Author: Colin Grimshaw

I’m Colin Grimshaw. Although I took early retirement at the start of 2011 I was asked to continue to run the Video Archive Blog and keep adding material on a regular basis. Now, working from home and occasionally from Imperial, I will have more time to recall the background details to the videos you will be seeing. Since the late 1960’s I’ve been recording all sorts of things related to Imperial College. This is in the form of magnetic tape, but more importantly videotape. Although the College Archives holds thousands of pieces of paper in the form of documents, books, journals, manuscripts, etc, its collection of sound and visual recordings (videotape and film) is surpassed by the videotape archive collection...

Queen’s Anniversary Prize: 2008

Back in 2006 the Schistosomiasis Control Initiative (SCI), directed by Professor Alan Fenwick of the Department of Infectious Disease Epidemiology, received the Prize for its work tackling schistosomiasis in countries across sub-Saharan Africa, where approximately 200 million people are at risk of the disease that can impair development and cause liver and kidney damage.

The Rector, at the time, Sir Richard Sykes and Professor Fenwick visited Buckingham Palace on 14 February 2008 to collect the Prize from The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh. The Rector and Professor Fenwick were accompanied by team members from the Department of Infectious Disease Epidemiology.

Colin Grimshaw June 2023

College Security: 1980

I’ve already released previous posts about the Iranian Embassy siege in 1980, the first post from 2019 is linked here. Those earlier reports were covered by STOIC reporters: Graeme Shaw, Tracy Poole and Paul Johnson.

One aspect that was forgotten was that of security for the college, parts of which overlooked the rear of the embassy building. These were the buildings along the north side of Prince’s Gardens (photo left) especially Weeks Hall of residence, which I gather has since closed as one of the student halls of residence.

In May 1980, in an edition of STOIC’s News-Break, David Ghani spoke with the college’s Chief Security Officer, Arthur Dawson about the cooperation with the police and how it affected staff and students.

How sad though that only two weeks after this interview Arthur Dawson died suddenly. A report in Felix covered that news (seen over on the right clipping), STOIC paid tribute the following week. After all these years I had completely forgotten that this had happened.

Colin Grimshaw May 2023

Varsity Day: 2008

I’m not really sure if this event still happens at Imperial. But back on 27 February 2008 it was certainly much heralded by the sports centre staff and hence our coverage of it.

With nine different sports, 23 matches and 46 teams, Varsity 2008 was packed with fierce competition. Harlington Sports Ground hosted hockey, football, lacrosse and rugby matches, also at the sports centre: netball, basketball, badminton, squash and waterpolo matches got underway. The day culminated  in the J.P.R. Williams Cup match at Richmond Athletic Association Ground between Imperial  College and Imperial Medicals Rugby 1st XV teams attracting over 1,000 spectators.

Colin Grimshaw May 2023

Weather at Imperial: 1983

Back in 2019 I wrote a blog about the weather forecast that STOIC gave during their weekly transmissions. What we now have is the news report that was in the programme that proceeded the forecast that Mike Prosser presented. The news programme was recorded the day before, so the weather was given live during the continuity announcement at the end of their news programme.

Atmospheric Physics was where the whole thing happened and STOIC’s Martin Bolding went over there to report on how it was all done.

Colin Grimshaw April 2023

Prof Eric Laithwaite-Book Interview: 1980

Sitting on a videotape for 43 years was an interview with Professor Eric Laithwaite. In April 1980, Graeme Shaw from STOIC spoke to him on the launch of his book The Engineer Through the Looking Glass. The book was based on the 1974 Royal Institution Christmas Lectures of the same name. Back in 2014 I wrote about that series in one of my blog posts.

It was by chance that I realised that this interview had not yet been copied from videotape. It’s one of only a few interviews that we have with Eric Laithwaite. This was of particular interest to me because I was personally involved with programme number three called ‘Jam Tomorrow and Jam Yesterday’ in the 1974 TV series. I also got a credit in the book “…Colin appeared ‘officially’ in the third lecture taking over part of the lecture in effect…” So you can see why I was excited to re-discover this particular interview. I also suspect that I probably would have made the arrangements for this interview to take place.

Colin Grimshaw March 2023

An Electric Car at Imperial in 1972?

Yes, it’s hard to believe but there was research into electric cars at Imperial way back over 50 years ago. And this is once again a story for which the original videotape was long ago erased (assuming there was one). The programme was called La Jamais Contente.

What we do have are some precious photos that were taken at the time of some of the recordings on 20 June 1972. STOIC presenter Richard Woodhead is seen along with Electrical Engineering academic staff member and “EV” researcher John Prigmore (both far right with John Prigmore’s back to camera). The vehicle was a “bubble car” that was converted to electric operation. It really is so long ago that I can’t remember any of the details about the programme or indeed why it was made.

As usual I resorted to searching the FELIX newspaper online archive and found this item announcing the showing of the programme almost 5 months after the location recording took place.

The still photos are interesting because it has reminded me that we could not transport the Ampex video recorder. You can see the “Link” camera we had for such work outside of the studio and this had cabling from the roadway on level one up into the TV Studio on level three. That’s me with a series of cue cards and the countdown clock to ident the sequence being recorded. From looking at the countdown clock board, these were sequences shot as ‘inserts’ for the programme which was to have been edited.

Here’s Richard Woodhead with the car, he’s pretending to plug it in for recharging. Again, this was down on the level one roadway by Electrical Engineering. It’s very difficult to see, but the small sign stuck to the wall near his shoulder says “Electric Vehicle Charging Station”. How funny that 50 years later Imperial College really does now have charging stations for EV’s on the South Kensington campus!

