Category: College History

ILEA Channel 7 Network: 1968-1979

ILEA LogoIn the late 1960’s and running through until 1979, the ILEA (Inner London Education Authority) ran and operated it’s own unique analogue cable television network. By the time of its closure it had linked together all of its 1,400 schools & colleges within the London area and also universities, including Imperial. It was Europe’s largest closed circuit television network. The system was installed and operated by the GPO Television Service, but by the time of privatisation and renaming as BT, the network was doomed, with closure looming. We had connection to the cable network in the early 1970’s when the University of London created and operated its own Audio Visual Centre. ILEA Channel 7 Caption Programmes made by the ULAVC were recorded in their own TV studio, based at 11 Bedford Square in central London. Transmissions were all made from videotape by the ILEA TV Studio staff at the Battersea main hub. In the case of programmes made by the ULAVC a separate Channel 7 was operated for their exclusive use. ILEA’s own programmes for schools were on channels 2, 3 and 4.  The ILEA studios and recordings were all to broadcast standard using 2 inch Quadraplex videotape whilst the ULAVC ran on IVC 1 inch videotape. As can be appreciated, all of the programming across the channels was therefore carried out from pre-recorded videotape. But, the network could be run live from any of the three studios at the Battersea main hub. Barry Humphries as Dame Edna Around 1976 I had the brainwave idea to suggest to the ULAVC that we make and provide some programmes from the Imperial studio. The only materials that might be of interest to other universities were perhaps some of the STOIC output which was gaining popularity with the introduction of celebrity interviews with those like film director/actor Mel Brookes and housewife-superstar Dame Edna Everage, otherwise known as actor Barry Humphries, seen in the photo on the left with Mark Caldwell in the Imperial TV studio. Several videotaped programmes were made with the specific idea of being shown on Channel 7 (Terry-Thomas was one), but I then went a step further and suggested we do something live! After I’d consulted with the ULAVC ILEA Battersea Studio 1977 and then the ILEA Battersea operations staff we got a transmission slot and studio access. On 17 February 1977 a pilot programme called London Luncbreak went live on the air from the ILEA Battersea TV studios. The photo on the right shows main presenter James Sinclair during the live transmission. Because of a connection I had with the then BBC “film night” TV series, I managed to get Barry Norman to the studio to take part in the live transmission. Three further programmes were produced in the ‘London Lunchbreak’ series, but our enthusiasm was dashed when we heard the very next month on 31st March 1977 that the network was to close in early 1979. ILEA Battersea Control Room 1977 There was little point in continuing when the end was close. We had left it too late to get involved with the network, perhaps a couple of years earlier would have been better and given us a few more transmissions? Over on the left, in the gloom,  you can see me directing one of the live programmes at the ILEA Battersea studios. The videos below are a recording of the pilot London Lunchbreak which includes a sound fault during a film clip! Remember that this programme was totally live from  the ILEA studios. Also, the very last programme made and transmitted over the network by the ILEA, containing a rather large number of old programme titles (jump to the end when you get to that part). The ULAVC never made a farewell programme but continued its videotape operation, but with no cable output. ILEA continued in a similar way until, like the ULAVC, it was totally closed. Both the ULAVC and ILEA had converted into colour production by 1980, however, the now old GPO VHF cable network was only just capable of transmitting high quality colour (it was originally designed for analogue black and white in 1967). So perhaps it would have been difficult to continue with a poor technical service? However, I managed to capture a rare c1977 test transmission from ILEA in colour. It was made on Channel 2 and I was told that the ULAVC loaned ILEA a colour camera to make the live test, which seemed to work as far as I can see, that’s the last video down below.

