Starting in 1986 I made a series of videos for the college’s radiation protection advisor (RPA). The series came about because of the radiation training programme that Imperial then ran, down at Silwood Park. I was contacted by Margaret Minski (1937-2019) then the college’s RPA. She was interested in making a video to be used at one of the training courses being run at Silwood. The first of seven videos made from 1986 to 1990 was ‘Radioactive Waste Disposal on a Non-Industrial Scale’. Initially this was used only during the training course. However, after several courses were run, Margaret was getting enquiries as to whether copies of the video could be purchased. People who had been on the courses felt that having a copy of the video would allow them to have a better continued knowledge of what they had been taught.
So we started to produce small numbers of this first video and suddenly discovered that this could actually provide a small income, but who for? Margaret agreed with me that this would not be an area that she would want to get involved with. Trying to send out invoices and then split and distribute money was not worth wasting her time on. So, I proposed that we sell the videos and any income would go to the TV Studio and subsequent video production would be at no cost to Margaret; so long as income continued. And that was the basis for the production of all seven videos in the series.
The majority of the sequences were shot at the then Reactor Centre Laboratories at the Silwood Park Campus. The entire reactor site and labs have now been demolished, so some of the sequences are the only record of parts of the labs. The video below is made up from clips from three videos we shot. I selected these for two reasons. Firstly, we see the entrance to the labs and methods then used to both enter and leave the area. Secondly, we see Margaret in one clip explaining the process. The voice that you’ll hear in other sections is that of Dr Ruth Osborn, then the X-Ray Safety Advisor for Imperial, who acted as producer on all of the videos.
STOIC had covered many Pancake Races in the Beit Quad, but in February 1980 something very different happened as we’ll see soon.
Coverage of the Pancake Race is listed as early as 1976 in the videotape index. That however was because it was being indexed with item maintained on videotape. However in the earlier days programmes were recorded, shown and then re-recorded over the next time around. As seen in previous blogs there is a limited archive of surviving materials on film. Started back in 1970, 8mm movie film was used to capture some events taking place outside of the TV Studio. There is just the one instance of a Pancake Race on film and thanks to the diary of Tim Dye a former STOIC Chairman I’m able to date this to 6 March 1973. I have digitised this and it’s available to see below.
But before we see that film from 1973 we should really see something rather different. The wife of the Rector, Lady Flowers making pancakes for Grant Richmond from STOIC. This all took place in the kitchen of the Rector’s flat at 170 Queens Gate and the only video recorded in there. It was seen on 20 February 1980.
Today’s video was previously available back in 2007 via the old Imperial iMedia Server. However, that has now been decommissioned and videos are no longer accessible from it. So let’s go back to the day when Rector Sir Richard Sykes officially launched the start of demolition and ultimately rebuilding of what was called Linstead Hall, but then became Eastside Halls.
Sir Richard Sykes had already ended his term as Rector when, in 2008, Sir Roy Anderson who was then Rector, attended the Topping Out Ceremony.
Just before the end of 2009 we made a series of ‘student tours’ of the various halls of residence at Imperial College. 1st year Biochemistry Student Laura Bunting did the honours by showing us around the newly opened Eastside block.
In this blog we are going to hear the 1969 opening ceremony of the new College Block, later renamed as the Sherfield Building (1975). Until now, only extracts have been heard, but here is the full recording with Lord Sherfield the Chairman of the Governing Body, HM Queen and Lord Penney Rector of the college. The full ceremony only exists as an audio recording, with a few segments filmed on 16mm film, but without synchronised sound. Strangely, we could have very easily set up video cameras and recorded the entire proceedings on videotape, but we were never asked. I guess we are just lucky that an audio recording was made.
The images are frame grabs from the 16mm film because I have never seen photos taken in the Great Hall during the ceremony. There is a front page about the event in the edition of Felix from 4 December 1969. Interestingly, there is a ‘typo’ in the Hannah Gay book on the history of Imperial College. In the index, under Sherfield Building it refers to it as formerly “Centre” Block, this typo only appears once!
This post is a rare exception because the moving images, (in this case on 35mm film) are not held by Imperial College. The clips are from a British Pathé News item that would have been seen only in cinemas.
The Queen Mother visited St Mary’s Medical School for the 1954 Centenary Celebrations and I assume, is seen putting items into the second foundation stone (time capsule?) for the new buildings. Both of the reels do look as if they were never actually used and appear more like original rushes. An end result for Pathé would have had a commentary etc, on it. So don’t be concerned that the segments seem to stop and start a lot.
