 2014.

Pots_before_words_GII-500x749

Artwork by Kate Morrell, part of Pots Before Words at Gallery II. Credit: Kate Morrell.

J.B. Priestley soldier writer painter – a rare chance to see the fragile surviving objects from Priestley’s time in the First World War trenches.  Bradford Industrial Museum until 19 August 2014.

We’ve also been busy with the Peace Studies 40th anniversary conference. We’re contributing two elements to this international conference: a display (A Concern for Peace) telling the story of the department and a paper about our wonderful collections of peace-related archives.  1-3 May 2014.  If you aren’t going to the conference, you can find similar information by exploring our Objects!

 

97. To the Caverns of Castleton: the Bradford Technical College Staff Outings

On 14 July 1933, 29 members of staff of Bradford Technical College had a grand day out in the Peak District!  They travelled to Castleton, Dovedale and Buxton in a “chara” (charabanc) provided by Bullock & Sons of Wakefield.

Charabancs available from S. Thompson of Sutton-in-Craven (BTC 3/12/2)

Charabancs – we don’t have an image of J. Bullock’s coaches; these similar ones were advertised by S. Thompson of Sutton-in-Craven (BTC 3/12/2)

The morning featured a trip to the Great Peak Cavern, followed by a roast lunch at the Castleton Restaurant.  The coach then took the staff via Hathersage and Chatsworth, dropping them at Dovedale for a three mile walk, and tea at the Peveril of the Peak hotel: bread and butter, paste and cucumber sandwiches, jam, lettuce, and “plain and fancy cakes”.

Menu for the Castleton Restaurant, where the 1933 Bradford Technical College Staff Outing had luncheon (BTC 3/12/2).

Menu for the Castleton Restaurant, where the 1933 Bradford Technical College Staff Outing had luncheon (BTC 3/12/2). We don’t alas know which menu they chose!

We discovered the Castleton day out while enhancing the old catalogue of the Bradford Technical College Archive.  Among our finds was a delightful set of papers about the Staff Outings of the 1930s and 1940s, full of details about routes, menus, attendance etc. The trips were organised for the Staff Association of the College, by its Hon. Secretary.   In 1933 this was Mr R.G. Oversby, who observed in his report to the General Meeting, that “all taking part had a most enjoyable time”.  29 was a good turnout: previous trips had fewer numbers or even had to be abandoned through lack of interest, which rather irked Mr Oversby.

Flyer advertising The Great Peak Cavern in Castleton, visited by the 1933 Bradford Technical College Staff Outing (BTC 3/12/2)

Flyer advertising The Great Peak Cavern in Castleton, visited by the 1933 Bradford Technical College Staff Outing (BTC 3/12/2)

The trips were part of a long tradition within the Technical College, taking advantage of the many beauty spots and heritage sites within easy reach of Bradford, such as the Lake District, Whitby and Malham.

Group photograph Bradford Technical College.  We think this was taken on a Staff Outing, probably circa 1908 or 1909  (BTC 2/35)

Group photograph Bradford Technical College. We think this was taken on a Staff Outing, probably circa 1908 or 1909 (BTC 2/35)

The College had a small, close-knit (and overwhelmingly male) teaching staff.  The activities of the Staff Association helped build this sense of community.  As well as organising Outings and other social activities, they supported members (and their widows and orphans) and negotiated with management.

The material concerning the Staff Association is a wonderful and little-tapped source, not just about the College, but about education, leisure, and above all Bradford itself. The College had come into being to meet the training needs of local textile industries and its staff and students were part of the rich social, cultural and industrial life memorably portrayed in J.B. Priestley’s Bradford writings.

The Outings illustrate this well: local connections and family members often came along (witness the children in the above photograph, probably sons of the staff).  Typically, the Secretary of the Bradford Teachers’ Association, Mr Foster Sutherland, was part of the 1933 trip.  He seems to have been an influential local official and Mr Oversby observes that “many were able to profit by private conversations” with him during the day …

Look out for a new edition of the Bradford Technical College Archive catalogue later this year, which will make it much easier for researchers to discover this important historical resource.

Menu for afternoon tea at the Peveril of the Peak hotel in Thorpe, Derbyshire, visited by Bradford Technical College staff.  "Trust House" menu suggests that the hotel was part of a larger group of country inns.  (BTC 3/12/2)

Menu for afternoon tea at the Peveril of the Peak hotel in Thorpe, Derbyshire, visited by Bradford Technical College staff.  (BTC 3/12/2)  Presumably one of the “Trust Houses”, country inns managed as a group to ensure their survival, with emphasis on food rather than alcohol.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Special Collections is closed for the Christmas break from 23 December-3 January inclusive.   Join us then to meet the last 5 Objects in this exhibition.  Meanwhile, we’d like to wish everyone a very merry Christmas and a happy 2014.

BLP31Poinsettia cr

Our Christmas greeting, featuring a Poinsettia from one of our favourite books.

In Object no. 41 we glimpsed some Christmas fun at Bradford Technical College.

