Category: People

90 down & more to go!

Well, I’ve now worked my way through 90 videotapes that have been digitised. That’s 90 more occasions where I might find something very interesting or have something of historical significance to Imperial College. As you might well know, I’m doing all of this from home since I retired early, some 13 years ago. It can, at times, be a long process to capture content from even just a single videotape. Sticky-shed, as previously discussed, can make it impossible to play a tape back without heat treatment. But once completed (which can take a full day) a videotape might yield some interesting discoveries. Also, as discussed many times, the archive of STOIC is providing some incredible material with both interviews and also their coverage of college events. A recent discovery being that very short clip of Nobel Prize winner Abdus Salam in the Great Hall. I have also discovered a fascinating interview with previous College Secretary John Smith talking about his time as Governor of the Gilbert Islands. I’ll add this new video to my previous blog about him.

During the final few transfers, I found a very early clip of Pallab Ghosh who was standing for Felix Editor. My previous blog post included his 1981 interview about Wells Soc, but that was shot in black and white. This 1983 interview is in colour and is about him standing for Felix editor (which he became), it includes his election speech during the Hustings. He is now Science Correspondent for BBC News.

Simon Singh was elected as RCS President back in March 1983. He came into the TV Studio along with the rest of the executive and we now have those interviews digitised. He has gone on to be an author of many books and has presented several science TV programmes, so maybe his visits to our TV Studio helped him along that route. He was awarded an MBE in 2003.

 

Colin Grimshaw May 2024

Degrees of Excellence: 1984

Sadly I have very little to say about this recent rediscovery. It’s a film made by the British Council for showing overseas. Clearly it’s a promotion for UK Universities and four places are featured: The University of Edinburgh; The University of Warwick; The Polytechnic (as was) of Brighton and Imperial College. At the time, I had no idea this was being shot and only knew about it when a videotape of the film was deposited with the TV Studio. The only Imperial person I can identify in it is Prof. Brian Hartley (16 April 1926 – 3 May 2021), who was in Biochemistry. He appeared in a video that I previously posted about, when he came into the TV Studio to talk to STOIC about the Interferon Pilot Plant.

Although not credited, I’m sure that the commentary is by actor Keith Barron.

Colin Grimshaw May 2024

Lord Ron Oxburgh: 2006

The Rector prior to Sir Richard Sykes was Lord Ron Oxburgh. Like other videos of past Rectors in this series Lord Oxburgh is also reflecting on his time in that post. He was in conversation with Anne Barrett Archivist of Imperial College. We recorded the conversation in the college TV Studio in 2006, the year before Imperial’s centenary. Until now, only a few minutes of this recording were used and that was only on the centenary website.

He was Rector from 1993 until 2001 when Sir Richard Sykes took over the post. Like in Sir Richard’s conversation (to be released next in this series), he singles out 170 Queen’s Gate for particular mention. Lord and Lady Oxburgh are seen in the photo above, taken at Imperial College in 2006.

 

Colin Grimshaw April 2024

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