Tag Archives: Jacquetta Hawkes

Ban the Bomb! CND at Sixty

Sixty years ago, the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) was founded. The organisation grew out of widespread public concern about a frightening new twist in the Cold War arms race: Britain had built and was testing its own hydrogen bomb.  Such H-bombs are thousands of times more destructive than the original atomic bombs dropped on Japan in 1945.  How were the tests affecting the environment?  Would the existence of such bombs mean the British government would feel compelled to use them?

Deeply worried by these developments, celebrated author J.B. Priestley wrote possibly his most influential article: “Britain and the Nuclear Bombs”, published in the New Statesman of 2 November 1957.


Section of Britain and the Nuclear Bombs, article by JB Priestley, New Statesman 2 November 1957. (ref HAW 13/4).

Priestley drew on his own experience of war to argue that if weapons were there, they would be used, and called for the country to take a moral lead in renouncing them:   “Alone we defied Hitler; and alone we can defy this nuclear madness”.

Many readers agreed, and wrote to the magazine, overwhelming it with sackfuls of mail.  Something had to be done.  Priestley and his wife Jacquetta Hawkes met  peace campaigners at the flat of Kingsley Martin, the magazine’s editor, to discuss a national anti-nuclear campaign. The result was the creation of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament.  It was chaired by Earl Russell, Priestley was Vice-President and Canon L. John Collins chairman. Priestley was one of the speakers at the public launch of CND in the Central Hall Westminster, on 17 February 1958.

CND acted as an umbrella group, bringing together people with a wide range of political and religious views and differing ideas about how to achieve their goals (or even what those goals were).  Priestley and Jacquetta and their circle were not necessarily pacifists, and campaigned using traditional lobbying methods, using their connections in political and cultural life.   Other campaigners were veterans of the Peace Pledge Union era, while others were influenced by Gandhian ideas of nonviolent direct action.  The latter included the Direct Action Committee (DAC), whose members had explored the potential of such techniques as long ago as the early 1950s.

The DAC organised a march from London to the Aldermaston weapons research centre for Easter 1958. Graphic designer Gerald Holtom created the Nuclear Disarmament Symbol for use on the march.  CND later adopted both the design and the Aldermaston march.

CwlNDHoltomCodeFlagsAdjusted cr

Detail from sketch by Gerald Holtom, showing the nuclear disarmament symbol in use on a march.  Courtesy of Commonweal Trustees.  (ref: Cwl ND).

The Symbol was based on the semaphore signs for ‘N’ and ‘D’ but in its simplicity it echoed many other ideas: a human figure in despair, a tree, a cross, a missile.  Endlessly applicable to creative re-imaginings, and adopted by Americans protesting against the Vietnam War, the Symbol  became synonymous with peace and counter-cultural ideas.

CND in its early years grew a mass membership and was strongly influential on culture.  Members moved increasingly towards direct action methods as traditional campaigning did not have the desired result.  In 1960 Russell resigned as President to take up a role in the new Committee of 100.  This aimed to create a mass movement of civil disobedience against British government policy on nuclear weapons.  The Priestleys became less involved as the group became more radical.


Front cover of pamphlet advertising Aldermaston film (ref Cwl HBP)

The organisation, and its many regional and themed sub-groups, has remained active ever since its foundation, with a notable rise in membership and influence once again during the early 1980s.  Protest centred on the peace camps at air bases: bearing witness, symbolic protest, and carrying out acts of disobedience such as cutting the wires.

The 60th anniversary will be marked by many events (and no doubt much press coverage).  Here are two in Bradford:

Yorkshire CND exhibition at the Peace Museum from 12 January 2018.

CND 60th Anniversary event 17 February 2018 (includes the chance to meet objects from our collections!).

Want to know more?  The Commonweal Library and our peace campaign collections contain thousands of resources for the history of CND and nuclear disarmament campaigns.


Images of the Month: Lesbian and Gay Activists in the Archives

I was prompted to write this by a recent visit from our graduate trainee Katie Mann.  Katie was looking for archive images and inspiration for her exhibition  in the Library highlighting LGBT Month.  Our archives concerned with peace campaigns and nonviolent protest often overlap with gay and lesbian activism, as in these examples which I showed Katie.

