Category: College History

Chris Fox – ICU President: 1979

To celebrate the 10th anniversary year of my Video Archive Blog, I am bringing you a recent 40 year old videotape re-discovery.

1979 was interesting for both STOIC and the TV Studio. It was when we started our move into colour and also the move from Ampex open spool tape, to Sony U-Matic cassette. Because of that move, a large number of early Ampex tapes were never copied onto cassette (some actual tapes we still have).  I can still playback these Sony cassettes, use and transfer them into digital. However, it was sheer luck that during recent transfers I found today’s video on what was called a ‘dump’ tape.

Back on 15th March 1979 STOIC were broadcasting their evening version of Lunchbreak, the news programme usually made for showing at 1pm and then repeated at 6pm. This particular programme was not recorded but was live. That’s because it was the day of the UGM (Union General Meeting) where the new sabbatical officers and president for the student union were elected. The evening ‘election special’ programme was therefore a round-up of what happened and who was elected. The newly elected president for 1979-1980 was Chris Fox.

This particular interview was deemed to be important enough, that sometime around 1980 it was copied onto a Sony U-Matic cassette. Important it has now turned out to be, because:  former 3rd year chemistry student, former president of the Royal College of Science Union (RCS) and President of ICU, Chris Fox, is now Baron Fox of Leominster. Chris joined the House of Lords in 2014. He is currently (2019) the Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy). You can read about Lord Fox on the UK Parliament web page.

It’s great to have a former student move to such heights and also the fact that we have him recorded while he was still a student at Imperial College. All of this goes to show the importance of videotape archives, the maintaining of them and allowing people to be able to see them. I’ve enjoyed doing all of this for the first ten years…

Happy Birthday 2009-2019.

Colin Grimshaw 8th December 2019 (10th Anniversary Day)

Lord Flowers Imperial’s finances: 1980

Whilst transferring more of the STOIC videotape archive into digital, I found this interview. It’s one that I had forgotten all about and is with Lord Flowers, then Rector, recorded 39 years ago in the TV Studio in October 1980. He had, a few days earlier, given his address at Commemoration Day. In that address, for the very first time, an appeal had been made to alumni for a covenant from each student of £20 a year for a total of five years. He had explained that this would assist the college with approximately a quarter of a million pounds a year. Just before you’ll see this interview there is a brief sequence actually shot during that speech at the Royal Albert Hall. This is actually the very first time a Commemoration Day had been videotaped, so it’s unique for that alone.

Here, he is talking with Mike Prosser both a presenter and a past chairman of STOIC.

Colin Grimshaw October 2019

Iranian Embassy Siege: 1980

For a thankfully brief period, 39 years ago, in May 1980, life in and around Imperial College changed. This was due to the now famous Iranian Embassy siege that took place in Princes Gate. The main concern for Imperial College was the fact that in Northside of Princes Gardens the buildings of: Weeks Hall, Garden Hall, Sports Centre and more, all backed onto the embassy building. I recall students from Weeks Hall telling me that they had to keep all windows closed and covered and to stay away from the windows at all times.

That week’s copy of Felix the student newspaper seemed to be somewhat concerned that the Rag Fete would have to be relocated to the Queens Lawn rather than Princes Gardens as planned. They also included a photo of a police marksman somewhere behind the embassy, probably in the rear gardens of college property and that there was also one of the roof of Weeks Hall. There was also mention of at least one Imperial student being arrested.

Clearly this was news for both Felix and in particular for STOIC. With the aide of their trusty portable camera and recorder they ventured off to report of what was happening. Thanks to the current digitisation of the STOIC videotape archive I found all three location reports and saved them. These reports were such hot news that they had to be fitted in prior to and after, the showing of the weekly news programme NewsBreak at lunch time and in the evening. Mike Prosser was continuity voice-over that day and introduced the clips.

Colin Grimshaw September 2019

Linstead Hall Extension: 1978 & 1980

41 years ago in 1978 the big question of the day was will the Linstead Hall extension in Princes Gardens be built, because finances were not going as planned ? As you will see from the video, this question was being asked in both Felix the student newspaper and on STOIC during its weekly news programme Lunch Break.

We are indeed lucky that during the current digitising of batches of STOIC videos, I’ve found two items related to this topic. The first from 1978 has an on site report from James Miller and then an interview, in the TV Studio, with James Sinclair talking to Hugh Barrett, the then Student Union President. Lastly and amazingly, we have another on site report by Mike Prosser after the project was actually completed and the building finally opened.

Colin Grimshaw July 2019

Vision from the past

We will be having some newly discovered items coming up in future blogs. I’m now slowly working my way through many boxes of videotapes from the extensive archive of STOIC and digitising then. If you recall, I managed to save these from being trashed many years ago when STOIC had to clear out their space for rebuilding. If I hadn’t had the college archives take the lot, then they would, by now, have been recycled!

