During my time of writing this blog I have either discovered or rediscovered many items that are now considered unique. Most of the items are maintained on videotape, some on film and a few (very few) on audio tape. The archive that I created when the College TV Studio started is limited in its range. This is because of the nature of how we worked and how jobs were created and importantly who commissioned them. We were not able to simply go off and record what we thought might be nice and therefore create a stockpile of unwanted items. We had to wait for someone in college to request a job and ultimately book and pay for it.
STOIC, the Student TV Service did not have this problem. Everything, and almost anything, was fair game for them to record and to then be used in their weekly news-magazine programmes, either TOPIC, Lunchbreak or News-Break. As discussed in other blogs, in 2009 I was able to save the entire STOIC videotape archive from being put into a skip during major rebuilding work in the basement of the Students Union building.
When I was digitising a tape from their News-Break series I spotted something in the programme running order that jumped out at me. Item 7 “Prof Salam – Physics Lecture”. I realised immediately that this was Abdus Salam our 1979 Nobel Prize winner from our Physics Department. I recalled that I had looked before to see if either I had recorded anything of him or whether there was anything in the college archives – there was nothing. This then had to be important and potentially THE only recording that Imperial had and indeed it turned out (so far) to be the case.
Sadly this segment of Abdus Salam is brief, some 44 seconds remain. It was his lecture that took place in the college’s Great Hall in the Sherfield Building on 18 February 1980. Not only did STOIC cover the event but so did Felix and splashed it over their 22 February 1980 front cover with the headline of “Can I unify Gravity?”. The clip you’ll see includes the original studio introduction to the news item by David Ghani one of STOIC’s regular presenters on News-Break.
In 1982 the then Home Secretary announced that an independent inquiry under the chairmanship of Lord Hunt was to consider the broadcasting aspects of the possible expansion of cable television in the UK.
It was announced that they had managed to secure the help of Lord Hunt of Tanworth, Sir Maurice Hodgson and Professor James (Jim) Ring to conduct this inquiry. They had a lot to do in a short time, but they had already started work and a copy of the consultative document which they issued on 7 April 1982 had been placed in the Library of the House of Commons. Jim Ring was Professor of Infra-Red astronomy in the Department of Physics and appeared regularly on TV programmes such as the Sky at Night.
I knew Jim Ring well, and had previously recorded an archive interview with him in 1980. On the 21 October 1982 he came into the TV Studio to chat to STOIC’s Lawrence Windley about the committees work and their report.
The background to this weather forecast, and images, is something you may recall if you were around Imperial at the time. What I mean by this is, do you remember the Level 2 area of the Sherfield Building by the lifts in the early 1980’s? If you do then you might remember seeing the TV monitor that I oversaw the installation of. To the left of the two passenger lifts you would have seen a 15 inch monitor showing weather satellite images. These were a live feed from Atmospheric Physics where they were processing and animating, in false colour, the received data from MeteoSat using the Interactive Planetary Image Processing System (IPIPS).
A cable was run from Physics to both the Level 2 area of Sherfield and also straight down the walkway to the TV Studio. That meant that I could access the IPIPS feed from our patch panel. And, if you look at this photo (right) from 2007 you can still see the socket marked IPIPS. It was this feed that STOIC used in 1983 to provide their daily weather forecast. It was this processed end-result that Francis Wilson used for his BBC Breakfast weather forecast. You can see more of him using this feed when he did the weather from the Queen’s Tower in 1988.
This IPIPS feed used for STOIC’s weather has been recovered during the digitisation of the STOIC videotape archives.
Back in 2016 I posted some stock footage of the South Kensington Campus that I had shot in 1992. Here’s an updated version of that with footage shot 21 years ago in 1998. The quality will be better because it was originated on broadcast quality Betacam tape. You will see some nice views of Princes Gardens with both of the original Southside and Linstead Halls. Maybe you might even see yourself in the JCR or on the original Exhibition Road entrance and walkway? I’ve added some captions to remind you of the names of certain places along with any new names that might have come about since 1998, an example being Dalby Court.
I hope this might bring back some memories for those who were at Imperial during this time period.
On the 26th November 1997 a bust of P.M.S. Blackett, sculpted by Sir Jacob Epstein, was unveiled in the Blackett Laboratory to mark the centenary of Blackett’s birth. Patrick Blackett was head of the Department of Physics from 1953 to 1963 and was responsible for the design of the Physics building (since renamed the Blackett Laboratory). He was awarded a Nobel prize for research carried out while he was at the Cavendish Laboratory. He later became president of the Royal Society and a life peer. Talks about Blackett were given at the ceremony by Sir Bernard Lovell and Norman Barford. The bust, which is located in the main entrance hall of the Physics building, was unveiled by the president of the Royal Society, Sir Aaron Klug.
We have no moving images or sound recordings of Blackett in the Imperial Archives. I have found what must be one of a few moving images of him on the British Pathe web site and you can see that short clip below, but even then he’s mostly in the background.
During the unveiling ceremony there were speeches by Sir Bernard Lovell, Norman Barford and Sir Aaron Klug who then proceeded to officially unveil the bust which was mounted in the main entrance of the building.