CwlPN11_81 L&GYouthFestanon 001

This image is from the Peace News Archive, an immense collection of information and photographs on campaigns, countries and themes of interest to those creating the newspaper, including a file of fantastic photographs of lesbian and gay protests from the early 1980s.   This one shows marchers on a Lesbian and Gay Pride March 1985 and is very evocative of the styles and politics of the era.

HAW13_11 Pamphlet

As in its way is this striking little booklet, from the Archive of Jacquetta Hawkes, part of a file of correspondence concerning her work for the Campaign for Homosexual Law Reform and the Albany Trust.  Throughout her life Jacquetta (like her second husband, J.B. Priestley) campaigned against injustice, using their star power and connections to influence political decisions, in favour of often controversial causes.  For instance, the couple played a key role in the creation of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament.

I suspect that our large collections of peace-related pamphlets and ephemera, which we hope to catalogue this year, will yield further stories and pictures of LGBT campaigns … watch this space!

Back to “A Land”: Jacquetta Hawkes display and book

Jacquetta Hawkes by a waterfall, Carrantuohill, Co. Kerry, ca. 1951, photo by Nicolas Hawkes (HAW18/5/4)

Jacquetta Hawkes by a waterfall, Carrantuohill, Co. Kerry, ca. 1951, photo by Nicolas Hawkes (HAW18/5/4)

One of the most significant, exciting and beautiful archives in Special Collections is that of archaeologist and writer Jacquetta Hawkes.  There is now a revival of interest in her great contribution to raising public awareness of Britain’s deep past during the 1950s.  Her masterpiece, A Land, which unforgettably fuses archaeology, geology, poetry  and personal experience, has been reissued by Harper Collins.   This book is explored and revisited, using manuscripts and photographs from the Archive, by Dr Christine Finn in a new exhibition at Yorkshire Sculpture Park this autumn.  Find out more about Jacquetta, the Archive, the book and the exhibition on our Celebrating Jacquetta Hawkes website.

Back to A Land

Delighted to announce that Jacquetta Hawkes’ masterpiece, A Land, which fuses archaeology and geology into a personal exploration of England’s deep past, will soon be back in print.  It is being reissued in the Collins Nature Library in June.  The new edition is introduced by Robert MacFarlane, who shares his thoughts about the book in this Guardian Review article:

“Ardent and personal, A Land became a bestseller, and one of the defining British non-fiction books of the postwar decade. Sixty years on it reads, fascinatingly, as a missing link in the literature of nature and landscape. It seems both a period piece – as of its year as the Festival of Britain, the Austin A30 and The Goon Show – and Delphically out-of-time in its ecstatic holism.”

Find out more about Jacquetta Hawkes’s amazing life and unique writings on our webpage for her Archive and in this online exhibit on the Celebrating Jacquetta Hawkes blog.

Jung, Juvenilia, Theatre and Time: the latest Society Journal

As ever, the latest edition of the J.B. Priestley Society Journal offers new light on many facets of Priestley.

  • Tom Priestley reflects on family history as shown in the 1901 and 1911 censuses.  What was JB’s grandfather’s occupation?
  • Useful reprint of Norah Fienburgh’s 1932 Bradford Pioneer piece on Priestley’s 1913 Round the Hearth series.
  • Priestley turned again and again to the ideas of Jung: both believed in the power of dreams as a creative force: Lee Hanson’s lecture on the relationship between the two usefully summarises Priestley’s explorations of Jung’s often difficult ideas and covers how J.B. and Jacquetta Hawkes used them in Dragon’s Mouth.
  • Alan Day covers the February 1948 British Theatre conference, chaired by Priestley.  Fascinating controversies on the role of theatre managers and insight into the theatre of the time.
  • Rangarao Kulkarni discusses consciousness and time in five of Priestley’s later fictions: The Magicians, Saturn over the Water, The Thirty-first of June, Lost Empires and It’s an Old Country.

The Journal isn’t available online, but is sent in print form to all members of the Society and is available in libraries, including ours of course.

