Starting in 1986 I made a series of videos for the college’s radiation protection advisor (RPA). The series came about because of the radiation training programme that Imperial then ran, down at Silwood Park. I was contacted by Margaret Minski (1937-2019) then the college’s RPA. She was interested in making a video to be used at one of the training courses being run at Silwood. The first of seven videos made from 1986 to 1990 was ‘Radioactive Waste Disposal on a Non-Industrial Scale’. Initially this was used only during the training course. However, after several courses were run, Margaret was getting enquiries as to whether copies of the video could be purchased. People who had been on the courses felt that having a copy of the video would allow them to have a better continued knowledge of what they had been taught.
So we started to produce small numbers of this first video and suddenly discovered that this could actually provide a small income, but who for? Margaret agreed with me that this would not be an area that she would want to get involved with. Trying to send out invoices and then split and distribute money was not worth wasting her time on. So, I proposed that we sell the videos and any income would go to the TV Studio and subsequent video production would be at no cost to Margaret; so long as income continued. And that was the basis for the production of all seven videos in the series.
The majority of the sequences were shot at the then Reactor Centre Laboratories at the Silwood Park Campus. The entire reactor site and labs have now been demolished, so some of the sequences are the only record of parts of the labs. The video below is made up from clips from three videos we shot. I selected these for two reasons. Firstly, we see the entrance to the labs and methods then used to both enter and leave the area. Secondly, we see Margaret in one clip explaining the process. The voice that you’ll hear in other sections is that of Dr Ruth Osborn, then the X-Ray Safety Advisor for Imperial, who acted as producer on all of the videos.
There are a few previous blogs about Live-Net, two in 2013 and one in 2018. But I’ve not really talked about where the system eventually was able to link to. Towards the end of the networks life it had been extended (42Km) all the way down to Royal Holloway in Surrey and eventually a little further (6Km) down the road to the Imperial College field station at Silwood Park. You can click on the Live-Net map over on the right to view it bigger.
The reason for the extension to Silwood Park was primarily to enable the temporary installation of an ESA Satellite uplink station. The Olympus satellite was, by this time, (1989 launched) then operational. To cut a very long story short, the Silwood Park uplink enabled any of the connections within Live-Net to get TV pictures across Europe. In October 1990 we did just that, for a very technically complicated programme involving the French Association of Veterinary Surgeons Annual Conference being held in Poitiers, France. The link from France was provided by France Telecom. The feed was sent via normal ground connections to the London BT Post Office Tower. As you can see from the Live-Net map, we also had a feed to and from the BT Tower. That bit was easy…
Then came the complicated bit. They wanted London participation from various groups including the UK’s chief veterinary officer to allow a discussion on the then major topic of BSE, otherwise known then as Mad Cow Disease. So the concept was that the French feed would arrive at the Imperial College TV Studio mixer and that at the appropriate time our studio guests would take over and contribute. However, this is where it got complicated. They wanted a two-way discussion to happen, so my audio had to feed all the way back to France! It turned into a bit of a ‘Eurovision Song Contest’ in the end. But it still didn’t get any easier, because we had to have two-way simultaneous translation French to English and then English to French. For this a double sound booth with two translators was installed at the rear of the studio. We all wore earphones to hear what was being said. In France they would occasionally insert videos and graphics which was no problem for me. However, London wanted to do this too, so it got even more involved. We were never sure just when the French participants would want to link to us, so we were always poised to switch feeds and start the sound translations. The first video is when we were called upon to come into action.
Even more involved was that they wanted me to provided an edited version of my promotional video that I’d made about Live-Net and get a summarised commentary recorded in French and this is what you can see next.
Of course I had to expect potential problems and I didn’t take any chances in case something happened. And it did! The incoming vision feed from France Telecom/BT just disappeared during one of the London participation segments and I was left with a blank screen. But I did have a stand by caption ready for such a situation. Luckily the vision feed reappeared and we were back to normal again. My end result vision and sound feeds were sent back to Live-Net and thus onward down to Silwood Park and via the ESA uplink station to Europe (seen left) on the Olympus Satellite. I was also watching our feed coming back to me from the satellite so I could see if we were actually transmitting or not. And that was the other problem. You can’t just uplink to a satellite without a specified start and end time because there are other people wanting to do something similar. So we couldn’t start until the correct time, but equally we had to finish at the right time too. I don’t think our colleagues in France appreciated this because they didn’t realise that time was running out. I had a permanent open phone link with them and was updating them on timings. When the end was approaching I expected them to sum-up and run end credits, but nothing was happening. I ended up yelling at them to “run the end credits” and rather abruptly you’ll see their end video appear on screen and then run, taking them all by surprise, with various words in French about the loss of satellite time and goodbye. A few seconds later I saw our feed disappear from the Olympus satellite so we only just made it in time. THE most complicated event I have ever done, with me alone doing live vision and sound mixing along with inserting graphics, videotape and talking on the phone, whilst my colleague operated cameras and then broadcasting to the whole of Europe. Phew!
