Category: Student life

Alumni Interview 2006: Rogers Knight

In the year preceding the 2007 Imperial College Centenary, a project I had suggested was started between Media Services and the Imperial College Archives. It interviewed all living past Rectors and the then current Rector Sir Richard Sykes. Since that time former Rector Lord Brian Flowers has died, so these interviews, in my view, have proved a worthwhile exercise. Also included were prominent members of the college community. We also interviewed an Alumni; Rogers Knight (6th December 1915 – 29th March 2015) who was a student of the City and Guilds College from 1934-1938. He also became heavily involved in student life and then years later with the Old Centralians Trust.

He tells us that, at the time he was a student, the whole student body was something like 1200. In the Royal School of Mines about 100 and the Royal College of Science and City and Guilds were about the same size at around 500 or so each. Rogers remembers the College Porter, dressed in his formal red morning coat, standing on the College steps every morning, greeting every student by name. I can’t see that happening any more! He says that, in his opinion, the buildings we had then, the Royal College of Science, the original City and Guild’s Building (above) and the Royal School of Mines were built with care and attention. He was interviewed by College Archivist Anne Barrett on 22 August 2006 in the College TV Studio

If you would like to see more of this type of Alumni video interview and can make suggestions as to who should take part, then please contact me via the LEAVE A REPLY box below. We would very much appreciate people like Rogers Knight who can tell us stories about Imperial College life in times past, especially those pre-war.

I was sad to hear that Rogers had died in March 2015 at the amazing age of 99! This interview is therefore even more important in recording the history of Imperial College from times past.

Colin Grimshaw August 2015 (updated)

Imperial College Video Prospectuses 1993

20 years ago, in 1993, an attempt was made at the production of an ideally ongoing video prospectus, one for undergraduates and one for postgraduates.

Unusually for a student recruitment piece, these were conceived by the then Rector’s wife, Clare Ash and produced by her daughter Jenny (who was working in TV production) – effectively making two videos in parallel using a great number of the same shoots in both.  Without more involvement from the departments and central services, the videos perhaps didn’t capture the imagination of academics or administrators.

Probably ahead of its time, the project didn’t have the required support from the offices handling recruitment and PR and it didn’t continue – but they do capture the spirit and feel of the College some twenty years ago.

 

Undergraduate Video
If you look at this, see the graphics and say “What?”, then you’ll know my thoughts, both then and even now some twenty years on! There are great shots of the old language lab and Richard Dickins with the college orchestra, both of these showing the non science side of Imperial. Once more we have some (now) important archive shots of Prince’s Gardens and the old halls, especially Linstead Hall showing the famous evening meal (photo on right). This was the only time this was recorded and is special for that reason. We also featured IC Radio, STOIC and Felix in production for that weeks edition. And finally we have the first ever video shots of a Commemoration Day at the Royal Albert Hall.

Postgraduate Video
In general this will look more or less the same as the undergraduate version, but includes some now unique shots of Lord George Porter working in his lab in the basement of the Beit Building (photo on left). We also ventured out to Silwood Park to show some research work going on there. At this time the Science Communication course had started and we almost featured ourselves by showing two of the students working at our editing suite (even though this was of course staged). Finally a great and short-lived hall is featured. Does anyone remember the Postgraduate only Montpelier Hall in Montpelier Street, almost within sight of Harrods? Well, that’s in here too towards the end of the video.

Its such a shame that neither of these videos were appreciated within the college because a massive amount of time and effort went into making them both. We used about 12 or more one-hour video cassettes for the ‘rushes’ and because they contain some very unique material such as George Porter I still have them today in our video archive. See what you think and let me know if you are seen appearing in either of them. Some years after we made them both, several boxes of unused and unrequired VHS tape copies of both of the videos were returned to me, they were all thrown in the bin!

Colin Grimshaw October 2013

Promotion: 4 – Mastering the Future 1985

Back in 2010 I brought you the two videos that were made to coincide with the City and Guilds centenary in 1985, they were Studying for the Future and Discovering the Future. I had promised to bring you a third video made later in that year called Mastering the Future. Obviously, this video was intended to showcase and promote the idea of taking a masters degree at Imperial College.

Key figures from Industry were featured to give a sense of what was required from University students taking such masters degrees. One person appearing was Sir George Porter, later Lord Porter who was then President of the Royal Institution. Later he moved to Imperial College to continue his research work. By the time the video was made Eric Ash had become Rector, superseding Brian Flowers. One of the few recordings that we have of Professor Bruce Sayers, then head of computing and also dean of City and Guilds is part of this video. Once more there are some great views of ‘Imperial past’ featured such as: the original front entrance on Exhibition Road; Sports Centre and Gym; Libraries and the 1960’s Walkway with Bookshop.