This interview with Professor Jim (James) Ring (1927-2005) was recorded for the Imperial College Archives and this is the first time that it has been seen since it was made. Jim Ring was educated at the University of Manchester. He joined the staff there as a lecturer before moving to become Professor of Applied Physics at the University of Hull in 1962. He joined Imperial as Professor of Physics in 1967 and became Professor of Infra-Red Astronomy, having given his inaugural lecture in June 1968. As will become apparent from the interview, he was on the board of the Independent Broadcasting Authority for over 5 years. He also chaired the Imperial College Educational Technology Committee, which was how I got to know him. He featured a few times on the BBC Sky at Night as well as other BBC radio programmes. Ex Queen member Brian May completed most of his PhD in Astrophysics in Jim Ring’s group at Imperial College in 1970-74.
The interview was recorded in his office in the Physics Department and the interviewer was Grant Richmond. It was made in November 1980 and like all of these very old videotapes, it’s suffering slightly from its age. It was also shot using our (then) new colour equipment, which actually consisted of a single colour camera and portable u-matic recorder. It was not the world’s most amazing camera and needed a lot of light to get good pictures, which even then, looked ‘soft’. The photo above is a of me making the video at the college tin mine in April 1980 and is the same camera and recording equipment used for this interview.
Dr Harold R Allen came to Imperial College as a lecturer in October 1947 after completing a PhD at Cambridge’s Cavendish Laboratory. He made major contributions to the Physics Department but more importantly to the musical activities within the college.
In this interview, recorded in 1983 and not long before his retirement, he talks about the 1960 transfer from the old buildings occupied by Physics, to the brand new building on the corner of Prince Consort Road and Queens Gate. Physics was the first department within Imperial College to move into an entirely new building. As well as this, he discusses his colleagues that were in the department during his years as a member of staff. There’s an interesting anecdote too about the initial design of the Physics lecture theatre and columns that were originally planned, but which would have reduced vision across the entire space.
Sir Roderic Hill who was Rector the time (1948-1954), is discussed as being the person to have started what was then called General Studies. Lady Hill had discovered during a conversation with Dr Allen that he had an interest in music and asked him what was the strength of musical activities going on within the college. All of this lead to the formation of a choir to sing at the then newly created Commemoration Day, the purchase of a piano followed along with the creation of a ‘space for musical activities’. He became leader, organiser and treasurer of the college orchestra.
This interview was recorded in the Imperial College TV Studio on 18th July 1983, especially for the college archives. It was intended to capture the people and history of the college for others to enjoy in the future; we are doing that now, over 30 years later!
A piece of sad news from Linda Jones in the Blackett Lab is that Harold Allen died on September 5th of this year, 2014.
So far in writing these blog updates I have always had a wealth of information available to allow me to give some background to the making of the video. Usually I say something about the division or department for which the video was made. Twenty years ago in 1993 I was asked by the Imperial College Japan Office (based at South Kensington) to make a video to showcase the research work being undertaken in various departments at that time. An initial quick search by my colleague Anne Barrett from the college archives had revealed nothing! But, at the last minute Anne has saved the day with some background information she has managed to unearth. The Japan Office was established within Industrial Liaison in 1991 and was seen by Imperial College as “..a long-term commitment to fostering and strengthening its academic and contractual links with Japan”. Its main focus was to negotiate research contacts with Japan, but a fleeting reference in Hannah Gays history of Imperial says “…plans to open a Japan Office did not result in any serious Japanese investment in the college.” So, I can only assume that this is why it closed or more likely merged into another division. So, all I can do is to point out some of the interesting items featured and the research being undertaken when the video was made.
At the time, there was a great deal of activity relating to interdisciplinary research centres or IRC’s. The commentary points out that there were three government funded IRC’s at Imperial College, “..more than any other establishment in the country”. Great emphasis was made on the connections with: Hitachi; Nippon Steel; Fujitsu and Honda. Also, the locating of the Honda European Technology Centre on the college campus was pointed out. We then broke the video into various sections that you will see when you watch it. But these do include: Aerodynamics; Composite Materials; Semiconductor Design; Technology for Medicine and the worlds first Ecotron, opened at Silwood Park in 1991, only two years before I made the video. One other interesting item featured in the video is the ALICE computer -parallel graph reduction machine- produced in conjunction with ICL. The video starts with a brief history of the formation of Imperial College from its beginnings after the Great Exhibition held in Hyde Park in 1851.
In December 2010 former student Sir Brian May revisited Imperial College London as part of a BBC documentary programme retracing the early life of members of the group Queen. The documentary was called ‘Queen – Days of Our Lives‘ and was aired on BBC2 in May 2011. Brian May was Knighted in the New Years Honours list for 2023.
There does not appear to be much in the college about his time as a student, but I did find an interesting early reference to his involvement with Queen in the Felix archive. See the top of page 6 for a review of their album “Queen II” and note the reference: “…it is very unlikely that they’ll ever need to have connections with their previous vocations again.”
In the same article it referred to Queen’s Imperial concert in the previous term and I have found the advert for that event. I think 30p was reasonable admission to see what would become a World famous group!!!
But, in 2007 he became Dr Brian May after completing his PhD which had been left on hold since leaving Imperial to join Queen full time. Very appropriately in May 2008 he walked across the stage of the Royal Albert Hall as part of the college’s Postgraduate Awards Ceremony. A bow to the audience earned him a huge cheer.
During a short break in the BBC schedule he spoke about his time as a student at Imperial College in the early 1970’s. He’s seen here in Beit Quad, outside the Student Union Building on Prince Consort Road, two years ago today on 9 December 2010. And it was cold there at the time, but great to have met him.
Colin Grimshaw December 2012 (revised December 2022)