Oh, and then there was Westminster Cable TV and another opportunity for live TV, but this time from Imperial College’s own TV Studio; but that’s yet another story, so far untold…

Colin Grimshaw November 2015

Commemoration Day: 1973

Back in October 2010 I brought to you an extract from a unique 16mm colour film that was residing in the college archives since 1973.

robert w sarnoffRobert W Sarnoff was President & Chief Executive of RCA (Radio Corporation of America). He was the eldest son of broadcasting mogul Brig. Gen. David Sarnoff, he followed in his father’s professional footsteps throughout his career at NBC and RCA. On October 25th 1973 he received the Fellowship of Imperial College at Commemoration Day. The citation for Sarnoff indicates that he was the benefactor of the Imperial College Haldane Music Library. News of this Commemoration Day Fellowship was reported in the Milwaukee Journal in November 1973 and the Nashua Telegraph in December of the same year, so this must have been important. Also here’s a report in Felix the student newspaper.

Sarnoff paid for large parts of the 1973 ceremony to be filmed in colour and or course with sound. Lord Flowers (1924-2010) was Rector at the time and speaking at the ceremony was David Sinclair – Student Orator; Professor Gerald Whitrow (1912-2000) – Staff Orator and the Chairman of the Governing Body – Lord Sherfield (1904-1996). Eric Brown is seen conducting the Choir. This is the earliest moving picture record the college has of one of its ceremonies and it’s thanks to Robert Sarnoff that this happened. One of the greatest achievements by RCA and Sarnoff in particular was the development and introduction of colour TV in the USA. At the dedication ceremony of NBC’s new Washington, D.C. facility on May 22, 1958, Sarnoff introduced President Eisenhower who became the first President to then appear on Colour TV. For those interested, you can see an amazing videotape that has been rediscovered of this event. The tape represents the earliest known colour television recording discovered to date.

Here then is the full 16mm colour film of Commemoration Day, being shown for the first time after its transfer into digital form.

Colin Grimshaw October 2015

50 Glorious Imperial Years! 1965-2015

Colin in StudioOn Monday October 4th 1965 my 50 year association with Imperial College of Science and Technology (no Medicine then) began. It was my first day of working at the most amazing place I’d seen. And, all these years later and even though I’ve retired, my association continues with this Video Archive Blog.

If you’ve read or watched some of the videos in the blog then you will have seen various people talking about what the college was like ‘back then’. One quote that Rogers Knight made when we interviewed him in 2006 was that it was ‘a different place back then…’. Although he was referring to pre-war days I can concur with those feelings myself from when I joined Imperial in the 1960’s. Boy, how the place has changed since then. Just look at some of the videos in the blog and you’ll see what I mean. I recall the final fragment of the old Imperial Institute being demolished and Sherfield Building (then called College Block) being built. Before then, the walkway simply stopped at Electrical Engineering.

August 1967I don’t have any photos from 1965. But one photo which was taken, simply for fun, was in August 1967 with three colleagues, including Eddie Bristow on the far left. These were the very early days of using video at Imperial and in this case was exclusively in Electrical Engineering which used it for teaching, training and demonstrations. Looking through this blog will give you a better idea of how it’s been used in the years since then. But at the start it was not as easy as it is today. Videotape was the only recording method and even that was, at times, very difficult.

Philips EL3400In the black and white photo you’ll see our pride and joy, a Philips EL3400 one inch videotape machine which was FULL of valves and got extremely hot. Could you imagine anything running with valves these days? The image you can just see on the screen really is off of the videotape, the quality of which was none too bad. When you consider that videotape was only in service in the USA around ten years prior to when this photo was taken, great developments had taken place to achieve what was possible with this Philips recorder. Soon after, we replaced the recorder with an Ampex (one inch Ampex tape seen on the right),26082010060 made by the company that produced the first videotape recorder in the USA about ten or so years earlier. We stayed with this format until 1979 when we eventually switched into colour, using the Sony U-matic cassette format. If you read my two blogs on the MANY problems trying to now access these archive videotapes you’ll appreciate the saying “I wished we’d realised back then…”.

And finally, as this is a somewhat self-indulgent blog, here’s something almost 50 years old, but in fact it’s only 45 years ago. In early June 1970 I made a demonstration video for an Electrical Engineering student who had made a very basic video effects unit for the TV Studio. It was a crude demonstration because of the way the studio cameras were then able to run, but it made the point I think. This is just about the oldest video I have and I was just 19 years old, how times change! A former Imperial colleague of mine, Steve Bell, points out that there are not many people who can say they have a video of themselves that’s 45 years old.

