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Michael Randle is Chair of the Commonweal Trustees. In this two-part post, we share some of the details of his extraordinary life and work.

Read Part 1 here

Michael Randle greeting Bayard Rustin at the War Resisters International Triennial in India in 1985. Copyright Michael Randle.

Michael Randle greeting Bayard Rustin at the War Resisters International Triennial in India in 1985 ©Michael Randle

Can you comment on your involvement in helping the spy George Blake to escape? Why did you do that?

George Blake was born in the Netherlands ­– his mother was Dutch and his father Egyptian, though his father had British citizenship, as did George.

As a young man he joined the Dutch resistance to the German occupation, but he had to flee to Spain via Belgium and France to Spain in 1941. He first came to Britain that year and joined the Secret Intelligence Service, MI6.

In 1961 he was sentenced to an unprecedented 42 years’ imprisonment for passing classified information to the Russians, including the names of some British agents operating in Eastern Europe.

I and other members of the Committee of 100 met him in Wormwood Scrubs prison when we were serving an 18-month sentence for organising an occupation and sit-down obstruction at Wethersfield air base in Essex.

Although no one from our group agreed with what he had done, we felt that his sentence was disproportionate and wrong, especially given some of the outrageous special operations undertaken by British and US agents – as well as by Soviet agents.

For example, the CIA and MI6 jointly organised a coup in Iran in 1953 that overthrew the elected Mosaddegh government with the loss of around a hundred lives. Continue reading 7 decades of nonviolence activism: Introducing… Trustee Michael Randle – PART 2

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Michael Randle is Chair of the Commonweal Trustees. In this two-part post, we share some of the details of his extraordinary life and work.

Read Part 2 here

Michael Randle greeting Bayard Rustin at the War Resisters International Triennial in India in 1985. Copyright Michael Randle.

Michael Randle greeting Bayard Rustin at the War Resisters International Triennial in India in 1985 ©Michael Randle

You were born in the 1930s, Michael. What would you say has changed most about the world during your lifetime? What hasn’t changed at all?

I was born in late December in 1933. Some of the major events in my lifetime have been the Second World War, followed immediately by the start of the Cold War, and with it the threat of a nuclear holocaust.

Then in 1989 came the collapse of authoritarian-style communism in Eastern Europe, followed by the break-up of the Soviet Union itself, and the end, for a time at least, of the Cold War.

Today, unfortunately, we are witnessing the revival of the Cold War in what is in some respects a more threatening form.

No less significant historically has been the dissolution of empires – the British Empire among them – and the end of the apartheid regime in South Africa.

On another level there have been transformative social and political movements, such as the worldwide campaign against nuclear weapons, the US Civil Rights movement, the campaign for women’s equality, and anti-discrimination campaigns in various fields.

Particularly striking about so many of the campaigns against oppression and injustice has been the central role of civil nonviolent struggle. Continue reading 7 decades of nonviolence activism: Introducing… Trustee Michael Randle – PART 1

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Dr Alex Albans of the Reconciliation Ministry Team at Coventry Cathedral talks to us about war, peace and landscape design…

Alex Albans

Alex Albans

You recently visited the Commonweal Collection, Alex – how did that come about?

My colleagues and I were invited to visit the Peace Museum in Bradford by Clive Barrett, who is the chair of trustees of the Peace Museum, because the cathedral’s Reconciliation Ministry has a partnership with the Anglican Pacifist Fellowship, which Clive helps to run.

On the trip we visited Special Collections at the University of Bradford’s JB Priestley Library to look at various documents, including some on the Bradford Reconciliation statue (there’s also one at Coventry).

Alison Cullingford of Special Collections also showed us up to the Commonweal Collection on the first floor of the library. Continue reading Faith in peace: the work of Coventry Cathedral’s Reconciliation Ministry

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First, a reminder of how Commonweal began…

As many of Commonweal’s supporters know, our founder, David Hoggett, began the Commonweal Collection after having a serious accident while volunteering overseas.

