Category: Student life

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

Seen and Gone: Two

So now we come to the second Seen and Gone and this is when we get to see something interesting (and yes I do mean see). In December 1971 STOIC showed their Christmas edition of the then regular news programme Topic. I’ll try to recall the background to this programme if my memory serves me well!

Recording Lord Penney 1971

Although by this time we had two videotape recorders in the studio, the programme was shown live to the JCR (Junior Common room), whilst the recorders were used to replay some inserts into the programme (maybe one did also record I can’t remember). At this time it was still not possible to easily record items outside of the studio so some cunning ideas came into use. To enable STOIC to capture external events an 8mm cine camera was used. The footage was then edited together and a simple background audio track of, for example, street noise, was created to play in the background. These inserts were then run into the live programme whilst one of the presenters did a voiceover. In later years a magnetic sound stripe was added to the film to allow sound to be prerecorded in synch. Things didn’t always go to plan however, the splices in the film sometimes broke during projection or whilst being made ready to be shown. On one occasion a splice broke on the film that was going onto the take-up reel, the easiest thing to do at the time was to ignore it and therefore the film simply spooled directly onto the control room floor in a large pile. This edition of Topic was a good example of where things could and did go wrong. You’ll hear two situations where something happened and the presenter is called on the phone from the control and asked to ‘pad’ until it’s resolved. I thought it was fun if I left those in what you’ll be hearing.

Lord Penney interview in 1971
Lord Penney interview 1971

Now, I have called this Seen and Gone, but that’s not strictly true in this case. When I found the audio recording I remembered several spools of 8mm film. These are the original films used to insert into the programmes until portable video became available. They have sat there for 40 years waiting to be seen again. However the videos which they appeared in have long gone. But, in this case I had the soundtrack! So, what you are about to see is the recreation of a lost programme from 40 years ago. I remembered too that I had some photos of STOIC setting up and using the studio at Christmas…..bingo, it was THE same programme I had on audio. So, I’ve been able to use them and the 8mm films to insert at the appropriate places. There does appear to be one film missing and you’ll only hear the commentary and background sound effects. I discovered photos of Lord Penney being interviewed and those too are from the same programme.

So, you’ll be hearing and/or seeing: Guilds Motor club A-Z rally; NUS day of action; Silly Football in Hyde Park; Morphy Day rowing, the London to Brighton vintage car rally and the Lord Mayor’s Show. An interview with Lord Penney (then Rector) was prerecorded and I used the three photos taken at the time of that. Former Union President Piers Corbyn is included and I found a photo taken of that as well.  And there’s an added bonus too. Many of the 8mm films were shot with normal Kodak 8mm film stock, so for the first time ever these will be seen in colour. Other items were shot using black and white film. So here is my recreated Christmas Topic from December 1971 with mistakes and technical breakdowns left in.

Colin Grimshaw 2010

Seen and Gone: One

The one big disadvantage with videotape is that it can be erased. All too often a recording is considered of no further use and the tape is either thrown away or erased and re-used. But back in the early 1960’s and 1970’s it was cost that was the concerning factor. I recall that the first open reels of Ampex one-inch tape that we used cost around £30 each at that time, something more like £300 in today’s money. So, there was a desire to save money and therefore reuse old tapes again. Recently, I remembered that I had some audio tapes that I’d made from the sound tracks of various programmes and that these programmes had long since been erased. tape spoolsSo, I collected them all together and took out one of my faithful old reel-to-reel tape recorders sitting at home. What did I have and was there anything of interest? Well yes, very much so, it turns out. I had a few sound tracks of videos made with the student TV service STOIC for example. Always a good source of college history I listened to what the content was and to whether there might be a gem or two. On a live Christmas 1971 edition of their first news magazine programme TOPIC, I found interviews with Lord Penney (then Rector) about the recent 1971 NUS “Day of action”. This now takes the number of recordings we have of him from 4 to 5 and will be placed into the college archives. We’ll be seeing that programme, in ‘recreated’ form, in the next Seen and Gone number 2.

Sinclair Goodlad in 1967
Sinclair Goodlad in 1967

I also found a soundtrack to a series of programmes I made with Sinclair Goodlad. One of these programmes, which is a May 1972 interview with the very first student counsellor, still exists on the original one-inch videotape, although it has never been transferred to any modern format so at present we’re unable see it. The photo of Sinclair is from 1967 and was taken during one of his “20 minute talk” sessions he ran on Wednesday afternoons in Electrical Engineering. Behind him can be seen our very first videotape recorder, an enormous machine made by Philips and full of very hot valves.