95. A Letter to the Lancet: the story of the Medical Association for the Prevention of War

On 20 January 1951, at the height of the Korean War, seven distinguished doctors published a letter in the Lancet expressing concern about the arms race, the impact of arms spending on healthcare (“each pound spent on bombs means … more dead babies now”) and the apathetic drift towards another world war.

Signatories to letter of 20 Jan 1951 in the Lancet

Signatories to letter of 20 Jan 1951 in the Lancet

The signatories (Richard Doll, Alfred Esterman, Ian Gilliland, Horace Joules, Duncan Leys,  Lionel Penrose, and Martin Pollock) argued that doctors could use their unique expertise and authority to work towards disarmament:

“We appeal to all our fellow doctors who think there may yet be an alternative to merely providing treatment for casualties ; we ask them to join us, in the spirit of our chosen profession of healing, in doing all in their power to halt preparation for war …”

The letter provoked many responses, to the Lancet and privately.  Not all agreed with its perspective.  Doll et al. summed up and tried to refute those arguments in a further letter in February.

Typescript of first paragraph of letter to the Lancet 17 February 1951

Typescript of first paragraph of letter to the Lancet 17 February 1951

Some respondents had argued that war and peace were political matters which should not be discussed in a medical journal.  The seven profoundly disagreed: “Doctors have a social responsibility as well as a personal one to their patients ; they have an ethical tradition and an international allegiance.  War is a symptom of mental ill health.  Its results include wounds and disease.  Doctors are therefore properly concerned in preventing it”.

The February letter called for a forum to discuss how doctors could put these ideas into action.  The resulting event, held in London on 16 March and chaired by Dr Joules, was attended by 130 doctors and led to the founding of the Medical Association for the Prevention of War (MAPW).

Detail from cover of MAPW Journal June 1983

Detail from cover of MAPW Journal June 1983

Over its forty year lifespan, MAPW brought the expertise and authority of doctors and, later, other medical professionals to many issues via its publications, conferences and advocacy: nuclear weapons, chemical and biological warfare, radiation, terrorism, the medical needs of developing countries, even expressing concern about the bellicose lyrics of national anthems.  It was explicitly politically independent, though accused of being a communist front and proscribed by the Labour Party during the 1950s.

In 1992, MAPW merged with the Medical Campaign Against Nuclear Weapons (MCANW), which had been founded in 1980. A merger had been discussed since the mid-1980s but, as Dr Alex Poteliakhoff observed in a position paper in 1990 “the changing international and global scene, namely the collapse of the cold war, hesitant moves towards nuclear disarmament” and increased public concern about environment and quality of life meant both organisations needed to rethink their missions to survive and be useful.

Medact logo, from press release of April 1992

Medact logo, from press release of April 1992

Given their long-term collaboration on joint conferences and projects such as the Medical Educational Trust (not to mention shared office and fax machine!), a merger made sense.   The result was Medact, which continues to bring together health professionals working for a “fairer, better and safer world”.

I decided to write about medical campaigners this week as I recently learned that the Wellcome Library plan to catalogue the substantial and hitherto inaccessible MCANW and Medact archives they hold.   I look forward to working with the Wellcome to promote the distinctive archives of medical professional campaigns to researchers in many disciplines.

Sources: quotations and images from MAPW Archive (references H2, M3, M10.  Note that we are about to release a new edition of the Archive catalogue).  I am indebted also to Physicians and the Peace Movement, by Nick Lewer (Cass, 1992) and many published and unpublished articles in the Archive concerning the history of the association.

Postscript (18 December 2013): the catalogue of this Archive is now online as part of our Quick Wins programme.  Find it on the MAPW webpage in PDF and Word format.

94. Pioneering Pacifist Journalism: the Peace News Story

This week, two little pamphlets which tell the story of a unique newspaper: Peace News.  The history of  Peace News is that of the peace movement in Britain.  Written, edited and read by activists, it reflected and shaped campaigns and debates.

Cover of The Peace News Story by Harry MisterThe Peace News Story was written by Harry Mister.  This particular issue dates from around 1951 or 1952, just after Allen Skinner became editor.  It begins with a potted and very positive account of the early years of the paper.

Half-title page of The Peace News Story by Harry Mister, image of paper's founder Humphrey S. MooreThe paper’s first editor, Humphrey S. Moore, a young Quaker journalist, believed that existing peace publications did not reach out to ordinary people.   A popular newspaper-style weekly could explain and promote pacifism more effectively.  On 6 June 1936, with the support of the Wood Green Study Group (who became the Peace News Group), the first issue was published.

The Peace Pledge Union quickly saw the potential of this new publication to share pacifist ideas.  The PPU was born in 1934 from the mass response to a letter by clergyman Dick Sheppard.  In this famous letter, Sheppard renounced war and called on others who felt the same to join him.  The Union had recently taken a more organised form.  Peace News became the official newspaper of the PPU.

From the first print run of 1,500 copies, the paper grew quickly as it tapped into concern about the threat of war.  Peak circulation of 35-40,000 was reached during the late 1930s.

