2007 was the Centenary Year for Imperial College. One of the most important events during that year was the launch of the history of the college written by Dr Hannah Gay and published by Imperial College Press. The launch was held at 170 Queens Gate and we covered the event and spoke to various people including Dr Hannah Gay herself and also Sir Richard Sykes who was, at the time, the Rector of the college.
The book is a vast catalogue of Imperial’s past and I refer to it regularly when I am writing these blog posts. That’s not to say that the book contains everything and indeed sometimes, even I, resort to Google to find what I’m looking for.
When we made this video we were still called Media Services (ah, those were the days!) and producing videos for anyone in college, not just Communications who we were soon to come under the umbrella of. It was soon after this that we stopped being a service that was available to anyone else in college. A sad moment to be honest and a huge disadvantage to other members of Imperial who wanted to have a video made professionally.
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.
Here’s a very short piece that I found at the end of one of STOIC‘s Newsbreak programmes from 1981. It was signalling the fact that it was the 11th birthday of the TV Society, which aired its first programme (IC Newsreel) back in February 1970. However, things never always go to plan as you’ll see. Tracy Poole (now Dudley) was with Mark Simms (also in the photo on the right) who tragically died in a car accident while still studying at Imperial.
Once more we have a discovery from the past and in this case it’s 50 years ago. A Super8mm colour film that was only marked as “City and Guilds College STOIC records 1972-73″ has now been digitised. Some of the content was also shot on standard 8mm film and I have already used that in the previous Lord Mayor’s Show blog. This previous version is the one that I have managed to sync audio with. But the version on this Super8mm film is different and not seen before. Why was it filmed in two versions at the same time? One of the many mysteries I’m finding with these films. Sadly these were only intended to be used once in the news programme and then put to one side. So, I guess that’s because the actual videotapes were erased (weekly because of videotape costs) then no one thought it was important to index or log these 8mm films?
The C&G film contains: activities in the C&G union office, London to Brighton run, building the float for the Lord Mayor’s Show, BO and students on way into London for the show, the actual Lord Mayor’s Show from two different years, Morphy Day at Putney and Guilds Elections in Mech Eng 220. Unfortunately, actual dates for these items are not marked on the film or its reel, we only know it’s 1972-73. But even then it could be, for example, Autumn term 1971 through to Summer 1972 and so on. I’ve tried to find information on who was president during these years but sadly even the C&G web pages don’t even record presidential years or names. So, any help on naming people would be great and I’ll add anything I get to this page. It will also help in logging the actual film. Having said all of this, I CAN name just one person on a Lord Mayor’s Show sequence. It’s Cathy Gee (now Morley I recall) and she was a main presenter on the news programme TOPIC, in which the film would have been used. Cathy (seen wearing the orange coat in a frame from the Lord Mayor’s Show sequence) was in C&G (see below update) and I’m wondering if she might have been involved with this film being made in some way. What I cannot discover is exactly why it was made. There is a letter inside the film container from the then secretary of STOIC to David Barnes in the C&G office in Mech Eng. The letters says that this was the film that David Barnes was asking about etc. I did find that David Barnes was Chem Eng 1975 and that I think he was also Vice President. Clearly this film was then returned back to STOIC along with that letter inside. Why did C&G use it and when? Sadly even this letter is undated but has to be post-1973.
UPDATE: Once again, since this was posted, I have had feedback & info from Paul Jowitt. He starts with references to Cathy Morley (Gee) and also adds some names he can remember:-
“She (Cathy) was C&GU Hon Sec in 71-72. I was President – and seen in the back of Bo waving a top hat in the Lord Mayor’s Show! Brian Darling was VP, Malcolm Newman was President the year after – he’s pictured with other C&GU Exec members further down your link. Dave Barnes was VP, and Graham ? Hon Sec. Thanks for sharing.”
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 13 January 1982 edition of STOIC’s News-Break, Mike Hackett visited the City and Guilds office. Andy Rushton was then the president of C&G and he spoke about what was coming up and happening during the term. He also spoke about the forthcoming C&G elections. Some information I managed to find about Andy tells me that since 2011, he has been a Principal Consultant at ESR Technology providing major hazard services onshore and offshore. He also has involvement with the Institution of Chemical Engineers.
Once again this video was not without its technical problems and challenges. The studio sequences are all more or less OK, because they used high quality cameras. However, the camera that STOIC used for location work was nowhere near such quality and used what was called a single striped colour tube. The combination of being a tube camera and it producing the final colour by this method, was never without its problems.
The colour balance on the original was way-off and at the time, in 1982, we had no way of correcting this in post production. The still (above) that I’ve grabbed, is what it looked like directly from the programme master-tape during correction. I’ve struggled to produce something less green but have had to settle with what you are about to see. If the colour isn’t there, you can’t produce it out of thin air!
Today we have yet another untold story from Imperial’s past with an idea that started at the college and ended up on worldwide TV. Way back in 1975 Mark Caldwell, then Chairman of STOIC started an ambitious series of interviews with both film stars and TV celebrities. The first included American film director and actor Mel Brooks, British actor Malcolm McDowell and Australia’s very own Dame Edna Everage, otherwise known as Barry Humphries. The series ended up being called Film Talk. Coinciding with this were the services provided by the ULAVC, over the ILEA Channel 7 cable TV network – which I have covered previously.
I was the TV contact at Imperial and knew both the staff at the ULAVC centre in Bedford Square and the ILEA TV Centre in Battersea. Somehow or another I mentioned the idea of them showing some of these programmes over their network. The idea was accepted, so future recordings were made with both local viewing and remote viewing via ILEA in mind. We had progressed so well that a contact at Imperial College introduced us to yet another new idea. In Mechanical Engineering there was a computer-aided design system called CADMAC. It used a mini computer, storage-tube system and plotter as its basis for the generation of ‘animation’. For normal film animation at the time, cells made of plastic film were drawn on and filmed frame-by-frame by a normal film camera. The concept was to use the computer output to produce either cells or to output onto paper. These would then be captured onto film as usual. The difference here was the computing. Things could be manipulated on the screen by using a lightpen and objects merged and moved around. This could (at that time) not be run in full-motion playback, so it was therefore outputted onto film or paper.
A company was formed called Video Animation (later called Electronic Arts) and they were looking for ideas to showcase the possibilities of this new technology. We met them and they offered to make a short animation based on three photos that we would provide. These were inputted to their system by using a light-pen system to trace the image. It was then animated to produce an end result. So, the images were Mel Brooks, Malcolm McDowell and Barry Humphries as Dame Edna. The end result is not perfect. They could not, for some reason, cope with Dame Edna’s glasses or hat, and these are missing from the animation (see actual photo on left). It’s a very heavy contrast line drawing with no grey scale, but for us it was at least unique. They also created and added the title. The final product was given to us on 16mm film, the sound was added later. The film (seen on the right) was then played into any of the programmes via tele-cine. If we happened to be recording at the ILEA Battersea Studios, they had a tele-cine unit within the control room. For anyone who remembers the opening sequence to the worldwide TV series “The New Avengers” it was Video Animation who produced the opening title animation. It’s no coincidence that the Avengers TV series started the very next year in 1976. So, the experiment for Film Talk could well have been used to persuade the TV company to use animation in the opening titles. Our animation has some very close similarities to that of the New Avengers opening titles. See the bottom video for the Avengers animation sequence.
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.