 

Beer and Bangers at 170 in 1976

A nice piece of timing in my discoveries was an interview with Lord and Lady Flowers. This was recorded after one of their famous Beer and Bangers parties held in their flat at 170 Queen’s Gate. On the 20th October 1976 James Sinclair from STOIC went along with the portable videorecorder kit to ask a few questions about why the event takes place. It’s a pity that no photos were taken at the time.

 

Interview with Felix editor Clive Dewey 1976

Felix is the student union newspaper with its first edition dating from December 1949. The editor at the time of this next interview was Clive Dewey. There is mention of a colour edition and I think he was the first editor to achieve this. I recall Clive doing some things with STOIC as did another former Felix editor Mike Williams. Again James Sinclair is the interviewer in this 7th October 1976 recording.

Next time you’ll get to hear, (or is that see?) the 1971 Christmas edition of Topic, with some special surprises after 40 years of being lost….

Colin Grimshaw July 2010

Rectors: Lord Brian Flowers

Mary and Brian Flowers
Mary and Brian Flowers

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…)

Tywarnhale Mine, Cornwall, April 1980

RSM sign at the Tywarnhale mine site
RSM sign at the Tywarnhale mine site

It’s funny how things happen by chance. This months entry is a bit like that. I thought it was about time I made use of some of the footage that we have of the college’s Tywarnhale mine in Cornwall, when I looked at the label on the tapes I noticed that it was 30 years ago this month, April 1980 that I went down to Cormwall. The mine and surrounding land (purchased in 1909/11 with extra land purchased in 1912) was sold by Imperial in about 2005. Here’s a BBC Cornwall web page about the sale dated 15th October 2005. As we couldn’t find any real photos of it in the college’s archives, the picture of the RSM sign is from one of the videotapes I shot. Here’s a brief history of the mine from the “Cornwall Calling” website. Please click on MORE to continue… (more…)

Promotion: 1 – Imperial College

In one way or another, ever since we’ve had the use of video as a medium we have used it to promote things. You will have already seen in other posts the promotion of specific research projects or research groups and so on. But we’re going to start another series that shows how we’ve tried to promote the college as a whole. I’ll also mention that we’ll see how individual departments have tried this too, examples being: Chemistry, Civil Engineering and the Management School (now Business School), so watch out for those blog entries coming sometime soon.

To coincide with the 1985 centenary of the City and Guilds College an impressive exhibition was put on in the Junior Common Room in the Sherfield Building. Although this was primarily research work, schools were invited and special lectures and tours were held, Therefore, very large numbers of school children were going to visit the college  and there was, of course, huge possibilities for student recruitment. So, two promotional videos were (initially) commissioned to promote the college to school children and to potential postgraduates. This was also the first time that moving aerial footage was taken of both the South Kensington and Silwood campuses. The only unfortunate thing was that the footage was shot in January and we’d just had a downfall of snow, so the campuses don’t look too inviting!

The undergraduate promotion video was called “Studying for the Future” and shows all of the usual things to excite potential undergrads. Once again, the nice thing about this and the other videos, is the wonderful record of college life. Also, the campus as it then was, is recorded with the current students and staff going about their daily lives. I wonder how many alumni might actually spot themselves in some of the shots?

A second video was made at the same time. This was to show the research work and activies going on at Imperial and was entitled “Discovering the Future”. I hope you’ve spotted the trend with these titles of the videos all following a certain style with the “….the Future”? A large proportion of this second video was also seen in the video made for undergraduates. The theme used was of a ‘research file’ concept and when you see the video you’ll understand what I mean. And, can those former Blue Peter TV programme viewers spot Valerie Singleton doing the voiceover in this second video?

Next time I’ll show you a third video for those considering taking a masters degree. Can you guess what the title might be?

Colin Grimshaw March 2010

STOIC: Two

Coverage of Union election results live from the Great Hall
STOIC coverage of Union election results

Last time, we looked at the very start of STOIC with clips from things like: an early promotional video to join the club and Morphy Day on the tow path at Putney. Staying with that line of thought, this time we’re going to see an early example of coverage of a rag event, Election Results ‘live’ from the Great Hall and the days when students had a “Mooney” for lunch rather than an sandwich.

Firstly though, the idea for IC Radio started in 1974. In the days prior to the internet, to be able to hear radio, you needed a radio. For a radio to hear your broadcast you needed a transmitter (a legal one too). So, for IC Radio to operate it would need to be able to transmit.

