Appendix 2B : Manchester the First UK Nuclear Free Zone

Bill Risby from Guardian Obituary

Bill Risby[1] had been a long-standing member of CND and was very involved in the Catholic peace movement. When Ken Eastham (MP for Blackley and a former city councillor) had floated the idea of making Manchester a Nuclear Free Zone at one of his regular meetings with the Labour councillors in Blackley, Bill enthusiastically embraced the idea, although they all recognised that the Council didn’t have the power to stop central government doing what it wanted. In a unique example of co-operation between the Left and the Right, the councillors worked together on a form of words for a ‘declaration’ to be put to the Council. It was agreed that Bill would move it in Council (which he did on 25th October 1980) with Ken Franklin seconding it. The declaration was signed by Graham Stringer and Eddy Newman from the Left, as well as six right-wingers and Bill Risby. It was adopted, and became the Council’s Nuclear Free Zone (NFZ) policy[2].

By April 1981 there were 72 Local Authorities in membership of the NFLA (Nuclear Free Local Authorities) and the first national conference was held in Manchester. Norman Morris (Council Leader at the time) opened it and Bill Risby was elected as the first national chairman.

After the establishment of the NFZ, Bill Risby was approached by the GDR (German Democratic Republic) friendship society (they knew of him through the peace movement) asking him to be their spokesman and approach Norman Morris about establishing a friendship link with Manchester. Bill was also a member of the British Soviet Friendship Society. Because he was a prominent Catholic, they were keen he should be involved, to show that it wasn’t only communists involved in the peace movement. Bill secured the agreement and during 1983, went over to Karl-Marx-Stadt to sign the official document with the then Lord Mayor, Michael Taylor.

In 1985, there was a massive exhibition in the Council’s Great Hall called ‘Look to the East’. GDR sent 100 people over. It gave them the opportunity to visit a western country because of the exhibition. Bill still has a personal friendship with Pia Schroeder (female) who was part of that. She still had the same job in Chemnitz (vicar of Bray-like?[3]) at the time of writing.


[1] Sadly died in a car accident in 2009. Source: Guardian Obituary

[2] Manchester was the first city in the UK to become a NFZ. Source: Wikipedia

[3] The Vicar of Bray is a satirical description of an individual fundamentally changing his principles to remain in ecclesiastical office as external requirements change around him. Source: Wikipedia.

Editorial Comments

Unedited from Kath’s text. This Appendix relates to Chapter 2.

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