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. So, 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.
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.
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.
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….
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).
Although you’ll find a version of this first video posted on other Imperial pages I think it’s important to repeat it here and set it in context. Also, this is the full version which includes an interview with Lady Flowers. At that time, what eventually became the ‘family room’, was then the music room with a grand piano occupying most of the space. I thought it might be fun to ask him to sit at the piano for the first part of the recording which was about him, his work and what the Rector of Imperial did on a day to day basis. As always he happily agreed and so that it what you’ll see first. Because Mary Flowers was so much part of his life at Imperial, the second part was shot in the Sitting Room with them both talking about their “Imperial life”.
As always, I’m including something that has only recently been re-discovered. On the 20th January 1984 STOIC recorded a studio interview with Brian Flowers who, by then was Lord Flowers of Queen’s Gate. Unlike other interview with him, he not only talks about his work as Rector, but as the then Chairman of the CVCP (Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals). He also touches on obtaining his MA at Cambridge, being a visiting professor at MIT in the USA and his earlier job at the Atomic Energy Research Establishment. Also discussed was something that was new at that time, Imperial College spin-out companies.
Finally, the last video shot with both Brian and Mary Flowers. For the 2007 centenary I had proposed a series of videos with all living Rectors. And we all felt it appropriate that we should interview both Brian and Mary Flowers at what was, their home for 12 years, 170 Queen’s Gate. In this extract, they discuss having a good working and social relationship with the student body and what was their most memorable event in the college calendar, the beer and bangers evenings. Here they are in the Council Room in 170 Queen’s Gate.
I’d been a regular visitor to 170 during their 12 years at Imperial. On one occasion Mary had persuaded me to provide and run some background music for her fund raising fashion show event for the day nursery, as mentioned in the last video. Nothing too ordinary was this event though, as we had Princess Anne attending…and without warning Mary suddenly insisted I was introduced, sadly no photo was taken. My last meeting with Brian Flowers was 2 years ago when Mary asked me if I could call in and see them, because she wanted to ask me a favour. They were, by now, living in north London and so I called in one lunchtime and had the most hospitable lunch with them sitting around the kitchen table and chatting about Imperial and all the latest news (and gossip too). And that takes me back to the kitchen at 170 and the many times Mary insisted on making me a cup of tea, if I were ever there, for some reason or another…..
Last time, in STOIC One, 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…
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.
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.
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.
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’s 75 years 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.
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, see page 4.
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.