The countdown board indicates that STOIC member Paul McCallum directed this, but sadly he’s not seen in any of these photos. However, in this reverse shot of Richard Woodhead and the electric car you can see my friend Tim Jeffes sitting between me (left) and the camera. It looks like he’s possibly writing on the cue card boards which were used for prompting of the script.

I had been trying to work out how we did the sound for these recordings and I’ve just spotted in this photo that Richard was wearing a radiomic that would have been received up by the TV Studio window on level three. I’m assuming that this was a sequence where we actually got to see the car working and that he was just stepping out of the car to record a piece to camera.

And finally a shot of the car (left photo) with John Prigmore inside. You can just see his white shirt over on the right of the car windscreen. I wonder whatever happened to YUC 998 after all of the research came to an end? From some research I found that John Prigmore died on 13 September 1984. It indicated that he worked at Imperial from 1947 to 1982 and that during is career he wrote several books although none on the subject we see here. And wouldn’t it have been great to still have these 1972 videotapes in an age where electric cars have now come into being?

And a sad note to end on. I’d reached the end of writing this article and remembered that I had previously had emails from Richard Woodhead. I thought he might be able to shed more light on this video. But I found to my shock that he had died back on 5 July 2021, so my memories of this are all we now have.

Colin Grimshaw February 2022

Prof Eric Laithwaite – uncut: 1983

I have previously made available the following two videos which I recorded for Professor Eric Laithwaite. Recently I was able to locate the original camera footage shot on each day, and of course, prior to being edited. I thought that after 40 years it was worth uploading this uncut footage.

There are two versions of the Gyro Wheel and several retakes & close-up’s of the Plate Levitator. The Gyro Wheel was recorded in the TV Studio and the Plate Levitator down in Eric Laithwaite’s lab on level one in Electrical Engineering. There will be a few start and stops, along with colour bars and black in-between. You’ll also hear me over the studio intercom and off-camera when down in the lab. As I have said before, he was very easy to work with and understood and appreciated how videos, films and TV programmes were made and also the requirements to reshoot sections or close-ups. In the TV studio you will also see Barry Owen his Research Assistant helping to spin the wheel up. And down in the lab, Eric Laithwaite will give him a few instructions during the lifting of the plate.


Colin Grimshaw January 2023

H.G Wells: 1866-1966

Sitting in the archives for 56 years is an audio tape of a lecture given by C.P Snow. On 5 December 1966 Lord Snow gave his centenary/memorial lecture on H.G. Wells who was born 100 years earlier on 21 September 1866.

Herbert George Wells studied Biology at the Royal College of Science (RCS) from 1884 to 1887. Although he failed his final exams, he was later made an Honorary Fellow of Imperial College.
His entry in the Register of the Royal College of Science details his academic career:
Wells, Herbert George: 1884-87 (Biol.): Hon.F.Imp.Coll. : Hon. D.Litt., D.Sc., F.C.P.: [d.1946]

I’m fairly certain that no one has heard this lecture since it was recorded, so I thought it a good idea to bring it to this archive blog. Clearly there are no moving pictures, so this is something to sit back and listen to. There is a lot of echo within the room in the original Huxley Building (now part of the V&A on Exhibition Road since 1975) where this was recorded, so please bear with it. There’s lots of information about Wells that Lord Snow put into this presentation.

Back in 1981 there was a revival of the HG Wells Society and you can read about that and see the interview with Pallab Ghosh.

Colin Grimshaw December 2022

Students: 1971

During the recent transfer of 8mm films into digital, I came across a film that I had forgotten all about.

In 1971 some 3rd year students in Electrical Engineering came up with the idea of shooting a film as part of their end of term project. I’m pretty sure that these students must have had a connection with Professor Colin Cherry who was then Professor of Telecommunication in their department. I am assuming this connection with the film because both he and his former secretary are credited at the end. After 50 years we will never actually know.

Digitising the film was, as usual, not an easy job. The sound is a magnetic track bonded to the edge of the film and playable only via a suitable 8mm projector. Fortunately, when the TV Studio was closed, I had rescued the Eumig 8mm projector that was actually used to record the soundtrack back in 1971. The magnetic track was added to the film using a very clever device that glued the very thin piece of magnetic tape onto the edge of the film. If you look above the sprocket holes you can see this track. I know that some films had lost their tracks when the glue gave way, but this film was all OK.

I recorded the sound from the projector, cleaned it up and adjusted the speed to be correct. I was able to judge this because I was amazed to discover that I had actually recorded part of the voice-over and that was my clue to getting the speed correct. I then adjusted the duration/speed of the film to then match the soundtrack duration.

Sadly the students that made this are not credited on the film, so we may never know who they were. But, after 50 years here’s the film called “Students” made in 1971.

Colin Grimshaw November 2022

Oxford Street Chariot Race: 1972

I have a feeling that this is yet another RAG event that has long disappeared. The Chariot Race down Oxford Street from Speaker’s Corner was last referenced in FELIX way back in 1976 and has not been mentioned since. Well, until today of course because we have some silent 8mm film once again shot by STOIC. This was yet another item featured in their weekly news programme TOPIC. This particular item has suffered from the ‘home processing’ that was carried out on these black and white films. I think that a combination of over exposure and dodgy processing has resulted in rather poor quality. However, it is a wonderful record of what Imperial students used to get up to to raise money during RAG week 50 years ago.

This 8mm film that we have is from 1972 and is not even listed in the STOIC archive index. That is simply because the original videotape in which the film was used no longer exists. In this case I cannot find any corresponding audio, which I assume was added during the recording of TOPIC, so it will appear silent.

Colin Grimshaw October 2022