Colin Grimshaw September 2013

Engineering with Atoms

26 years ago, in 1987 I made a promotional video for the Department of Materials. It had a slightly grander title that usual, “Engineering with Atoms: Materials, Science and Engineering at Imperial College”. Once again this video is a treasure of scenes and images of life at Imperial College in the mid 1980’s. And, as with most promotional videos that we made, it contained a large amount of ‘stock footage’ from previous videos and some of this is now notable because of the vast changes that have taken place on the South Kensington campus.

As with all promotional videos an enormous input was required from the actual department in terms of what they needed to say and to show. Getting the words right is vital, so from the department I was aided by colleagues: Kilner, Rawlings, Flower and Walker. The latter two also provided the male and female voice-overs heard on the video. Harvey Flower is notable because of his tragic death in April 2005. He’s also seen in one sequence sitting at an electron microscope and later on he’s standing with his colleague at a departmental party.

Other worthy mentions are Princes Gardens with its old layout design and masses of colourful summer flowers, along with the original halls of residence. Also making an appearance are the 1960’s frontage of buildings facing onto Exhibition Road; the walkway and JCR. Making it into the video as well is the old swimming pool and tennis courts (located where the new Eastside Halls now stand). I’m fairly certain that the departmental library would have been merged into the central library, so shots of that in the video are also a record of daily life in the department. In fact the whole video is a snapshot of what Imperial College was like in 1987 and a true Video Archive post if ever there was one!

The usual tape problems occurred with the digitisation of this video, so any slight glitches or jumps are due to those problems. As always, if you are seen in this video please do let us know where you are now and what you are doing. Use the reply box below to make contact with me.

Colin Grimshaw August 2013

Chemistry Teaching Videos: 1981-1993

If you were studying Chemistry at Imperial College in the early 1980’s you would almost certainly have come across the series of teaching videos that we made. These were designed to provide a single definitive version of classic experiments carried out in the labs.  The way that it worked was that during a lab period students would have a number of ‘demonstrators’ who positioned themselves around the lab. They would then proceed to show the undergrads the way to achieve what was needed of them during the session. This was deemed to have flaws when it was discovered that very slightly different versions were actually being demonstrated. So, colleagues in the Chemistry Department asked for some of the experiments and also the techniques required, to be captured on video. These videos would then be made available to the students in the college library, prior to the lab session day and also at the start of the actual lab session via video players located around the lab. Starting 32 years ago, from 1981 to 1993,  11 of these classic experiment videos were made. Two of these: ‘Recrystallisation’ and ‘Using an Oil Vacuum Pump’ are on this page.

The old TV Studio Control Room  in 2006

Making them was not always so easy. To capture the experiments we needed to be able to record, as much as possible, in ‘real time’. That is, record the action without stopping or having to then edit later. We needed to be able to try and capture what would have been demonstrated live in the lab. Also, when an experiment had started, it couldn’t always be stopped on a whim from me because I couldn’t get a good camera shot! So, we had to be able to record with several cameras and this meant shooting in the College TV Studio** where we had three cameras available. Shooting this way meant we could, as much as possible, run in real time; if we had rehearsed what was going to happen. So, using three cameras we were able to plan ‘blocks’ of the experiments that could be recorded before we had to stop and reset cameras etc. (more…)

IC for sale – 1969

Only recently I remembered that I had a copy of an old 45rpm disc. It was called IC for sale Vol 2. It was given to me by Richard Woodhead (one of our students) around about 1972 so that’s over 40 years ago now. What I had forgotten was that it contained some unique sounds of Imperial College. It has great recordings of the three college unions C&G, RSM and RCS chants plus the Imperial chant Hey Vivo which I can’t recall the last time I heard it. The 45rpm disc -or any tape recording of it- do not exist in the main Imperial College Archive, so I’ll be putting a CD of it in there soon. I have found a review and reference to the original first pressing of the disc in the searchable newspaper PDF archive of FELIX May 1965. See page two at the top called ‘Gateway to Industry’.

Also, if you know Imperial from far enough back you will remember the City and Guilds building clock and bells (photo on the left). Or if not, you will know that the clock mechanism relocated to the Mechanical Engineering Building foyer (photo at bottom) some time after the original buildings were starting to be pulled down in the late 1950’s.

The bells were moved (photo on the right) way up on top of the building overlooking, what was, the green Dalby Court area. This is now where the Faculty Building is located. The bells would ring the quarters, half and so on and could be heard throughout most of the college area. I gather that regular mechanical & electrical  problems caused the demise of the chimes! But, these can once again be heard on the disc. (more…)

New to the Blog?

