24 years ago in December 1988 Imperial College held the first event aimed at children to introduce them to science. The event was Christmas Caper and departments and sections throughout Imperial College came together to create a ‘wonderland’ of science for the kids. Not all the things were specifically science, face-painting being one of them. It was held during the afternoon and staff were encouraged to bring their own children along. It took place in what was the lower refectory in Sherfield Building. The event was masterminded by Claire Ash, the then Rectors wife.
In February 1969 the then Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Michael Ramsey made a visit to Imperial College. From the 3rd to 6th of February he had several engagements at Imperial. But the most important to us was a special televised event at 12noon on Tuesday 3rd when Sinclair Goodlad hosted “Face to Face” in the fledgling TV Studio, then located on level 3 of Electrical Engineering. The programme was relayed live to many locations as well as recorded onto videotape. As you will already suspect, that videotape was lost a long time ago.
What we have left is one black and white photograph taken at the time. But, I did happen to have my 8mm cine camera loaded with film and had it with me on the day. The fragment of 24 seconds of colour film is therefore all that remains of this important day. I did manage to find a reference to his visit in the archive collection of Felix, the Imperial College student union newspaper. The file will download as a PDF and look at the top of page 3 for the article.
Colin Grimshaw November 2012
As we celebrate yet another Commemoration Day at the Royal Albert Hall I thought the time was right to bring you the few recordings we have from earlier years. At the end, I’ll mention technical challenges involved with the transfer of the first two recordings onto modern formats.
Although you’ll find this first recording elsewhere I’ll include it again for completeness.
The October Commemoration Day graduation ceremonies recall the visit made to the College by King George 6th and Queen Elizabeth in 1945, on the centenary of the foundation of the Royal College of Chemistry, Imperial College’s oldest forerunner. King George said: “You students here assembled – men and women who soon will be going out from the Imperial College to your work in the world – have not only an opportunity but also a responsibility greater than men of science have known before. To you, I say: Regard your knowledge and your skill always in the light of a trust for the benefit of humanity, and thereby ensure, so far as in you lies, that science may never be put to uses which offend the higher conscience of mankind.”
For those unfamiliar with King George 6th, he battled throughout his life with a nervous stammer and his attempts to overcome this during the speech are obvious with long pauses between sentences.
From 1945 we jump to 1952 and a recording that, so far, I have no idea exactly why it was made. It features Karl Compton who was a prominent American physicist and president of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) from 1930 to 1948. In 1948 he resigned his post as President of MIT and was elected president of the MIT Corporation. He held that position until his death on June 22, 1954, some two years after this sound recording was made. Compton was awarded a fellowship in 1949 but was unable to attend, but in 1952 he was special visitor and collected it then. Interesting references are made to key players in college life at that time: Chairman, Viscount Falmouth; Rector, Sir Roderic Hill along with Sir Henry Tizard, Sir Richard Southwell and Sir George Thomson. There is only part of the introduction by Viscount Falmouth to Karl Compton on the original tape, so it will sound a bit truncated. At the end, Compton reads greetings to the Imperial community from the President and also the Chairman of MIT and the American national anthem is played. Could this be why it was recorded?
Finally, we have something visual in the form of a 16mm colour film shot in 1973. Robert W Sarnoff was President 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. The citation for Sarnoff indicates that he was the benefactor of the Imperial College Haldane Music Library. A year later in 1974 Sarnoff married Metropolitan Opera diva Anna Moffo, so maybe opera was his interest as well as being the music library benefactor? As I understand it, Sarnoff himself paid for large parts of the 1973 Commemoration Day ceremony to be filmed in colour and with sound. Lord Flowers was Rector at the time and is seen in this current extract. 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. He was the first person to be officially televised in colour at the dedication ceremony of NBC’s new Washington, D.C. facilities on May 22, 1958. For those interested, you can see an amazing videotape that has been rediscovered of this 1958 event. The program represents the earliest known colour recording discovered to date.
The first two sound recordings could have been lost for ever had we not transferred them onto modern formats. The 1945 recording of King George 6th is held on 78rpm shellac discs which are very delicate and will break if dropped. I had these transferred by the National Sound Archive a few years ago. Although, in theory it’s easy to copy these discs, using the correct pick-up weight and stylus is essential. Using a modern LP stylus will simply “bottom’ into the disc’s groove and produce more scratch and crackle then actual sound and can damage it too.