The Second World War saw circulation drop considerably, for several reasons, including the varying responses of pacifists to the war and the refusal of printers and newsagents to handle the paper.  Peace News survived (and actually made a profit) thanks to dedicated street sellers and other volunteers.  Given these difficulties and restrictions on the use of newsprint, the paper concentrated on supporting conscientious objectors rather than reporting on general peace issues.

Front page of Peace News a short history 1962

A similar yet intriguingly different version of the pamphlet appeared in 1962.  Much of the history section in the 1952 version came from a PPU source.  The version in the 1962 pamphlet was based on another Peace News Story by Margaret Tims* and has a different, more candid tone.

Tims shows how from the explosion of the first atomic bombs in 1945, Peace News helped to create “a new movement against nuclear war based on the idea of unarmed resistance to tyranny”.

From about 1948 we see (and the newspaper reports on) pacifists studying Gandhian ideas of nonviolent resistance and considering how these might be used to campaign against the Bomb.   Hugh Brock, who became editor of Peace News  in 1955, played a key role in these groups.  Although very small, these organisations were exploring ideas and methods which came into their own from 1957, when (as we have seen) the testing of Britain’s H-Bomb led to mass protest and the founding of CND.  There was great overlap between Peace News people and the Direct Action Committee (who organised the first major Aldermaston march in 1958).

Photograph of protesters with placards at Non-Violent Resistance Group demonstration against colonial policy (Cwl HBP 1/19 image 22). Photographer and date unknown.

Non-Violent Resistance Group demonstration against colonial policy (Cwl HBP 1/19). Photographer and date unknown.

Alongside campaigning against nuclear weapons and exposing the dangers of nuclear tests, Peace News encouraged struggles for colonial freedom and campaigned against apartheid in South Africa.  Gene Sharp, the American campaigner, joined the staff in 1955 and began to cover the black civil rights movement.  Increasingly the paper, like the peace movement of which it was part, sought to address the causes of conflict by calling for changes in society.

These developments worried some absolutist pacifists such as the PPU’s Sybil Morrison.  She complained in I Renounce War (1962)  of the paper’s “all-out support and advocacy of the CND” and that Peace News “appeared to be the organ of the Movement for Colonial Freedom”.   The paper became independent of the PPU in 1961.

However, this split, like those amongst CND’s leaders, was perhaps less relevant to activists.  There were not really two sides: traditionalist PPU versus the new campaigns.  Individuals involved in the latter were active in the PPU too; indeed the first studies of Gandhi’s ideas in Britain were PPU initiatives.

This continuity at the grassroots can be seen in the “practical guide for propagandists” in the pamphlets.  The text changes little between the two editions, offering  advice to activists on getting Peace News read: ask your local librarian to take it, advertise at the railway station, write to the press, leave old copies where they will be seen … The main differences between 1951 and 1962 are technological (in 1962 you can get colourful green and yellow posters and a Peace News sticker for your car).

*A small mystery: I have never encountered a copy of this work or seen it on a library catalogue.

5 Caledonian Road soon after it was acquired for Peace News and Housman's bookshop in 1959 and remains home to both today.  Image is frontispiece to Articles of Peace, photographer not known.

5 Caledonian Road soon after it was acquired for Peace News and Housmans bookshop in 1959. It is still home to both paper and bookshop. Image from Articles of Peace.

Sources and credits. Quotations are from the pamphlets, unless otherwise noted.

Peace News created a huge published and archival presence which can be seen in Special Collections and Commonweal Library.  Two key books from 1986, the paper’s anniversary year: the short history Against All War and the more reflective discussions in Articles of PeaceIn Special Collections, most of our peace archives, but in particular  Peace News Archive, the papers of Hugh Brock, our pamphlet and ephemera collections and the artworks of Peggy Smith who sold the newspaper on the street for most of her life.   Commonweal has a complete run of Peace News.

Recent editions of Peace News are freely available online on the paper’s website and a welcome initiative to digitise historic issues is under way.

And finally, thank you to our PaxCat Project archivist, Helen Roberts, who catalogued the Peace News and Hugh Brock archives and to my colleague Martin Levy who has been cataloguing the pamphlet collection.

Happy Holidays!

We’re taking a break for our summer holidays, but we’ll be back in September for the Autumn Term and the final ten.

Sun detail from front cover of Reason, April 1964 (archive ref HBP23).

Sun detail from front cover of Reason, April 1964 (archive ref HBP23).

If you’re new to the series and don’t know where to begin, here are six of the  most popular Objects to get you started.   Enjoy!

  1. Radical reading: Reynolds News, a popular but now rare newspaper
  2. The story of a modern icon, the “peace sign”
  3. Potential Graduate, a well-loved film about 1960s students at Bradford University
  4. J.B. Priestley’s wartime broadcasts which inspired a nation
  5. Dr Raistrick’s unique insights into the Yorkshire Dales
  6. A Land: Jacquetta Hawkes fused poetry and geology to tell Britain’s long story