Colin Grimshaw October 2015

Sir Brian Flowers interview: 1976

I was recently ploughing my way through yet more archive videotapes and discovered another piece of Imperial College history. On the 11th November 1976 we recorded an interview with the then Rector of Imperial, Sir Brian Flowers. Later he was to become Lord Flowers of Queen’s Gate.

During the interview James Sinclair, who was then the STOIC Chairman, discussed many topics, including the current building extension application for Linstead Hall, one of the accommodation buildings around Prince’s Gardens (east side) which was rejected by Westminster City Council. The extension finally happened in 1980, both the original and extension buildings have subsequently been demolished and replaced by Eastside. Brian Flowers was the most cooperative of our rectors when it came to being interviewed, either in the studio or elsewhere. I think he felt that such collaboration with the studio and other ‘media’ on the campus would pay itself back when discussions took place on student matters or affairs. He was certainly one of the most popular rectors.

TV Studio 2006When the interview was recorded we were still operating in black and white, colour was three years away. However, the ‘new’ studio had only opened during the summer of 1976 and was once again to be modified when colour arrived in 1979. I reckon this was the first rector interview in the new studio, which for those that remember, was on level 2 of the main walkway. The photo on the right was taken in 2006.

Colin Grimshaw September 2015

Parallel Computing Research Centre Royal Opening – May 1994

An AP1000 Super Computer was donated by Fujitsu Labs to Imperial College to inaugurate the Imperial College/Fujitsu Parallel Computing Centre, opened by HRH Princess Anne in May 1994. It had been in continuous use since then and achieved remarkable longevity for an experimental parallel machine. AP1000The facility had been funded by a partnership between Fujitsu, the EPSRC (Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council), the Higher Education Funding Council and the Office of Science and Technology. The award on the UK side amounted to £1.65M. This was backed by a significant contribution from Fujitsu, continuing a fruitful collaboration between Imperial College and Fujitsu.

In 1997 Imperial College based a new campus-wide service on an 80 node Fujitsu AP3000 parallel computer, which was linked to the Fujitsu VX vector system, a resource amongst the most powerful in the UK. The systems provided a theoretical aggregate peak performance of nearly 50 Gflops with 15 Gbytes of memory and more than 400 Gbytes of high speed disc storage. With the way technology moves, I suspect that’s all a bit ‘last century’ by now (which if course it is).

In the year 2000 the following announcement was made:

fujitsu“Shigeru Sato, President of Fujitsu Laboratories of Japan, visited the department of computing on 15 March 2000, to give a seminar and switch off the Fujitsu AP1000 in the Imperial College Fujitsu Parallel Computing Centre. Mr Sato’s talk was followed by the ceremony to switch off (seen on right) the AP1000 with the rector, Lord Oxburgh. The AP1000 pioneered much work in parallel applications (CFD, artificial life, visualisation, environmental modelling) and parallel methods research (Parallel Software Technology, Performance Modelling, data mining, optimisation). The machine was still in active use prior to its decommissioning and the groups using it will be transferred to newer machines”

I made this video to commemorate and archive this important event both for Imperial and Fujitsu.  Once again the commentary is by Michael Rodd.

Colin Grimshaw August 2015

Not just another university: 1987

In 1987, the University of London (of which Imperial was then part of) made a film called ‘Not just another university’ to promote and showcase itself to a wider audience. The ULAVC (University of London Audio-Visual Centre) was based at 11 Bedford Square and served the needs of any of the schools or colleges that made up the university. As the centre had the skills and facilities to make professional 16mm films it was the natural facility to make this promotional programme. Imperial College is featured in it too, initially with some aerial shots and mind boggling statistics prior to Sir Eric Ash, then Rector, who is seen in the original Rector’s Sherfield Building office. ALICE the Imperial College built computer is seen running. Felix issue 758, 1987 The Chemical Engineering Pilot Plant is featured with Prof Kerschenbaum talking about its uses and operation. Felix, the student newspaper (photo on right during filming) is shown being produced, along with Dave Jones, Editor talking about the weekly publication process. Having spent 12 years as Rector of Imperial College, Lord Brian Flowers then moved on to become Vice-Chancellor of the University of London and he is seen sitting casually on the edge of his desk in his Senate House office. Towards the end of the programme Wye College, as was, is seen during its heyday bustling with students, this must be the only time it was featured on film a unique record.