Why is this collection important to Imperial? Well, in the TV Studio we had a specific remit and that was to record what was required for teaching, promotion and so on. All of these jobs created income for the studio and we could not just go off and record what we wanted to, without someone paying for it. However, STOIC could and indeed did just that. Therefore, in their archive we have interviews with not just students but with people like Rectors, Admin Staff, College Secretaries, Professors and so on. These, in some cases, are unique and now invaluable to us.

At present I am digitising a U-matic videotape that has a 40 year old recording of the then Student Union President Chris Fox (seen on the screen above). On the 15 March 1979 live on STOIC, from the college TV Studio, he chatted to Paul Johnson. I’ll be showing that in the next blog. Getting these videotapes to play back is not always that easy. Tapes are showing their age and tend to shed oxide and clog the video heads. This then requires the lid to be taken off the machine and the heads and guides, cleaned (photo on right).

Once the tape will play back from start to finish it’s then time to adjust the video levels before capturing onto hard drive and finally onto DVD. When these tapes were made, the cameras were within a category called ‘industrial’ and sometimes ‘educational’. They had pick-up tubes, not chips, as in these days. Lighting was basic and sometimes crude. Our ability to adjust these cameras individually was limited to say the least. Therefore, when replaying these tapes here in 2019 I have to almost ‘ride’ the video signal and adjust it, as the cameras switch around on the recording.

The final DVD then resides in the tape box and the side marked accordingly. That will mean (hopefully) that even if the tape can’t be played back in the future the DVD will be. It’s worth pointing out that the quality of a DVD is higher than the original videotapes would have ever been. Therefore we have not lost any quality in using this method. And, when the time comes, we can further transcode from the DVD into MP4 for web use. Not only is there a problem with the actual tapes playing back, but even more vital are the machines to play them on. Maintaining these machines is now vital and using them to transfer tapes onto new media is a big task for everyone with a videotape library. For example, the BBC, over many years have done this same process to digitise the whole of its archive, both videotape and film.

Colin Grimshaw June 2019

South Kensington Campus: 1998

Back in 2016 I posted some stock footage of the South Kensington Campus that I had shot in 1992. Here’s an updated version of that with footage shot 21 years ago in 1998. The quality will be better because it was originated on broadcast quality Betacam tape. You will see some nice views of Princes Gardens with both of the original Southside and Linstead Halls. Maybe you might even see yourself in the JCR or on the original Exhibition Road entrance and walkway? I’ve added some captions to remind you of the names of certain places along with any new names that might have come about since 1998, an example being Dalby Court.

I hope this might bring back some memories for those who were at Imperial during this time period.

Colin Grimshaw June 2019

Imperial Biotechnology Ltd: 1982

In 1982 all the talk around campus was about the Fermentation Plant in the Bio-Chemistry building. The plant had been transferred to a private company to be called Imperial Biotechnology and employing its own members of technical staff. The plant was set up initially to satisfy the needs of Sir Ernst Chain in the 1960’s. There is excellent footage of the building and the plant in my previous blog where the Queen Mother opened the building.

This news item from the Thames Television News archive is a report from April 1982, it shows the Fermentation Plant and includes an interview with Dr Trevor Langley who was instrumental in the formation of the company. See also my additional post from 2020 which includes an interview with Prof Brian Harley.

 

Colin Grimshaw February 2019

Olympus Satellite Uplink Silwood Park: 1990

There are a few previous blogs about Live-Net, two in 2013 and one in 2018. But I’ve not really talked about where the system eventually was able to link to. Towards the end of the networks life it had been extended (42Km) all the way down to Royal Holloway in Surrey and eventually a little further (6Km) down the road to the Imperial College field station at Silwood Park. You can click on the Live-Net map over on the right to view it bigger.

The reason for the extension to Silwood Park was primarily to enable the temporary installation of an ESA Satellite uplink station. The Olympus satellite was, by this time, (1989 launched) then operational. To cut a very long story short, the Silwood Park uplink enabled any of the connections within Live-Net to get TV pictures across Europe. In October 1990 we did just that, for a very technically complicated programme involving the French Association of Veterinary Surgeons Annual Conference being held in Poitiers, France. The link from France was provided by France Telecom. The feed was sent via normal ground connections to the London BT Post Office Tower. As you can see from the Live-Net map, we also had a feed to and from the BT Tower. That bit was easy…

Then came the complicated bit. They wanted London participation from various groups including the UK’s chief veterinary officer to allow a discussion on the then major topic of BSE, otherwise known then as Mad Cow Disease. So the concept was that the French feed would arrive at the Imperial College TV Studio mixer and that at the appropriate time our studio guests would take over and contribute. However, this is where it got complicated. They wanted a two-way discussion to happen, so my audio had to feed all the way back to France! It turned into a bit of a ‘Eurovision Song Contest’ in the end. But it still didn’t get any easier, because we had to have two-way simultaneous translation French to English and then English to French. For this a double sound booth with two translators was installed at the rear of the studio. We all wore earphones to hear what was being said. In France they would occasionally insert videos and graphics which was no problem for me. However, London wanted to do this too, so it got even more involved. We were never sure just when the French participants would want to link to us, so we were always poised to switch feeds and start the sound translations. The first video is when we were called upon to come into action.