If you are new to the blog or perhaps arrived via the Alumni web page, you might have missed some previous gems. If you go back further to earlier entries you will find some memories of Imperial College captured on videotape. One such recording is the only interview we have with Victor Mooney (Died on December 27th 2012 aged 89), college catering manager from 1953 to 1985.

Southside Royal opening taking place in the Upper Refectory,  Southside

He was a major figure in college life, especially with the student’s phrase “Going for a Mooney”, which meant going to the refectory for a meal of some kind. Do you remember the Upper and Lower Refectories in Southside? How about WAITRESS service in part of the Refectory in Sherfield? And also a time when the JCR eatery was still called the “Buttery”!

I have now managed to clean up the quality of the recording which was made in November 1979,  just prior to us going into full colour. Here’s Victor Mooney, in the College TV Studio, talking to STOIC regular presenter Dave Ghani.

If you have any film or photos of the college eating places in use during the years before say 1970, then please get in touch. Please also add comments or memories of eating at Imperial 🙂

Don’t forget OLDER ENTRIES via this button at the bottom of the main pages

Colin Grimshaw November 2012

Promotion: 3 – Chemistry 1981-1985

In “Promotion: 1” (March 2010), I mentioned the Civil Engineering and Chemistry Departments. In June 1981 I was asked to take on the task of making a promotional video for the Chemistry Department.

Chemistry Building March 2002

This was intended to promote all aspects of what the department did and to assist in the recruitment of new students. I also recall it being shown at Open Days which seemed obvious . Two members of the staff were appointed as ‘producers’ so most of the content and the wording of the voiceovers was decided for me. Looking back at the video over 30 years later it has too much in it. The history section seems unnecessary and there’s too much detail in the various elements featured. It runs for nearly 20 mins which is about two thirds too long in todays modern YouTube video world. Leave them wanting more is the theory, not wanting to leave the room as soon as the video has eventually finished! This was one of two videos made for the department, the second being made four years later in July 1985. It’s worth noting that both of these videos were made using our original colour camera. It needed massive amounts of light (as mentioned in the Library video) and suffered ‘smearing’ on highlights, the colour itself was none too brilliant either!

 

Chemistry Department 1981

The second video was also far too long but did, thank goodness, have Professor Sir Geoffrey Wilkinson in it. He appeared because he was then head of department. Being a Nobel Prize winner it was considered important and prestigious to feature him. I said thank goodness because it has given us the only interview recorded with him whilst at Imperial, an archive gem. Like the first video in 1981 I had little control over the content. It seemed that almost everything including the kitchen sink appeared in the video. I truly ‘cringe’ when I watch it, especially the Kensington Gardens sequence! One of the few times I managed to get my way was on the intro sequence. I used so called ‘production music’ rather than music created by a family member as in the first video. The video does use, for the first time, electronic effects. The multi-picture sequence later on and during the opening where the image slides down were all very new at the time. Now, these are common place and all achievable on a computerised edit suite, but we had a dedicated box to do it that cost thousands of pounds.

 

Chemistry Department 1985

The original Dalby Court 1985

On an historical note, the first person you see talking is located in a lovely garden area…that’s where the ‘blue box’ Faculty Building is now standing! You’ll also see Princes Gardens, as it then was, in the summer of 1985. Between 1981 and 1993 I made around 10 teaching videos that were used on various ‘lab days’ to show the students how do undertake the experiments they had to do. It was considered more effective to show one correct version of an experiment, rather than several slightly different versions by several different people based around the labs. I’ll try and get some of these on line soon. Maybe you had to do one of these experiments whilst at Imperial?

Also, if you are featured in any of these videos do let us know. The two still photos were by my former colleague Neville Miles, who like me, helped to capture some of the history of Imperial College in the many photographs he took over the years.

Colin Grimshaw November 2012

Royal Albert Hall and Commemoration Day

Once again we are in October and it’s time for the Graduates to visit the Royal Albert Hall for Imperial College’s Commemoration Day.

Commemoration Day in 2011 Royal Albert Hall London

This brief entry is to remind you of the post I made two years ago this month. That post contains all that we have in terms of archive audio/visual material relating to the ceremony. Most importantly, of course, we do have the sound recording of King George 6th from 1945. And to just repeat myself: 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.

You will also read in that previous entry about the difficulties associated with the transfer of these original sounds recordings from 78rpm discs and ‘paper’ magnetic tape. Both are now saved into digital form.

Go direct to my October 2010 blog entry.

Colin Grimshaw October 2012

Life Science Library 1979

Life Sciences Library video August 1979
Shooting the video’s  introduction

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.

Life Sciences Library video August 1979
Lots of lighting was needed inside

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!

Mark Caldwell in Germany
Mark Caldwell

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.

 

 

Colin Grimshaw 2012