Category: People

Paul Williams-Drake’s 7 Cartoon: 1980

Starting on 26 January 1979 in edition 506 of Felix the student newspaper, was Drake’s 7. The cartoon strip was the creation of Physics student Paul Williams. The first part in the Drake’s 7 story is seen above. He won a competition for his efforts and also had the entire story reprinted in a stand-alone book available for 30p from the Felix office. He also created materials for the Phoenix magazine at Imperial.

Following his success in the competition he came into the TV Studio and chatted to STOIC’s Paul Johnson.

Colin Grimshaw February 2024

Prof. Eric Laithwaite’s Lab: c1973

While going through some of the 8mm films that STOIC shot, I found this. It was part of a reel of items that included the 1973 Pan Cake Race which I featured in a previous post. Therefore I am assuming that this footage was also shot in 1973. It’s various demonstrations taking place in the lab of Professor Eric Laithwaite, who has featured many times before (and will again, I’m sure). The demonstrations are by one of his research students, whose name currently escapes me.

Firstly, but of out focus, is his office door name plate from down on level one of Electrical Engineering. Interestingly, we see some of the copper windings being installed on a levitator (might even be the ‘magnetic river‘ under construction?). I don’t recall any other photos or film of this being carried out, so this is maybe unique. Then we see the levitation of an aluminium plate, which is followed by the model train which he used very regularly in presentations. Finally we see the research student talking to some other students, but I don’t recognise them as being from STOIC. I’m not sure that the models we see in the film were actually featured in the 1974 Christmas Lectures, which would have helped me date this footage. However, it is just possible that the motor having the windings added was in Christmas Lectures programme 5.

I’ve just reviewed that lecture number 5 (around 53min into the lecture) and I’m now very sure that this is indeed the motor we see being constructed in his lab. So a date of 1973 would seem to work.

Colin Grimshaw January 2024

TV Safety Topics: 1982

Dr Gordon Hargreaves (1930-1989) was Imperial College’s first ever safety director. In conjunction with the training officer Dr Albert Courts we produced a pilot edition of Safety Topics for an on-going series. The safety unit then produced a newsletter called ‘safety topics’ and this was to be a video version of that publication. Many people got involved with the video including myself where you’ll see me demonstrating a range of fire extinguishers on what was Dalby Court. We had first aid, electrical safety, along with safety in offices.

Sadly none of this seemed to gel with people and we never did make a series. So, this is in fact a lovely record of some of those who were key figures in Imperial College in 1982. Gordon Hargreaves died very suddenly in 1989, at that time we had started making yet another safety video with him on the subject of Fume Cupboards. That video was obviously never completed. We must have been jinxed with making safety training videos.

Colin Grimshaw November 2023

Open Door – The Full Cost? 1982

In 1982 the Imperial College Students’ Union had the opportunity to make a TV programme in conjunction with the BBC’s Community Programme Unit. All services, facilities and camera crew were made available to them and for them to have full editorial control on the final film produced.

The clipping is from the Radio Times from April 1982. It outlines the content as ” In 1979 the Government introduced the idea of ‘ full cost’ fees for students from other countries who want to study in Britain. Now the overseas students are staying away in droves and it’s beginning to have serious effects, firstly on our higher education system, but just as importantly on Britain’s relationships with the rest of the world.” I never heard any feedback on the final programme and whether or not there was any government reaction to it.

In the programme were Lord Flowers then Rector, Prof Roger Perry, Professor James Whitelaw and Dr Adrian Evans along with a host of Post Graduate students. There are some, but only a few, shots of campus and undergrads as well as a sequence shot at Silwood Park. Strangely though, Union President Nick Morton, who was even credited in Radio Times, did not actually appear in the film! There was a front page mention of the film and the date of transmission in Felix dated March 19th 1982 (see above). I think that the announcement of the transmission date was so early, because this was the last-but-one edition of Felix before term ended for Easter. Sadly, I’ve never seen any photos of the production being shot or edited. I’m surprised that Felix didn’t take any whilst the film crew were on campus!

Colin Grimshaw October 2023

Prof Eric Laithwaite – Heretic: 1994

The BBC Heretic series in 1994 featured Professor Eric Laithwaite. It focused of course on his now infamous Gyroscope theories and demonstrations, one of which I recorded in the TV Studio in 1983. By 1994 he had retired from Imperial College and had been given lab space at the University of Sussex, close to where he lived after retiring from Imperial College. Interestingly, the Royal Institution let them recreate the controversial 1974 evening discourse, even though they apparently never published the paper and distanced themselves from the whole event.