The second and final IC Newsreel was recorded on 2 March 1970. It was shown, like the first programme, at lunchtime the following day in the Junior Common Room in College Block (Sherfield). This final programme was a bit different and had a scoop too. Prior to the main recording, the Yugoslavian Prime Minister was visiting Imperial College and we were able to get the departure of him, his Police escort and his entourage. Andy Finney and Vivienne Taylor stood outside the mechanical engineering building to cover the event, even though this was not originally their intention for being there. Andy was on a very long-range radio microphone and we used the longest lens possible on the camera, which (along with a second camera) was located on the third floor of the electrical engineering building. Because we had no way of inserting the item into the actual forthcoming news programme, Andy had to pre-record the item as it was happening, and we ran the item before the main program started. Not the conventional way to make a news program, but at least it was new and it was unique for that time. The news item by Andy is then followed by what was called a ‘crash’ edit (stop recording then restart again) so there are a few wobbles on the screen before the main programme starts.
Included in the programme were interviews with the three main candidates for the election of IC Union President. The first ever recording of this type. Judith Walker won the election and became the first female in the role. She talks to Vivienne Taylor, also seen in IC Newsreel Number 1.
Just as we had ended the main recording and faded to black, the current Union President Piers Corbyn asked to be able to say a few words. So, following yet another crash edit, we faded back up and sort-of started again. The reason for these types of stops and start edits was because we only had one Ampex Videorecorder and that could not actually edit anyway.
Sadly no photos were taken at the time of these two news programme recordings, only the videotape survives, which is rare. The upper photo is of the TV studio in the late 1960’s and the lower, is just before the Philips Videorecorder, seen in the photo, was replaced by the Ampex, which was used to record the two IC Newsreels. The opening coverage of the Yugoslavian Prime Minister’s visit also gives the original view across Dolby Court, all the way from Electrical Engineering to Mechanical Engineering, a view now lost forever with the creation of the Faculty Building.
IC Newsreel paved the way for STOIC’s; TOPIC, Lunchbreak and then News-Break.
Negotiations were begun by the Architectural Association Council in the early 1960’s to incorporate the A.A. into the state education system by discussing the idea of merging with Imperial College. Imperial broke off negotiations in February 1970 citing concerns at the nature and intentions of the AA school community. The decision to call off the negotiations left the Architectural Association stunned and many students at I.C. and the A.A. dissatisfied. The I.C. governors raised various issues in coming to their decision. On the actual fusion of the A.A. within a composite College of Science and Technology, Lord Penney wrote that the A.A. desired the fusion “only on their own terms’.
The AA Principal and the AA Council prepared for closure and the winding up of the school. Students and staff mobilised and a search committee for a new Chairman was established, resulting in the election in 1971 of Alvin Boyarsky. Ultimately he transformed the AA into a major international cultural institution.
As part of all of this, on 10 February 1970 Imperial College Union (along with AA students) organised a Moratorium as a protest at the break-down of the talks. The Union cited this as being the first public demonstration at Imperial College. Of course this didn’t go without STOIC noticing and a film camera crew were there to capture events. By chance, on the 17 February the very first news programme called IC Newsreel was recorded; it was shown the following day in the Junior Common Room. One of the organisers John Goodman came into the TV Studio to discuss what had happened and to introduce the film that STOIC had shot. This and the next IC Newsreel are the only two programmes to survive from those early years. But the actual 8mm film also survives after 50 years. What was different was that the film was in colour and the programme was in black and white. I have therefore taken the videotape sound track and re-synced with the HD version of the 8mm film.
In re-syncing the film and audio I ran into a problem. Whatever I did, I couldn’t get the original sound and new film transfer to match. Eventually I re-watched the video and discovered that two very small sections are now missing from the 8mm film compared to what was used in the TV programme in 1970. Coming to my rescue was Andy Finney STOIC’s first chairman and producer of the programme. He was involved with the filming and told me that after the film was used in the programme it was later shown at a students union meeting. I therefore can only assume that either these sections were removed, or more likely they were damaged when being shown at the meeting and then removed. So I’ve cheated and replaced the missing sections with the 50 year old, but very poor quality, videotape.
For the keen eyed you will see some blue hoarding when the group is in Imperial Institute Road (now Imperial College Road) and this was the start of the demolition of the old Chemistry Building. Also some staff are seem in white lab coats on the steps of the old Chemistry Building just before the blue hoarding shot.
Here then is the re-synced film in colour from 50 years ago. Oh, and also spot a miss spelling on banners.