The second recording IS interesting. I discovered that the recording tape used paper as the backing, rather than a form of plastic and its manufacture probably dates from the 1940’s. The oxide was also very basic and looked more like gunpowder than anything you could record sound on! Transferring the tape was also a challenge as I had to run the tape very slowly because it was sticking to itself like a reel of sticky parcel tape. A lot of background noise will he heard and I’m still amazed I managed to get anything off of it anyway.
I hope you have enjoyed listening to our recordings of Commemoration Days from the past….unless YOU have something we don’t know about?
Colin Grimshaw – October 2010
On the 19th October 1988 the beginning of the mergers with the medical schools started. This was the merger between Imperial College of Science and Technology and St Mary’s Hospital Medical School, located just north of Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park at Paddington. The end result of the mergers was the formation of the Faculty of Medicine.
To my knowledge this is only the second time that the college’s Great Hall has played host to a royal event. The first of these was the opening of the building (then called College Block and subsequently Sherfield Building) and the hall itself by HM the Queen in 1969. The hall was packed as you would imagine and that didn’t leave all that much room for the two cameras and tripods we had proposed for the live recording. We were also limited in terms of man-power so my colleague Chris Roberts operated the main camera whilst I located the second camera next to where I had the vision mixer and recorders. This meant that I could not only cut between the cameras, but also operate the second camera to change the shots slightly. What I could not cope with was the fact than when people stood up, they almost blocked the shots from the camera next to me.
The ceremony starts with the fanfare “St Mary’s”. There are then several musical interludes during which you’ll see a very young Richard Dickins and these 22 years later I must apologise to Richard because we got the spelling of his name wrong on our end credits. But, it’s a wonderful record of music from the college symphony orchestra playing Walton’s ‘Crown Imperial’. Also the late Eric Brown conducts the college choir with music from Carmina Burana. And finally in terms of music you’ll hear the electronic organ that’s located within the hall. Princess Anne, (The Princess Royal) as Chancellor of the University of London presented the Chairman of the Governing Body (Sir Henry Fisher) with a specially bound copy of the Imperial College Act and its revised Charter. The Imperial College Rector at the time was Professor (later Sir) Eric Ash.
As always, I’ve had to tweak the image on the video to make it look at bit better. Technology has advanced a lot since this was recorded and the lighting levels required to get good images is a lot lower these days. The Great Hall have never been fantastic for shooting video unless extra light is thrown at the stage area and that then leaves the audience rather dark, whilst the wood panels around the hall make a very warm image when light bounces off it. The whole video is around 45 minutes in duration.
Colin Grimshaw September 2010
Brian Flowers (1924-2010) became Rector in succession to Lord Penney in 1973. Then Sir Brian, he quickly became popular and approachable with staff and students alike. The now famous ‘beer and bangers’ parties held by him and Lady Mary Flowers (1921-2016) were hosted in their flat at the Norman Shaw designed building at 170 Queens Gate. This gave many people the opportunity to meet both of them and in particular to gain access to one of the most wonderful buildings owned by Imperial College. Five years after he became Rector, I shot a video with the student TV service STOIC, this was the first time a video had been shot in 170 and in particular up in the Rector’s flat (a photo taken during this event is at the bottom of this entry with me in silhouette on the extreme left hand side). Please click on MORE to continue reading this post. (more…)
One day, back in 1988, someone asked me the question “Could you do live TV from the top of the Queen’s Tower?”. Up to that point I can’t say I’d really thought about it much, but it was an interesting question nevertheless. But we’ll come back to that in a while.
Anyone who has visited the South Kensington campus would have seen the tower at some point. It’s some 287 feet tall and has some 324 steps up to the dome area. One of the main times the tower is noticed is when the bells are rung and these are as follows:
Queen’s Accession: 6 February
Queen’s Birthday: 21 April
Queen’s Coronation: 2 June
Duke of Edinburgh’s Birthday: 10 June
The Princess Royal’s Birthday: 15 August
Prince of Wales’ Birthday: 14 November
Queen’s Wedding Day: 20 November
and of course both PG Awards and Commemoration Days each year.