Lots of archival material from his days at both he University of Manchester and in the lab at Imperial College. There’s also a tiny clip from a programme series called “The Engineer’s World” which was recorded in his lab. I’ve never seen that before and is dated on the BBC Genome Web page as 31 October 1971.

I’m sure that even now, there are lots of people with their own views on what he both came up with, and also suggested, could be achieved with Gyros! But if nothing else, he was fun to work with if you ever had the chance.

Colin Grimshaw September 2023

Felix Editor Election: 1975

Mark Caldwell filming at Elstree Studios in September 1975

Today we go back to 1975 and a fragment of college history captured in the archive of STOIC. Very few items remain from this time period because of the very high cost of videotape. Programmes were recorded over the following week with a new programme, so we’re lucky that this survives today. On the 26 February 1975 Mark Caldwell was presenting the weekly news programme Lunchbreak in which the candidates for the post of Felix editor came into the TV Studio. Clive Dewey and Paul Ekpenyong were standing and also attending was Mike Williams, the then current editor. From Felix 7 March 1975 the results were 440 for Clive Dewey and 527 for Paul Ekpenyong who was declared the next editor for 1975/1976.

At 7mins 20secs into the video you will also hear something very rare indeed. The college bells on the top of Mechanical Engineering chiming 6pm. We must have had the windows open in the studio which was then located on level 3 of Electrical Engineering facing where the bells were. So not only do we know the date, but also the time of this recording, that’s unique.

Colin Grimshaw August 2023

Queen’s Anniversary Prize: 2008

Back in 2006 the Schistosomiasis Control Initiative (SCI), directed by Professor Alan Fenwick of the Department of Infectious Disease Epidemiology, received the Prize for its work tackling schistosomiasis in countries across sub-Saharan Africa, where approximately 200 million people are at risk of the disease that can impair development and cause liver and kidney damage.

The Rector, at the time, Sir Richard Sykes and Professor Fenwick visited Buckingham Palace on 14 February 2008 to collect the Prize from The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh. The Rector and Professor Fenwick were accompanied by team members from the Department of Infectious Disease Epidemiology.

Colin Grimshaw June 2023

College Security: 1980

I’ve already released previous posts about the Iranian Embassy siege in 1980, the first post from 2019 is linked here. Those earlier reports were covered by STOIC reporters: Graeme Shaw, Tracy Poole and Paul Johnson.

One aspect that was forgotten was that of security for the college, parts of which overlooked the rear of the embassy building. These were the buildings along the north side of Prince’s Gardens (photo left) especially Weeks Hall of residence, which I gather has since closed as one of the student halls of residence.

In May 1980, in an edition of STOIC’s News-Break, David Ghani spoke with the college’s Chief Security Officer, Arthur Dawson about the cooperation with the police and how it affected staff and students.

How sad though that only two weeks after this interview Arthur Dawson died suddenly. A report in Felix covered that news (seen over on the right clipping), STOIC paid tribute the following week. After all these years I had completely forgotten that this had happened.

Colin Grimshaw May 2023

Weather at Imperial: 1983

Back in 2019 I wrote a blog about the weather forecast that STOIC gave during their weekly transmissions. What we now have is the news report that was in the programme that proceeded the forecast that Mike Prosser presented. The news programme was recorded the day before, so the weather was given live during the continuity announcement at the end of their news programme.

Atmospheric Physics was where the whole thing happened and STOIC’s Martin Bolding went over there to report on how it was all done.

Colin Grimshaw April 2023

Prof Eric Laithwaite-Book Interview: 1980

Sitting on a videotape for 43 years was an interview with Professor Eric Laithwaite. In April 1980, Graeme Shaw from STOIC spoke to him on the launch of his book The Engineer Through the Looking Glass. The book was based on the 1974 Royal Institution Christmas Lectures of the same name. Back in 2014 I wrote about that series in one of my blog posts.

It was by chance that I realised that this interview had not yet been copied from videotape. It’s one of only a few interviews that we have with Eric Laithwaite. This was of particular interest to me because I was personally involved with programme number three called ‘Jam Tomorrow and Jam Yesterday’ in the 1974 TV series. I also got a credit in the book “…Colin appeared ‘officially’ in the third lecture taking over part of the lecture in effect…” So you can see why I was excited to re-discover this particular interview. I also suspect that I probably would have made the arrangements for this interview to take place.

Colin Grimshaw March 2023