It’s 50 years since the official opening of the University of London Reactor Centre housed at Imperial’s Silwood Park campus. Silwood Park is located about 25 miles West of Central London, near the village of Sunninghill, Ascot, Berkshire. On 22nd June 1965 the official opening took place with the Principal of the University of London, along with the Imperial College’s Rector Sir Patrick Linstead, Pro Rector Sir Owen Saunders and Chairman Lord Sherfield. In 2011 the process application to decommission the ‘GEC 100kW Consort’ reactor was started and is being continued today. Sadly, although the archive has BBC Footage shot at the 1965 opening ceremony, it’s minus the sound track, so the on-screen presentation and interviews mean very little. That’s rather a disappointment as it captures a key part in the college’s history. The photo on the right is during construction. What I do have is a segment from the 1982 documentary that I made about Silwood Park and fortunately we shot a section about the reactor and its operation. Tracy Poole spoke with Dr McMahan a lecturer in Physics about the operation of the reactor centre. We shot inside the main reactor hall, control room and experiments lab. I’m so glad we did this because it will be the only archive material shot about the reactor before it eventually disappears for good. Because it’s a ‘pool type’ water cooled and water moderated reactor it’s possible to open the reactor up and seen inside the core (yes it’s true). Then you will see a bright blue glow caused by the Cherenkov radiation. The image on the left show this glow which I witnessed myself when I took the shots for the video whilst standing on top of the reactor. When we made this video the reactor centre was still relatively new and only 17 years old, now it’s celebrating 50 years! As indeed I do myself, later this year, with 50 years of working at (and since early retirement, occasionally with) Imperial College!
Below is the documentary extract about the reactor centre and also some lovely aerial helicopter footage we had shot, which shows the beautiful Silwood Park campus.
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.
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.
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!
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 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?
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.
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.
For the first and second programmes the technology limited the students to 1/ recording only within the confines of the studio and 2/ recording in one go, that is, without any form of editing. Because of this, showing things outside of the studio was clearly not possible, but there was a simple solution by using 8mm home movie film. STOIC shot short items on film and edited them into a suitable order for use in the programme. The films were silent and frequently in black and white, although some do exist in colour (the videod programmes were black and white). Although a small collection of those 8mm films are still around, the news programmes that they were shot for have long since been erased. This was due to the fact that videotapes cost around £30 at that time. So, all these years later we are still able to see short film clips of events and that’s what we’re going to do now.
This is a film clip from the early 1970’s and may well be featured in one of the first two programmes still on tape. But here it is in its original 8mm film version as used in the programme. It’s a student union meeting being run by the union president Piers Corbyn and we’re lucky that Lord Penney, the Rector, was clearly addressing and answering questions from students. This 8mm cine film is interesting because, besides the videotape interview, this is the only other moving film record of Lord Penney at Imperial College. Remember this is silent and in black and white.
STOIC were well underway by the time of this next video from June 1971. It focuses on the fact that they were heavily involved with the camera operation for the student’s 20 minute talks in Electrical Engineering. A mock-up talk is given by a STOIC member, who was also in the department as a student. The video was made to get members to join in the October of that same year. It should be remembered that at this time almost no one would have had access to video cameras, let alone a videotape machine, so being in STOIC gave people that access. Some of the technology behind the scenes is shown to enthuse students to join. It’s all very basic and looks a bit faked, you’ll see some flashes between sections where the videotape machine was stopped and then restarted to allow sections to be recorded (no editing as such at that time). Tim Dye, the chairman, appears at the end of the video to encourage people to join. This was made nearly 40 years ago so quality is poor, but it’s amazing that it has survived to this day!
This next photo is interesting as it features the former Student’s Union President (1975-1977) Trevor Phillips being interviewed by Desmond King. This would have been for one of the weekly news programmes. Trevor went on to work (briefly) in TV himself with LWT, so perhaps these early outings were his first step towards that. Trevor will also feature in other videos in future posts on STOIC. He is (as of Feb 2010) chair of the Equality and Human Rights Commission. At this time, all main events were still studio bound, but things would soon change. 8mm cine film would soon be a thing of the past for their news programme coverage. Skipping forward some 8 years STOIC had bought their own portable videocamera recording system. This allowed them to go outside and record the type of events that students get involved with.
Morphy Day was one such event to be covered annually. Originally, on the day each year, just a cup was presented for rowing, but in later years on Morphy Day the towpath at Putney was also the scene for battles between supporters of the various teams. All sorts of waste food matter, flour and dead fish were hurled at each other. This was just too good an opportunity to miss and so we can now see Morphy Day from 1979, but we can’t smell it thank goodness. This event no longer happens and is therefore yet another unique record of college life and its traditions from years past.