It was on 20 November 1997 that we recorded the bell ringers for the first time. This was to mark the Queen’s 50th wedding anniversary and a special ring was performed. Carrying cameras and recorders up the tower is not an easy tasks as the spiral staircase was never designed for this. But we made it and proceeded to capture the event. What no-one had bothered to tell us was that the tower does move a bit when the bells are being run. First one way and then the other depending on which set of bells are being run at the time. Sets of bells are hung in different ways; one set ‘left to right’ and the other set ‘top to bottom’. This therefore gives a strange effect of movement swaying one way, then the other. The combined result when all the bells are being run is a very odd circular motion. Although I’ve recorded the actual bells with hanging a mic in the bell chamber, I’ve never captured them on video…but someone else has! If you go to this YouTube video you’ll see the horrifying sight of the whole set of bells ringing below the camera lens. I can’t say that it looks very safe up there and the volume of sound must be rather high too.
Another great reason to remember the Queen’s Tower were the (now long gone) performances in May each year of the 1812 overture. These were accompanied by live explosions provided by DramSoc and the bells in the tower were rung. I’m not certain why this event stopped, maybe it was the British weather! Anyway, in May 1979 I recorded the event in colour, the same summer that we actually got our colour equipment.
And so, back to the start and that question about live TV from the top of the tower. Back in 1988 during preparations for one of the first Alumni weekends the idea came about to broadcast the weather one morning from the Queen’s Tower. Francis Wilson was, at the time, forecasting the weather for the BBC Breakfast programme. Because he’s an Alumni of Imperial he was asked if he would do it and of course he agreed.
We did weather from the tower twice and you’ll notice the reference to hearing the sound this time around. In fact we were some minutes away from the live link and someone managed to move the equipment providing the ‘line of sight’ link. You can see some photos I took at the time and two of these show the amount of equipment we had to carry up the tower. One is showing the equipment set up for controlling sound and vision and the other is showing the infra-red line of sight link from the tower down to the area now known as the “tower rooms”. One thing we were lucky to have was mains power and down in the bell ringing chamber, a telephone line.
The recording you’re now able to see of the event was made down on the ground floor where the TV monitors were located. I’m still amazed it actually worked and the quality was pretty good too. The infra-red link had to be lined up with a telescope that had a cross-hair to align with the receiver, also set up on a tripod down on the ground. All you then had to do was to feed video and audio into the unit and you were in business. The only problem, as we discovered, was not knowing IF those down below could actually see and hear anything once you had started the event.
My colleague at the time Chris Roberts is seen operating the camera whilst I was pressing the buttons, mixing sound and running-in the videotaped sequences we were given from our colleagues in Physics. It was good fun, the Alumni visiting seemed to enjoy it, but it was very hard work indeed….there are a lot of steps up to the top and I was a lot younger then too!
The day before the event we had already taken most of the equipment up the tower and tried out the link. Those down on the ground floor were somewhat surprised to see this caption on the TV screens. It was broadcast from the tower and was announcing the forthcoming live link the following morning.
Colin Grimshaw April 2010
Buildings come (down) and buildings go (up), but, as you will have guessed from these blogs, archives live on. And in doing so, we are able to reach back in time to see and hear what happened at an event or ceremony, which marked the opening or closing of an Imperial College building. I’m going to split the buildings and centres blog content into several parts, with this being the first.
The first video however is not really an opening of a building as such, but rather a ‘renaming’ of one. The Physics Department was renamed the Blackett Laboratory in the honour of Lord Blackett (1897-1974) on 3 December 1975. The Prime Minister at the time, Harold Wilson, delivered the Blackett memorial lecture. This is the first recording of a Prime Minister in the archives; Edward (Ted) Heath, Margaret Thatcher and Gordon Brown were to follow. The recording is poor and was made by the department hosting the event. Originally recorded on half-inch open spool videotape, I have since transferred it to DVD for safe keeping. To continue please click on MORE… (more…)
My involvement with the City and Guilds College (C&G) started during its centenary year in 1985. A week of celebrations were held (26 February – 1 March) and as part of that the Junior Common Room was transformed into an impressive exhibition called Tech2000. The exhibition was officially opened by the then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. Can you spot the famous handbag in the photo?