The film also got a one-off airing in December 1987 on Channel Four, one of the UK’s main broadcast TV stations.

Colin Grimshaw July 2015

Reactor Centre opening: 22 June 1965

1965_Reactor--tojpeg_1417970787838_x2It’s 50 years since the official opening of the University of London Reactor Centre housed at Imperial’s Silwood Park campus. Silwood Park is located about 25 miles West of Central London, near the village of Sunninghill, Ascot, Berkshire. On 22nd June 1965 the official opening took place with the Principal of the University of London, along with the Imperial College’s Rector Sir Patrick Linstead, Pro Rector Sir Owen Saunders and Chairman Lord Sherfield. In 2011 the process application to decommission the ‘GEC 100kW Consort’ reactor was started and is being continued today. Sadly, although the archive has BBC Footage shot at the 1965 opening ceremony, it’s minus the sound track, so P.HSN Reactor Under Construction. From above. Spring 1964the on-screen presentation and interviews mean very little. That’s rather a disappointment as it captures a key part in the college’s history. The photo on the right is during construction. What I do have is a segment from the 1982 documentary that I made about Silwood Park and fortunately we shot a section about the reactor and its operation. Tracy Poole spoke with Dr McMahan a lecturer in Physics about the operation of the reactor centre. We shot inside the main reactor hall, control room and experiments lab. I’m so glad we did this because it will be the only archive material shot about the reactor before it eventually disappears for good. 1135902Because it’s a ‘pool type’ water cooled and water moderated reactor it’s possible to open the reactor up and seen inside the core (yes it’s true). Then you will see a bright blue glow caused by the Cherenkov radiation. The image on the left show this glow which I witnessed myself when I took the shots for the video whilst standing on top of the reactor. When we made this video the reactor centre was still relatively new and only 17 years old, now it’s celebrating 50 years! As indeed I do myself, later this year, with 50 years of working at (and since early retirement, occasionally with) Imperial College!

Below is the documentary extract about the reactor centre and also some lovely aerial helicopter footage we had shot, which shows the beautiful Silwood Park campus.

Colin Grimshaw June 2015

Morphy Day & Sports Day: 1928

In this blog entry I’m bringing you the oldest moving images that we have of an Imperial event. Film CanWe are very fortunate to have a 1928 16mm film that an unknown person shot of both Morphy Day rowing at Putney and also of Sports Day, which is thought to have been held at the Chelsea Football Club grounds at Stamford Bridge. In 1920, Arthur Morphy had presented a cup for an eights race between the original three constituent colleges. Competition for the Morphy Cup became an important annual event in college life. FilmFrom looking at the film, we can only assume that this was shot before the rivalry became common at Morphy Day between the colleges, that saw flour and eggs being thrown around on the tow path. None of that appears on this film. Interestingly, we can also assume that the film was shot by somebody who was not a student at the college, because when you look at the film the word Morphy is spelt incorrectly. Arthur Morphy’s Son attended City and Guilds (1917-1920) and went on to co-found the company Morphy Richards. Ted CoulsonTed Coulson (see below), seen in the second sequence of Tug-of-War and in the picture on the right, was the City and Guilds team coach. If you have any further information to fill in the gaps about this film then please do get in touch. We’d love to know who shot the film and why.

2019 update and correction. It is now identified as Jimmy Peacock in the Tug-of-War film sequence and not Ted Coulson (seen in this photo) as previously assumed.

