Leeds and the Bomb (Part 2)

I started putting this together yesterday morning before North Korea spat its dummy over the border to the South. Here’s hoping the timing isn’t prescient.

A week off work and I have finally got around to properly scanning my mother’s copy of Leeds and the Bomb at a usable resolution. The versions here are 20% the original scan and haven’t been processed apart from being resized and saved as PNG in Paint.Net. Click the thumbnails for the resized versions. I have high-resolution copies available and can post them if anyone wants them. The images are readable (and are pretty faithful to the state of the original pamphlet after twenty one years). A bit of tweaking of contrast in your image editor of choice can tart them up quite nicely though.

Leeds and the Bomb - Copyright notice

The pages are below. Reading them, you might reasonably ask whether Leeds City Council which produced the pamphlet might have something to say about it being reproduced on-line. A quick look at page two will tell you that this brilliant little pamphlet was an early example of a publication released under a form of proto-creative commons.

Former Councillor Brian North said in a comment on the earlier post:

I devised and Edited Leeds and the Bomb . The booklet sold 60,000 copies worldwide and went into three print runs. Reproduced in Holland, Germany, Japan, USA.

We can add the internet to that list now.

Leeds and the bomb - Cover

The cover cleverly juxtaposes the apocalypse with lovely shades of pink and baby blue (in fairness, my copy is rather faded so the colours were probably more appropriate originally). Look closely and you’ll see that the pamphlet is well-thumbed. The markings left by a terrified youth.

Continue reading


Leeds and the bomb

I have a little project that I’ve been putting off for quite a while as it involves a little work (!). I did most of my growing up in the 1980s. For the most part that was a decade of mullets, leggings and the first wave of banking types making an absolute bloody mint then buggering it all up. More importantly though, the 1980s were a period when people were legitimately afraid that the world might imminently end in a nuclear fire ball. At various times during that decade, we really did come very close to the missiles being let loose.

Leeds, a city of (then) around half a million people in the North of England played host to a faded football team (now freshly faded following an all too brief return to success) and a lot of dead industries. It also had a council which like most outside the South of England was run by a vaguely left-wing (note for modern day conservatives, when I write “vaguely”, you may read, “rabidly”) Labour council which insisted that Leeds was a ‘nuclear free zone’. However silly a designation this might have been (and it was silly as there was not a nuclear power station within 100 miles and the river Aire isn’t suitable for sailing nuclear submarines), it did mean that the council put considLeeds and THE BOMBerable effort into explaining the precise impact on Leeds that a putative nuclear strike might have.

The result of these efforts was the production of an amazing pamphlet called, “Leeds and THE BOMB” [original emphasis]. This thing was a wealth of horror for a young boy – I absolutely loved it. Between incredible graphs and diagrams (using a design that is absolutely of its time but which still looks great today) showing estimated casualties and fatalities were interspersed descriptions of the injuries that people would likely suffer. For an eight year old, these were quite clearly the stuff of nightmares. Consequently, I couldn’t stop reading it.

For years, I forgot about it, then recently had a discussion with a friend where we discussed ‘Threads‘. This film, a fictionalised account of post-nuclear-holocaust Sheffield (another Yorkshire town – I wonder to what extent the inherent ‘grimness’ of England’s North contributed to an obsession with nuclear destruction) was another great source of nightmares, albeit in my teens. The upshot of this conversation was that we both remembered this brilliant pamphlet but could find simply no trace of it on the internet.

This was a bit of a surprise frankly. How could something so brilliant not be available online? I intend fixing this frightening omission and plan over the next few days to finally get scanned copies of the pamphlet’s pages up onto the Web in all their horrible glory. Luckily for posterity, my mother found a copy lurking in a box somewhere and has been kind enough to scan the pages. Sadly, her scanner isn’t much cop and when I’m back in Europe I will get better versions done. For now though, they are legible and a great reminder of quite how bloody terrifying it could be growing up in the 1980s.

Leeds and THE BOMB 007

Just to whet your appetite, this two page spread shows the likely impact of blast, burn and fallout damage across Leeds resulting from a (comparatively small) one megaton bomb. To get a feel for how I felt about this diagram at the time, I lived right, bang, smack in the middle, where it says ‘University’.

More to come over the weekend. Hopefully, over time I will be able to get together some of the history behind this pamphlet including who produced it and what discussions were had about its likely effect (including on impressionable young science fiction fans like my young self). I might also do a few comparisons between the diagrams in ‘Leeds and THE BOMB’ and some of the more modern simulators such as HYDEsim.


Edit (10th January 2011): I have now put the full version of the pamphlet on-line.