Besides making some 12 individual videos for various exhibits, an official video record of the week was also commissioned. This would capture the build-up, the opening and tour of the exhibits by the Prime Minister and the banquet held at the Guild Hall with the main speaker being HRH Prince Philip and this itself was not without its own problems. I was told in advance that we could not use too many lights when recording his speech because he didn’t like lights in his face.
The problem was the size of the Guild Hall and the area we were trying to cover. Illumination within the hall was to be mostly from the candles on the tables, but this was far too low for our camera. A compromise was reached and we used a 2kw floodlight that would only be switched on moments before any one of the speeches started. Although this sounded good, we were located high up on a balcony some distance away, so the end result was better, but not great. It was also such a vast increase in light levels (compared to the candles) that actually switching the light on caused most of the people to turn around and look up at us! Although I’d requested a feed from the sound system to plug into our video recorder, I had not actually spoken with the engineers operating it on the night. Everything turned out OK and we received a cable with audio from the hall sound system. We were intending to video record most things, but our tapes would only run for 20 minutes at a time, so tape changes were going to have to be made. I was concerned that from an archives point-of-view we should not lose any of the speeches. I asked the engineer if he had been asked to make a sound recording of the whole evening, only to discover that no one had thought to do so! This was corrected and the tapes now reside in the college archive.
Let me just mention Prof Bruce Sayers (1928-2008) who was Dean of City and Guilds at the time. In fact he was Dean during the period 1984-1988 and again from 1991-1993. It was during his last period in office that Bruce commissioned the first video to be made showcasing City and Guilds – that was in 1993 with a second following in 1994 and a final in 1998. The 1993 video was more of an historical look-back at City and Guilds, with the further two looking more at the research work within the departments making up C&G. So, back to the C&G centenary and the video that covers the events making up the week. Hopefully it gives a flavour of what was happening within C&G and is also a wonderful snapshot of Imperial College life in 1985.
“City and Guilds, a celebration” was made in 1993. It was, as the title suggests, a celebration of C&G from its earliest times, right up to the date of making the video. We found some interesting photographs and film to help illustrate a commentary recorded by Bruce Sayers himself. We had previously discovered the film of the old City and Guilds building (1960), so we looked for more visuals that C&G alumni might remember. We achieved this with some film shot in 1928 of both “Sports Day” and “Morphy Day”. At that time, Sports Day was clearly still being held at the Stamford Bridge ground of Chelsea Football Club (this apparently being the case until the 1930’s). The film shows a lot more of sports day than we had time for in the video and this is something that I’ll feature in more detail in a later blog. You will see a couple of shots of the Queen’s Tower from a distance. These were from a hotel long since demolished. Located near Gloucester Road tube station the Forum Hotel had a number of floors almost equal to the Queen’s Tower in height. A simple phone call gained us access to their roof area and the result was some splendid views of London and the Queen’s Tower. Going back briefly to the 1960 film of the old guilds building it’s worth mentioning that this was an amazing discovery that was made after Sir Owen Saunders died in 1993. The 16mm colour film was found in his office drawer and passed to the college archivist who in turn asked me to see what it was! We’ll show that complete colour film in a later blog.
One person mentioned in that video was Herbert Cecil Booth (City and Guilds 1893) who invented the process of cleaning fabrics by sucking air through them. More can be seen on him in Tim Hunkin’s TV programme “The Secret Life of the Vacuum Cleaner“.
In 1994 we were asked to make a follow up which was to be called “City and Guilds College 1994 – an update”. This was very much a promotion for the research work being carried out within City and Guilds. It also included a section with Bob Schroter talking about the Old Centralian’s Trust fund, the charitable arm of the City & Guilds College Association. To give a flavour of the departments featured, research work was shown from Civil Engineering; Aeronautics; Electrical Engineering; Chemical Engineering to name but a few. Having just celebrated 10 years of operation, the Centre for Composite Materials showed their work relating to the aircraft industry, whilst Bio Mechanics demonstrated the work being carried out on knee joints. Again, this video’s audience was industry and alumni, particularly those overseas. Unlike the previous video, we commissioned a professional voice-over which was read by former BBC ‘Tomorrow’s World’ presenter Michael Rodd.
