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.
When 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.
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. The 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:
“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.
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. 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.
It’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 the 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. Because 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.
In this blog entry I’m bringing you the oldest moving images that we have of an Imperial event. We 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. From 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 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.
Recently digitised from the video archive collection is the very first news-magazine programme made by the student TV service, STOIC. 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, with the very intention of it being kept for posterity and 45 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.
As we celebrate yet another Post Graduate Ceremony (May 2013) I thought we would look back only a few years ago to 2009. This was the year that the Imperial College gained its own Mace and it was officially presented to the college during the ceremony at the Royal Albert Hall in May of that year. The mace is the generous gift the Goldsmiths’ Company, who have had a long association with the College. It was given to mark the designation of the College as a university in its own right and the award of a new charter by the Queen. The Goldsmiths’ Company commissioned Padgham and Putland of Kent to design and construct the mace. The mace weighs 7.1kg and is of silver and gilt. Its intricate workings incorporate the College crest and motto. The video is part of that May 2009 ceremony at the Royal Albert Hall, London.
Lord Kerr was still Chairman of the Governing Body at that time and he accepted the gift on behalf of Imperial College London.
In a previous entry you would have seen the video I made to celebrate the City and Guilds College Centenary in February 1985. As part of the week of events an exhibition was run entitled “Technology 2000”. It was opened by Margaret Thatcher -who was then Prime Minister- on 27 February 1985.
Professor Bruce Sayers was then Dean of City and Guilds and made the introduction. This version of the speech is the full version. The one already seen in the C&G centenary video is edited down to fit into a specific duration. Here then is the full, unedited version, from the original 1985 master tape.
In December 2010 former student Sir Brian May revisited Imperial College London as part of a BBC documentary programme retracing the early life of members of the group Queen. The documentary was called ‘Queen – Days of Our Lives‘ and was aired on BBC2 in May 2011. Brian May was Knighted in the New Years Honours list for 2023.
There does not appear to be much in the college about his time as a student, but I did find an interesting early reference to his involvement with Queen in the Felix archive. See the top of page 6 for a review of their album “Queen II” and note the reference: “…it is very unlikely that they’ll ever need to have connections with their previous vocations again.”
In the same article it referred to Queen’s Imperial concert in the previous term and I have found the advert for that event. I think 30p was reasonable admission to see what would become a World famous group!!!
But, in 2007 he became Dr Brian May after completing his PhD which had been left on hold since leaving Imperial to join Queen full time. Very appropriately in May 2008 he walked across the stage of the Royal Albert Hall as part of the college’s Postgraduate Awards Ceremony. A bow to the audience earned him a huge cheer.
During a short break in the BBC schedule he spoke about his time as a student at Imperial College in the early 1970’s. He’s seen here in Beit Quad, outside the Student Union Building on Prince Consort Road, two years ago today on 9 December 2010. And it was cold there at the time, but great to have met him.
Colin Grimshaw December 2012 (revised December 2022)
The first programme we made in colour was a guide to the Life Science Library. That was 33 years ago in August 1979 and colour was so new that we didn’t even have a colour logo caption at the start, in fact it’s our original black and white logo. Interestingly, the video is a great snapshot of what libraries looked like and how they operated at that time. Card indexes were still the norm with microfiche readers being a new addition. There is also mention of having a literature ‘computer search’ carried out at a cost of around £5, a cost which was probably considered high at that time and would have been carried out by a librarian for you. One of the great advantages of us moving into colour was the fact that we were able to edit. Until then it was possible, but difficult and in black and white too. The video required a lot of different shots, like close-ups of index cards, so editing was an essential part of the production, in fact, without editing this programme could not have been made.
Because we were going to cause some disruption in the library, where possible, we shot in the evening, or at least after 5pm. As you can see from the photo on the left, we also needed light..lots of it too. Our early colour camera was happy with external situations, but inside it required rather a lot of light to get good images. The library, at that time, was rather lower in light levels compared to today and there was no way we could cope without adding some extra lighting. Our biggest problem was finding mains sockets anywhere near the rows of book shelves. You tend not to need mains sockets when looking for books! Like most of our videos, we sometimes needed (and still do need) ‘rent a crowd’, so see if you can spot me appearing twice in the video. Also note a major change to the feel of the South Ken campus from when this was shot in 1979. See how empty it is soon after 6pm when the external footage was shot.
The video style is a bit 1970’s, mainly because that’s when it was made. I can’t recall under what circumstances the video was due to be seen, but I think it was designed to be viewed in the room that had been designated for watching videos. This was one of the small rooms called a Carrel around the edge of the library in which a monitor and video recorder had been installed. You’ll hear reference to these Carrels in the video. Listen out too for the mention of photocopies, there were only two in the whole library at that time. Now there are machines on every floor!
The presenter of the video is Mark Caldwell, an former STOIC chairman from the mid 1970’s. Mark is now based in Germany, working for the world radio division of Deutsche Welle. From time to time you can hear him presenting items like this one on the Planck and Herschel space telescopes.