It’s pure coincidence that back in November I selected this particular video for the April blog. I guess it seems appropriate for today’s current pandemic situation and although being April 1st, sadly, it really is no joke.
Health and Welfare were items that featured on STOIC’s News programmes on a regular basis, starting way back in the early 1970’s in fact. In 1980 the college health centre in Princes Gardens had just been updated and improved. Mike Prosser went along to see the latest developments and to chat with Pat Kilshaw about the services and facilities available to students. We also get to see the sickbay with 5 beds. I also seem to recall that I actually shot this video for them.
This is a lovely record of what college facilities looked like 40 years ago.
As mentioned in a previous blog about rag events, here is one of only two surviving recordings of a Pram Race. This is from 1978 when comedian Willie Rushton(1937 – 1996) took part. It started at Southside in Princes Gardens and seemed to work its way down Exhibition Road to South Kensington. STOIC’s Lunch Break reporter Colin Palmer (a former Felix editor) followed along and interviewed as the procession progressed.
I have also discovered a video of a Raft Race taking part in Hyde Park. These also seemed to start from Princes Gardens, but more of that soon.
First though, here is that 1978 Pram Race, and did YOU take part?
In the 1970’s it seemed to be the ‘in thing’ to get celebrities to open the Union Rag Fete each year. In 1978 it was Diana Rigg (1938-2020) (Dame Diana) who was asked to perform the duty of opening the event. As usual it was held in Princess Gardens and the day was Saturday 6 May. Sadly in the FELIX archive there are no editions recorded (assumed lost) for the years 1977 and 1978. This makes it a little difficult to get any further background details about the fete and how much was raised on the day.
Luckily though, STOIC were there to record the event and were able to get an interview with Diana Rigg. Judging by the ‘shuttered concrete’ background, this was clearly shot somewhere in Southside. Once again this video was rescued during the digitisation of the STOIC video archive and was originally shot on the Sony “Rover” recorder and mastered on the old Ampex One Inch videotape format. And, because the editions of FELIX for that period, now appear lost, this is the only record of that day.
UPDATE: Thanks to Martin Watson for the Felix centre page spread scan, seen at the top. Martin has some of the missing copies in his personal ‘bound’ collection of issues. Click the image to make full screen.
For a thankfully brief period, 39 years ago, in May 1980, life in and around Imperial College changed. This was due to the now famous Iranian Embassy siege that took place in Princes Gate. The main concern for Imperial College was the fact that in Northside of Princes Gardens the buildings of: Weeks Hall, Garden Hall, Sports Centre and more, all backed onto the embassy building. I recall students from Weeks Hall telling me that they had to keep all windows closed and covered and to stay away from the windows at all times.
That week’s copy of Felix the student newspaper seemed to be somewhat concerned that the Rag Fete would have to be relocated to the Queens Lawn rather than Princes Gardens as planned. They also included a photo of a police marksman somewhere behind the embassy, probably in the rear gardens of college property and that there was also one of the roof of Weeks Hall. There was also mention of at least one Imperial student being arrested.
Clearly this was news for both Felix and in particular for STOIC. With the aide of their trusty portable camera and recorder they ventured off to report of what was happening. Thanks to the current digitisation of the STOIC videotape archive I found all three location reports and saved them. These reports were such hot news that they had to be fitted in prior to and after, the showing of the weekly news programme NewsBreak at lunch time and in the evening. Mike Prosser was continuity voice-over that day and introduced the clips.
41 years ago in 1978 the big question of the day was will the Linstead Hall extension in Princes Gardens be built, because finances were not going as planned ? As you will see from the video, this question was being asked in both Felix the student newspaper and on STOIC during its weekly news programme Lunch Break.
We are indeed lucky that during the current digitising of batches of STOIC videos, I’ve found two items related to this topic. The first from 1978 has an on site report from James Miller and then an interview, in the TV Studio, with James Sinclair talking to Hugh Barrett, the then Student Union President. Lastly and amazingly, we have another on site report by Mike Prosser after the project was actually completed and the building finally opened.
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.
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!
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.
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.