Even more involved was that they wanted me to provided an edited version of my promotional video that I’d made about Live-Net and get a summarised commentary recorded in French and this is what you can see next.

Of course I had to expect potential problems and I didn’t take any chances in case something happened. And it did! The incoming vision feed from France Telecom/BT just disappeared during one of the London participation segments and I was left with a blank screen. But I did have a stand by caption ready for such a situation. Luckily the vision feed reappeared and we were back to normal again. My end result vision and sound feeds were sent back to Live-Net and thus onward down to Silwood Park and via the ESA uplink station to Europe (seen left) on the Olympus Satellite. I was also watching our feed coming back to me from the satellite so I could see if we were actually transmitting or not. And that was the other problem. You can’t just uplink to a satellite without a specified start and end time because there are other people wanting to do something similar. So we couldn’t start until the correct time, but equally we had to finish at the right time too. I don’t think our colleagues in France appreciated this because they didn’t realise that time was running out. I had a permanent open phone link with them and was updating them on timings. When the end was approaching I expected them to sum-up and run end credits, but nothing was happening. I ended up yelling at them to “run the end credits” and rather abruptly you’ll see their end video appear on screen and then run, taking them all by surprise, with various words in French about the loss of satellite time and goodbye. A few seconds later I saw our feed disappear from the Olympus satellite so we only just made it in time. THE most complicated event I have ever done, with me alone doing live vision and sound mixing along with inserting graphics, videotape and talking on the phone, whilst my colleague operated cameras and then broadcasting to the whole of Europe. Phew!

Colin Grimshaw January 2019

2019: Year TEN of Video Archive Blogs

Well here we are in 2019 and the 10th year of the Video Archive Blog. The first real blog of the year is coming up next and that will be a bigger than usual read too.

I’m still finding interesting video gems to post and there are masses of new videotapes to be viewed and digitised during 2019. I just have to get to them and sort them out. Assisting me now is the original card index files started by STOIC the student TV service (right). Amazingly, their original archive has more ‘college’ events than the TV Studio’s own archive. STOIC covered just about anything and anywhere, to fill the news programmes. There are interviews with college personnel and administration that I never had the opportunity to record myself. They also captured and covered more college events than I did, so these are true archive gems.

By now you’re thinking ‘why didn’t the TV Studio cover these things rather than the students?”. Well, the answer is simple, I wasn’t allowed to. We had a remit to charge for any work we did in the college TV studio, so unless someone was paying me, I couldn’t do the work! It’s sad to know that the only coverage of some important and unique college events are only on STOIC tapes. So, fortunately those tapes are now held safely and, as I mentioned previously, I also have access to the two-draw card index that I’m now slowly scanning into digital.

Scanning the cards is somewhat time consuming as there is no easy way to be able to autoscan them. I’m scanning them in batches of four on a flatbed scanner and creating continuous PDF files of each batch of A through to Z. I’ve got as far as “N” at this time! If you click on the photo that I took (left) you can see that even this particular card I’m holding shows an interesting 1980 interview with Prof Anderson about the UROP project. I seem to recall that it stood for Undergraduate Research OPportunities. There are no other such interviews, so this is also unique. How long before you’ll get to see it remains unknown, but keep watching as I go into year TEN

Colin Grimshaw January 2019

Lord & Lady Flowers, full interview: 2006

Lord Flowers was appointed Rector of Imperial in 1973 and held the post until 1985.

In 1979 he was made a life peer as Lord Flowers of Queen’s Gate. He became Chairman of the Committee of Vice Chancellors and Principals in 1983–85 and Vice Chancellor of the University of London, 1985–90. He was a founder member of the Social Democratic Party.

I shot this video on 17 May 2006. It was used the following year as part of the Imperial College Centenary Celebrations. Small extracts were only ever used at the time, amounting to about 6 minutes in total. This, the full version, runs for 40 minutes and has never been seen before. Both Lord and Lady Flowers speak about their rolls in college life. Anne Barrett from the college archives spoke to them both in the council room at 170 Queen’s Gate.

Colin Grimshaw December 2018