It left him paralysed from the chest down, and it was after this, in 1958, with help from his family and friends, that he began to channel his formidable energy into extending and sharing his collection of books and pamphlets on peace and social justice.

He continued this work until he died in 1975, by which time the Collection contained around 3,000 volumes. 

David Hoggett

David Hoggett

Introducing Matthew Hoggett

Matthew Hoggett

Matthew Hoggett

Matthew is David’s nephew. He kindly took the time to speak to us this week and share some of his memories of his uncle and of volunteering in the Commonweal Collection as a teenager in Cheltenham in the early 1970s.

Continue reading An interview with Matthew Hoggett, nephew of Commonweal founder David Hoggett

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If you’re an activist, student or researcher with an interest in nonviolence and civil resistance, here’s a site you’ll probably find useful.

CivilResistance.info is an independent website that is

maintained by people committed to opposing war and all forms of injustice, and promoting understanding of nonviolence and nonviolent social change.

It collates key resources and developments in nonviolent and civil resistance movements, past and present.

The background

In 2006, Housmans in London published People Power and Protest Since 1945: A Bibliography of Nonviolent Action, which was edited by Michael Randle, April Carter and the late Howard Clark. Howard Clark also set up CivilResistance.info and made the work available there.

People Power and Protest Since 1945: A Bibliography of Nonviolent Action

People Power and Protest Since 1945: A Bibliography of Nonviolent Action

Continue reading Civil resistance – a handy (online) guide…

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Commonweal couldn’t run without the input of its capable trustees, so we thought we’d introduce you to some of them!

First up is Ellie Clement. Ellie has been a trustee since 2005. In her day job, she is the Management and Law Librarian at the University of Bradford’s Management Library. She is also a parent and an activist.

Ellie Clement

When did you first get involved with Commonweal?

I became aware of Commonweal in 1998/1999. I was doing my librarian qualification in Loughborough, and my partner at the time was studying Peace Studies at Bradford. So I visited it when visiting him.

Continue reading Introducing… Commonweal Trustee Ellie Clement

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The Peace Museum, located in Bradford, is something quite special. With over 7,000 items in its collections, it’s a member of the International Network of Museums for Peace and the only accredited museum of its kind in the UK.

From its website:

Our vision is to be seen as a national resource that educates and inspires people for peace, using a unique collection of artefacts and stories.

We asked the Peace Museum’s Marketing and Press Assistant, Sarah Bartey, to tell us what goes on at the Museum and what it’s like to work there.

Sarah Bartey, Marketing and Press Assistant at the Peace Museum

Sarah Bartey, Marketing and Press Assistant at the Peace Museum

Continue reading Look inside the Peace Museum: a unique national resource

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New times call for new stock

Since the 1950s, Commonweal has collected books and other resources that help us to eliminate violence from our world, in order to loan them out to people who want to make that happen.

Of course, to keep our collection relevant, we need to keep adding new titles. All our stock is donated, so we rely on the hard work of the volunteers who request new items and the generosity of those who donate them.

We’ve just overhauled our approach to acquiring new stock so that we can do this more effectively. This means there are now more ways for volunteers to become involved – more on that below! Continue reading Reading for peace in the 21st century: refreshing the Commonweal Collection

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If you’re interested in contemporary peaceful protest and you’re in reach of Bradford or Liverpool, you’ve been well catered for recently.

In July, Bradford’s Peace Museum opened its new exhibition Protest! In Our Time.

This exhibition tells the stories of those who are campaigning for peace NOW. Protests, demonstrations, vigils, conscientious objection, activism. Come and hear their stories. Find out how peaceful campaigning remains more relevant than ever.

Protest! In Our Time, The Peace Museum, Bradford

Protest! In Our Time, The Peace Museum, Bradford

This is a permanent exhibition. Contact the Peace Museum for more information about visiting.

Also in July, Liverpool’s Constellations venue opened Liverpool: A City of Protest.

Continue reading Protest! – new exhibitions in Bradford and Liverpool

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