Collections of the Month: Poems in the Reading Room

For National Poetry Day (6 October), some poetic links for Special Collections at the University of Bradford. The poets whose work we hold were inspired by the wider themes gathered by Special Collections, such as Yorkshire scenery, anti-nuclear campaigning, and archaeology.

Title page of Airedale in ancient times, by John Nicholson (London: 1825)

Title page of Airedale in Ancient Times, by John Nicholson (2nd ed, London: 1825)

Jacquetta Hawkes was inspired by the past and nature to write many poems during the 1940s.  In particular she turned a mystic experience into a marvellous poem, Man in Time.

J.B. Priestley was not (he felt) a natural poet, but his first published book was actually a collection of what he later called “dubious verse”.

We have plenty of poetry with a Yorkshire flavour.  The Archive of Yorkshire author, John Waddington-Feather, includes work inspired by Yorkshire and the natural world.  The Rev. Waddington-Feather also donated volumes of Yorkshire dialect verse by John Hartley, Ben Turner, F.W. Moorman and more.  More local verse can be found in the Local and W.R. Mitchell book  collections, including Airedale in Ancient Times, by John Nicholson, shown above.

Reflective and campaigning verse appears throughout our peace-related archives, see for example the Archive of Adam Curle and the Papers of Sarah Meyer.

The Mitrinovic Collection includes plenty of classical and modern poetry valued by Mitrinovic and his circle, in many languages notably Greek and Serbo-Croat.  Try a Classmark search for ML/C on the library catalogue to see the poetry and other language/literature works in this collection.  I particularly like a copy of Edith Sitwell’s Bucolic Comedies which she inscribed to Mitrinovic.

The Peart-Binns Christian Socialist Archive includes material on poet, entrepeneur and pacifist Tom Heron.

Finally, an update on the Sounds of Science Poetry CompetitionSee the winner, Emily Fioccoprile, reading her poem on Youtube. The entries and publicity will be added to the University Archive soon: it is fascinating to see how the authors interpreted the idea of science and the different kinds of poems that resulted.  There is also a display in the J.B. Priestley Library of the winning poems.

Roses and Dogs’ Noses: Iris and the Priestleys

One of the delights of the archives of J.B. Priestley and Jacquetta Hawkes is the way they document the couple’s friendships with other artists and authors.  Novelist and philosopher Iris Murdoch was one of these friends.  This image shows her with Priestley outside Kissing Tree House near Stratford-upon-Avon, where he and Jacquetta lived for many years.

Iris Murdoch and J.B. Priestley outside Kissing Tree House, 1960s

Iris Murdoch and J.B. Priestley outside Kissing Tree House, 1960s, photographer unknown.

Iris Murdoch had met J.B. “some time in the 1950s on a BBC programme” (as she told John Braine for his biography of Priestley).  She quickly became friends with him and Jacquetta, visiting their home on the Isle of Wight.  She recalled in her foreword for Time and the Priestleys, the memoir of the couple by another good friend, Diana Collins, that she and her husband John Bayley and the Priestleys went for walks on the cliffs and drank “Dog’s Nose” (gin in half a bitter) in the pub.

Iris admired and liked the Priestleys very much. As she said to Braine, “What a man, what a character, what an appetite for life!  And I adored Jacquetta too – I’d never before met anyone so beautiful and regal.  They really are king and queen figures!  Yet Jack is also Falstaff …”.

The link was one of work as well as friendship.  In 1963, Priestley helped Iris to adapt her novel A Severed Head for the stage, greatly improving her original draft with his expertise in dramatic structure and dialogue, his “great theatre wisdom” as she put it.  The play was a great success, running for over two years.

The Priestley and Hawkes Archives include a corrected typescript of the play, and social letters and postcards to the Priestleys from Iris and Bayley.  There is also a manuscript of a talk which we believe to be in Iris’s hand, probably for  a birthday dinner (an undated letter refers to “my Jack-birthday speech”), in which she again celebrates his zest and humanity:  “If you are tired of Jack, you are tired of life”.  The letters mainly concern social events, but give a real sense of the shared friendship between the two couples:

“Thank you both for such splendid days. I loved talking, and listening, and looking out of the window, and swimming, and drinking, and seeing the night jars …”