By the time that IC Radio was about to open, there were ways to achieve this ‘within’ a building (as opposed to an actual transmitting aerial as such). As you will hear in the interview,  a ‘leaky feeder’ cable was the method used to enable broadcasts on the medium wave. Mark Caldwell (a former STOIC Chairman) and main presenter at the time, interviewed John Allen who became IC Radio Station Manager. This video is from 4 March 1976 and has a few glitches in its playback, but it’s not bad for 35 years of age.  John Allen has his own archive website with loads of old photos and sound clips, so you may wish to hop over and read more about it, click here.

Coverage of rag events was a regular and popular item within STOIC’s programme schedule. Whether it was: a simple collection; tiddlywinks down Oxford Street or, as we’re about to see, “Guilds Silly Sports” outside Harrods in Knightsbridge. This was always a good location for all involved, as it’s about 10 minutes from the South Ken campus. So, no one had to travel too far and this was important for STOIC when a rag took place on a Wednesday afternoon – the time in the week when STOIC’s news programme was recorded and edited. So, returning with the videotape to start editing was always the main thought for those waiting back in the studio. This is one of the earliest rags recorded back in 1979. Colin Palmer interviews those taking part and more importantly, those giving money…

Mark Caldwell a former STOIC Chairman in January 1975
Photo of Mark Calwell used in-vision in the early election days

Hustings, elections and the UGM, (where the results were announced) were also high on the STOIC list of events to be covered each year. When, in the early 70’s, parts of the college were linked by both video and audio cables an idea came to mind. Why not try and link from the great hall and report the UGM live via STOIC? When the idea was first suggested the technology was not quite in place to allow video as well as sound to be relayed back to the TV studio.

 

 

ICU Election Results 1980

So, in year one, Mark Caldwell presented live segments in sound only, with a photo of him showing in vision! Year two was a lot better and technology allowed a full linking in vision and sound. So, five years on from the first attempt, here’s a clip from the UGM of 1980 with Paul Johnson presenting (click red icon above).

But…this is just a bit different again. Why? Well, because by now STOIC was running its own live programme AND also linking into IC Radio at the same time. You’ll see what I mean in this clip and you’ll hear me on the earphone cue system which was clearly too loud that day! The slight pause before Dave Fuller starts speaking is because they were waiting for a cue from IC Radio to confirm the link-up between the two networks, all rather complicated for those early days.

Finally, if you were a student in the 1960’s to 1980’s you may well remember going for a “Mooney” at lunchtime. What was this? Well the answer is simple. Victor Mooney (Died on December 27th 2012 aged 89) was college Catering Manager from 1953 to his retirement in 1985. He became part of college tradition and so did his food, hence the reference “Mooney”. It’s a bit like saying you’re using a Hoover I guess. Over the years he came in for some serious complaining by the students, but, as he always said, if he was given a serious budget he could provide a serious meal. Here he is from 1979 talking to STOIC regular Dave Ghani.

Colin Grimshaw March 2010

STOIC: One

For this entry I’m showcasing something that we’ll be visiting many times more. STOIC, the Student Television Of Imperial College was formed in 1969 and is still running today some 40 years later, in fact it’s their 40th Birthday this week. Because they were taking a student point-of-view on college life and were free to feature and record what they wanted, they have left us with a unique record of Imperial College that does not exist elsewhere.

20 Minute talks taking place in 1967
Electrical Engineering’s 20 minute talks taking place in 1967

STOIC’s origins are with the Electrical Engineering Department (who owned and ran the original TV Studio) in  January 1969, after being formed following a suggestion from Sinclair Goodlad. The initial idea was to help operate the cameras for the departments “20 minute talks” that ran each Wednesday afternoon (see photo from 1967). This would give them something positive to do and would also give them experience prior to the setting up of an official union club and by October 1969 this had happened. The first experimental news programme was recorded on 17 February 1970 and was called “IC Newsreel”. Now 40 years later, this programme still exists on videotape and an extract from that programme can be seen in the 10th anniversary recording at the end of this current blog entry. In it you’ll see Professor John Brown, then head of the electrical engineering department speaking about the death of Lord Jackson the Pro-Rector. John Brown being a relative of Prime Minister Gordon Brown. Please click MORE to continue… (more…)

City and Guilds College

Margaret Thatcher Opening Tech2000
Margaret Thatcher Opening Tech2000

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.

Prince Philip at the Guild Hall
Prince Philip at the Guild Hall

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