Finally, to end this first look at STOIC we have a video made to celebrate the first ten years of its operation. Because students will come and go in a natural cycle of time I was the only person who knew the history and the people involved since 1969. Although the formation became official in 1969, the first 10 years were actually celebrated in February 1980, this was to coincide with the first programme being made in February 1970. In conjunction with the current membership we made a video that celebrated all that had happened since the beginning.
Indeed a lot has happened during the time, going from black and white into colour was an obvious improvement and being able to edit was a major leap forward. A party was organised and every STOIC chairman to date attended (above photo). Jumping forward some 30 years perhaps an updated version is now long overdue? I hope those who remember watching STOIC’s programmes, or those who were members, enjoyed this first look back into their archives. So it’s another Happy Birthday to STOIC, 40 years old this very month!
In 1982 we made a video that was a co-production between the TV Studio and STOIC (Student Television Of Imperial College). The students had been keen to make a video about the life and workings of Silwood Park, the college’s field station near Ascot in Berkshire. Their resources were limited to allow this and it would have meant that the video would have been made in black and white. So, I offered to work with them to make something better and in colour. I’m glad we went down this route because now we have a unique record of life there in the early 1980’s. We’ll come onto talking about the video later on.
Silwood’s history is quite long and to help me out, here’s a snippet from the college’s page on “Silwood Park – Past and Present”….
“Imperial College acquired Silwood Park and Ashurst in 1947, as a Field Station to provide a site for research and teaching in those aspects of Biology not well suited for the main London campus. The Manor House is the original Silwood Park house, built in 1878, designed by Alfred Waterhouse, who also designed the Natural History Museum in London, South Kensington and Strangeway Prison. Silwood was requisitioned as a military hospital and convalescent home during WWII, so when the College took it over in 1947 it was surrounded by bleak, but useful, single-storey wards and offices. Some still survive; the present Refectory, Stores and Field Course laboratories are gems of the period. Presumably no-one in 1940 anticipated a working life of over sixty years for these ‘temporary’ edifices.”
To read the full story on Silwood Park click here.
The estate is some 250 acres in size. To help give you an overview of this, I’ve found some of the aerial shots of the campus taken in 2008. My colleague Martin Sayers went, with a camera crew, on a morning’s shoot around all of the college’s campuses. The pictures were actually shot in high definition using a gyro-stabilised camera, mounted in a twin-engine squirrel helicopter. The helicopter was flown from Redhill Aerodrome.
I recently discovered a batch of old 8mm cine films shot for various TV programmes made by STOIC. Back in the early days, we, and STOIC alike, had no means to shoot video outside of the TV Studio – other than using very long cables. To be able to show things outside, STOIC resorted to using 8mm movie film. This was cut and run into a programme with a sound commentary added live at the time. As time progressed, a small magnetic sound stripe was added to the film and this allowed a commentary to be synched directly to the film well in advance of the programme being recorded on videotape.
Touchstone weekend 1970
What I found was some film, shot in 1970 (click red icon above). This was from the very first STOIC news programme called “IC Newsreel” recorded on 17 February 1970 (shown the following day in the Junior Common Room). The item is about a Touchstone weekend that was held at Silwood Park. These came out of an idea by former Rector Roderic Hill and started in around March 1950. The weekends were run with the idea where “…students could discuss a range of topics (many of current interest) together with experts…”
If you can identify anyone in the film please let me know via the comments option at the bottom of this page. Ken McDowall (1909-1997) was appointed to run General Studies in 1952 and also to take over the Touchstone weekends and you can see him in the film, appearing to be providing some alcoholic relief to some of the students! There is an archive edition of Felix on KEN McDowall click here to take you to the pdf file.
You may have also spotted Silwood Park being used in the video “Translations: Engineering Design 2020AD” which is featured in the blog on Professor Bob Spence. We used the grounds and main house for most of the video. The sequence showing the dinner party was shot in the main entrance hall.
And so now on to that Silwood Park documentary we made in 1982. For those who know Silwood Park and the people who were there at the time this will, I hope, bring back some happy memories. You’ll see Professor Michael Way, then Director of Silwood, talking about the field station and what it does. Also featured are many people involved in research including Professor (then Dr) Graham Matthews who at the time was running the overseas spraying machinery centre. Dr Matthews demonstrates the electrostatic spraying ‘bozzel’ technique developed with ICI and when he operates it you’ll hear a click on the audio from the static charge.
A sequence, shot out in the fields, shows the work being carried out on the ‘black bean aphid’. At the Reactor Centre (above, right), Dr McMahan discusses the work and role of the University of London centre and we get a unique look inside the reactor whilst it’s operating. Professor (then Dr) Bob Sinden discusses his research work on Malaria. This interview is interesting because it was shot at Ashurst Lodge, sold six years later in 1988. The whole video is a snapshot of life and work at Silwood Park in the early 1980’s. The presenter and interview is Tracy Dudley (nee Poole) who was an active member and presenter with STOIC for many years. You will see more of her in other videos I’ll be featuring from STOIC’s archive that we now house.