CND at 60: Yorkshire

IssueJune - July 2018
Feature by Benjamin Kaplan, Matt Fawcett

We decided to celebrate the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament’s 60th anniversary with a profile of one of its regional branches. The Yorkshire CND office is in Bradford, opposite the university. One of the branch’s contributions to the peace movement is its fundraising ‘Day of Dance’, which in Saltaire this April had 30 workshops at the event’s 46th outing. Benjamin Kaplan (BK) interviewed Matt Fawcett (MF) of Yorkshire CND more generally, on behalf of PN.

BK: How did Yorkshire CND celebrate both the organisation’s and the Aldermaston Marches’ 60th anniversary this year?

MF: In Bradford, we had a very big celebration for the anniversary of the march with people telling stories and our ‘bring your own museum’ project. People brought along things from their time in the peace movement that meant a lot to them and we archived the items in the [Bradford] Peace Museum. We are very lucky in Bradford to have lots of people who were involved in the early days of the movement, including Michael Randle, one of the organisers of the first Aldermaston March as a member of the Direct Action Committee. It was really nice to hear his input on CND as part of a wider movement and acknowledge that history.

BK: What has Yorkshire CND been working on lately?

MF: Nationally, Yorkshire has been given the responsibility of working on missile defence and space, and that is partly because we have Menwith Hill, which of course is a hot topic in this hemisphere with all of the information that was released in [NSA whistleblower Edward] Snowden’s report. We also have Fylingdales base, which has a lot of relevance in terms of the increasing escalation of defence systems.

We’ve worked very hard this year on our first ‘No Nuclear Day’, which was a protest initiative we did with Trident Ploughshares at the DSEI arms fair in London. We’ve been down there before, but we felt that because of the very heavy representation of nuclear-involved companies we wanted to highlight the issue. We were very pleased with how it went, it was the day with the largest amount of arrests.

BK: Who are some of the groups that Yorkshire CND tends to work with?

MF: We work very closely with Leeds Coalition Against the War [LCAW] and the Menwith Hill Accountability Campaign, which is a continuation of the work done by the Campaign for the Accountability of American Bases. They both do great work. So what we do is, if we are going to hold an event, we try to coordinate with others to be able to hold them in multiple cities since Yorkshire is such a large area.

With our upcoming nuclear power talks, we are working with Sheffield Creative Action for Peace and LCAW. We try as much as possible to publish what local organisations are doing. We are lucky to have a lot of active groups, many of which don’t have a web presence, so we try and provide a space where people can explore what is going on nearby.

I think it is the role of the regional office to take on more of the administrative and back-end stuff so that these groups can get on with the more exciting campaigning.

BK: How have Yorkshire CND and its goals grown?

MF: I think it has been a process of continuing changes. CND is an organisation that is made by those who are working for it at the time, but you see many of the same discussions emerging every decade or so. Parliamentary lobbying versus direct action; discussions on what the most effective method of opposition is. And I think that CND has become pretty good at those conversations and accepting what regional groups want to do for themselves.

I’ve been a lifelong member of CND, but working for the organisation has given me a different perspective. Something I hadn’t really realised was the amount of regional autonomy there is. We’re not like other NGOs that have top-down mandates.