 

Colin Grimshaw April 2015

IC Newsreel Number 1: 1970

Recently digitised from the video archive collection is the very first news-magazine programme made by the student TV service, STOIC. More than 50 years ago on the 17th February 1970 an experimental programme was made to ascertain the feasibility of producing such a news programme on a weekly (or at least a regular) basis. At this time, STOIC used the TV studio facilities of the Electrical Engineering Department, as seen over in the right hand photo and with me operating a camera.

The original plan was to produce a light hearted and simple programme, reflecting what was currently happening in and around college. However, at 10am on the morning of the recording on Tuesday 17th February, the Pro-Rector Lord Jackson (1904-1970), who was also Professor of Electrical Engineering, died. Plans were immediately changed and his colleague, the Head of the Electrical Engineering Department Prof John Brown (seen on the left in the video) appeared to pay tribute. This itself is a unique recording, having been made within hours of Jackson’s death.

Although this was only a trial programme, some effort had been put into trying to make it look as professional as possible. A filmed report (on 8mm film) was shot at a Touchstone weekend being held at Silwood Park. Piers Corbyn, the controversial students union president (1969-1970), appeared in an interview. Another filmed report was on the first major event to be held in the then newly opened College Block (now renamed Sherfield Building). The programme was presented and linked together by Vivienne Taylor who went on to present a local TV programme on London’s Thames Television.

The programme was shown the following day (18th February) in the then new Junior Common Room in College Block. A copy of the original flyer can be seen below. It’s amazing the recording has survived all these years. The original one-inch Ampex videotape still exists, but only because I had given STOIC the videotape to record on. I did so with the very intention of it being kept for posterity and all these years later, I’m glad I did! If I hadn’t, then like many BBC videotapes, it would have been erased and used again for another programme.

Colin Grimshaw February 2021

Imperial College Video Prospectuses 1993

30 years ago, in 1993, an attempt was made at the production of an (ideally) ongoing video prospectus, one for undergraduates and one for postgraduates.

Unusually for a student recruitment piece, these were conceived by the then Rector’s wife, Clare Ash and produced by her daughter Jenny (who was working in TV production) – effectively making two videos in parallel using a great number of the same shoots in both.  Without more involvement from the departments and central services, the videos perhaps didn’t capture the imagination of academics or administrators.

Probably ahead of its time, the project didn’t have the required support from the offices handling recruitment and PR and it didn’t continue – but they do capture the spirit and feel of the College some thirty years ago.

 

Undergraduate Video:
If you look at this, see the graphics and say “What?”, then you’ll know my thoughts, both then, and even now, some thirty years on! There are great shots of the old language lab and Richard Dickins with the college orchestra, both of these showing the non science side of Imperial. Once more we have some (now) important archive shots of Prince’s Gardens and the old halls, especially Linstead Hall showing the famous evening meal (photo on right). This was the only time this was recorded and is special for that reason. We also featured IC Radio, STOIC and Felix in production for that weeks edition. And finally we have the first ever video shots of a Commemoration Day at the Royal Albert Hall.

Postgraduate Video:
In general this will look more or less the same as the undergraduate version, but includes some now unique shots of Lord George Porter working in his lab in the basement of the Beit Building (photo on left). We also ventured out to Silwood Park to show some research work going on there. At this time the Science Communication course had started and we almost featured ourselves by showing two of the students working at our editing suite (even though this was of course staged). Finally a great and short-lived hall is featured. Does anyone remember the Postgraduate only Montpelier Hall in Montpelier Street, almost within sight of Harrods? Well, that’s in here too towards the end of the video.

Its such a shame that neither of these videos were appreciated within the college because a massive amount of time and effort went into making them both. We used about 12 or more one-hour video cassettes for the ‘rushes’ and because they contain some very unique material such as George Porter I still have them today in our video archive. See what you think and let me know if you are seen appearing in either of them. Some years after we had made them, several boxes of unused and unrequired VHS tape copies of both of the videos were returned to me from Registry, they were all thrown in the bin!

Colin Grimshaw October 2023