The final video made with Bruce Sayers for City and Guilds was in February 1998 and was entitled “City and Guilds: the challenges of tomorrow”. It makes reference that this was now 12 years into C&G’s second century and the fact that many changes were going on within Imperial College. In fact this video is a nice record of the South Kensington campus just a few years before major rebuilding works would change its appearance with: the new main entrance and Business School on Exhibition Road; Dalby Court and the (then) new Faculty Building.
For the very first time the City and Guilds Institute was mentioned and it’s connection with C&G explained. We went to their central London headquarters to get shots both outside and inside. Following on from this we shot at one of their lunches held each year at the college, which is attended by fellows of the C&G Institute and the Rector of Imperial. At the time of making the video the construction of the new Sir Alexander Fleming building was well into the completion stages and shots of both the initial building work and completed building were shown. Dame Julia Higgins, a former Dean of C&G, spoke about the many changes across the campus with the opening of the new SAF building and the intake of many new medical students.
The video ends by asking the question: “What would City and Guilds look like in 2025 and would those who know it now, recognise it then?”
Colin Grimshaw – January 2010 updated June 2021
This is a special entry to coincide with the Restoration of Prince’s Gardens event on 15 January 2010. I should explain from the outset why we are now making references to Eastside rather than Linstead. This is because the new building is larger than before and is now made up of three halls: Linstead, Gabor and Wilkinson. In my first entry about Southside, I did make reference to things associated with Linstead Hall and in particular the hall dinner. We will see a clip of one of those dinners in the video which is located later on this page. In 1993 we made a video for prospective undergraduates and some of that video was shot in Southside and Linstead halls, that’s the footage we’ll be seeing.
The evening dinner was special in college, because it happened in no other hall. History tells us that ‘Construction was funded by an anonymous benefactor in 1963 who stipulated that dining facilities must be available for male residents’. There was an extension to Linstead in 1980, however it was of a completely different design, as can be seen in the 2004 photo (newer on the left older on the right). CLICK MORE
For this first blog entry we’re going to focus on places and in this case, Southside. The Southside halls were opened on 8 October 1963 with a Royal ceremony with Princess Margaret and Lord Snowden in attendance. Due to the forward thinking of past members of staff the whole thing was audio recorded and then transferred to an acetate disc. Things like this are held in the main archive and recently I transferred it from the disc into a digital format. On the right is a photo of the process happening a few months ago.
Click the link above to listen to what was said and because this is audio only I’ve included some photos taken during the ceremony rather than leaving you with a blank screen. The whole thing runs for about 20 minutes and you can skip forward if you so wish.
In 2005 the lifetime of the Southside halls had come to an end and something new was required. So on 6 October 2005 Sir Richard Sykes, as Rector, held a ceremony to officially start the process of demolition.
A few days before, along with some colleagues, I walked around the building with a handheld video camera to capture some last moving images for the archive. If you remember the building, a few memories may come back when you watch it. Some people liked it, whilst some hated it. Me? I hated it! Never did get used to the ‘shuttered’ concrete design and I always got lost on those stair cases.
So, I suspect it gave great delight to Richard Sykes to sit in the cabin of the digger and start the whole process of demolition. As always, we captured the ceremony on video and just before it started I’d given some of the Princess Margaret opening ceremony photos to the Rector, so you’ll hear him refer to that in the video. I must admit that I’ve been to a lot of openings before, but never a closing, so this was interesting and also the first as such in the archive.
There then followed something that was also new to me, that is a “bottoming out ceremony” where you all celebrate the completion of the foundations. And as usual we were there to record the event…but with a difference! A competition had been run to find objects to place into a time-capsule to be planted within the building.
I glibly suggested a DVD of the most recent Albert Hall ceremony and another with the Princess Margaret opening and Richard Sykes closing events. It ended up being one of two selected ideas and you’ll see me being presented with a bottle of champagne by Richard Sykes (whilst wearing safety gloves and also trying to do sound, my colleague Martin Sayers took over the camera)
The final of the three events was the Topping Out ceremony held on 5 October 2006. This saw the end of works on the new Southside complex and the imminent demolition of Linstead, but that’s for another blog page where we have things like the Linstead Hall evening dinner. So if you remember those, then please come back for more soon.
Topping out ceremony (Colin on camera)
Colin Grimshaw December 2009