On 2 December 1980 I assisted STOIC with the recording of an interview with Lord Flowers (1924-2010) who was Rector from 1973 to 1985. This was the first time that we had recorded the Rector in colour and at that time STOIC did not have their own colour equipment, hence I helped out. This was an interview that former STOIC Chairman Mike Prosser carried out and at the end Mike asked if he’d record this separate special message. I’ve only just found this recording, included in the Christmas edition of their News-Break programme. The Rector’s office in the Sherfield Building is long since gone, as it moved into the new Faculty Building once it was opened. So yet another record in the archives of Imperial’s ‘times-past’.
How was Christmas celebrated around Imperial College in years past? Very little remains in terms of records and archives of what happened or indeed what the campus actually looked like. We do have a glimpse of what people saw through the lens of STOIC and via the videotapes that remain. For the weeks leading up to Christmas of 1981 it was a time to announce that this particular year was the first that STOIC would be in full colour (better late than never). What better way for them to celebrate this, than to ‘make festive’ their very own logo. If anyone remembers the original BBC One moving logo, then this Imperial College version by its students gives a feel from the period. This only exists because it was archived on videotape and has remained unseen for these nearly 40 years. Interestingly, this would not now be possible to make. The shot was taken from the TV Studio window and that’s Mech Eng in the background. The Faculty Building would now block the entire view and besides, the college closed the studio anyway! The trees (now gone) of Dalby Court had genuine snow on them back in December 1981, so this gave a festive feel for a few days at least. The TV monitors in the Junior Common Room, Southside, Union and Weeks Hall all displayed “Christmas in Colour” prior to, and after STOIC’s transmissions on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 1pm and 6pm.
STOIC’s Christmas 1981 didn’t end with just this logo. They were prompted to replicate Blue Peters very own Advent Crown. But don’t worry, this was far from being sensible and indeed is typical of “silly” students at their best. Martin Cowan was the main leader of silliness that year and he’s emailed me to say that he has fond memories of his time at Imperial. A lot of effort was put into this sequence including shots outside around the Queens Tower and in (what was) the workshop area of the college TV Studio on the main campus walkway. Even at the end of the programme there were still laughs to be had from the presenters. Oh well it was Christmas I guess and a time when we still had a Rector! The picture of the Christmas studio crew was taken at the end of the 1981 recording. Sadly though, two of that crew pictured here have since died, but their contributions can still be seen today in the saved STOIC videotape and film archive.
And finally, something a little different. Martin Cowan was also involved in a music group called SSIK. The last video we’re going to see was their contribution to the Christmas programme. In a somewhat complicated and psychedelic production that they filmed all around Imperial. Can you spot the obvious Albert Memorial and steps leading to the Albert Hall? Also. eagle-eyed might also spot the sequence from the top of the Union Building along with some interior corridor shots too. The editing was very involved when they were trying to match-up the music track to what had been shot outside. I was asked to help on the editing and to also add the colourising, and we might have gone a little over the top with that perhaps? Anyway, it’s a bit unusual and something to cheer us all up these 40 years later with various UK restrictions in place (Covid-19).
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year and let’s hope it will be a better year in 2021.
In December 1981 and January 1982 STOIC’s news programme had reports on the proposed integration of Queen Elizabeth College in Kensington, INTO Imperial College. The main theme of the proposal was that Q.E.C would have been incorporated into IC as a fourth constituent college.
So, in December 1981 the college statement said; the bioscience part of Q.E.C is proposed to be physically moved to the IC site, which would require a new building (probably on the site next to new Chemistry). The physical sciences at Q.E.C would be “accommodated elsewhere within the university”. Joint planning and consultative committees would be set up to achieve a closer working relationship prior to the eventual integration. The timescale of the proposal is approximately five years, but major developments might be expected before that time. The proposal is in response to the problems of finance and student numbers facing London University (that Imperial was then part of). It is not clear however just what financial savings would be made, and no mention is made of this in the statement. Student numbers would presumably fall, although the new ‘super IC’ would be larger than it is now.
Of course this all came to nothing, here though are STOIC reports from 2 & 9 December 1981.
And on the first edition of News-Break for 1982, Nick Morton the ICU President came into the TV Studio. He spoke with Lawrence Windley and gave his view and opinion on the situation. He also corrected various misunderstandings on these proposals that were currently going around the college and also printed in Felix (the student newspaper). Students kept talking of this as a ‘merger’, but this was never the proposal, but rather an ‘integration’ of Q.E.C into Imperial College. Once again, the saved videotape archive of STOIC has rescued the news and voices of Imperial College, which would have otherwise been lost for ever.