Protest by Post – the Cold War activism of Leeds Postcards

Leeds Postcards was founded in 1979, with the intention of using postcards “as a political tool and agent for change”.

They quickly became well-known, producing some iconic work with activist groups such as the Medical Campaign Against Nuclear Weapons (MCANW) and CND branches across the country, and artists including Peter Kennard and Steve Bell. They are still publishing postcards today.

Throughout the 1980s, Leeds Postcards published a number of cards satirising the threat of nuclear war, and celebrating the movement against the bomb, which I’m sharing here (with their permission). I’ve quoted the text from the back of the postcards for some context, as well as the artist and date, where known.

Greetings from Nuclear Free Leeds, unknown artist, 1981

On 30 July 1980 Leeds City Council adopted a resolution from Councillor Michael McGowan which expressed grave concern at the build up of nuclear weapons and agreed to contact other cities about action against the nuclear threat.

On 24 June 1981 Leeds became a Nuclear Free Zone. the City Council promotes peace education and peace exhibitions, and published Leeds and the Bomb to inform the public of the effects of a nuclear strike on Leeds.

Continue reading this article…Protest by Post – the Cold War activism of Leeds Postcards

We wish you a… Christmas

The Medical Campaign Against Nuclear Weapons (MCANW) was formed in 1980 as an organisation for medical professionals concerned by nuclear weapons.

This Christmas card is at once gloomy (wishing you, as it does, ‘A Christmas’) and optimistic, portraying healthcare workers cutting the fuses on both sides of bombs on both sides of the Iron Curtain.

The card was designed by Professor Christopher Cornford, a highly-accomplished artist, writer and active CND member who designed posters and drew for the peace movement.

MCANW merged with the Medical Association for the Prevention of War (MAPW) in 1992 to form Medical Action for Global Security, or Medact. Today, they focus on health, peace and security, economic justice, the climate and human rights. Medact’s (and MCANW’s) archives are looked after by the Wellcome Collection in London.

Merry Christmas everyone!

Looking for more?

My book, Nuclear War in the UK (Four Corners Books, 2019) is packed with images of British public information campaigns, restricted documents, propaganda and protest spanning the length of the Cold War.

It also tells the story of how successive UK governments tried to explain the threat of nuclear attack to the public. It costs just £10 – find out more here.

Don’t forget you can also follow me on Twitter@coldwaruk – to get extra bits and pieces, as well as being the first to know when I post something new here on the blog.