I have recently rediscovered the first interview shot with a Rector in colour. It was recorded in December 1980 in the Sherfield Building office of Lord Flowers (1924-2010) who was Rector from 1973 to 1985.
The student TV (STOIC) had expressed an interest in interviewing him and I agreed to collaborate in the recording to enable it to be shot in colour. I thought at the time, that this would be good from an archive point-of-view. And 34 years later, my idea has just paid off! There are several other blog entries on Lord and Lady Flowers, but this one had escaped me until now. The interviewer is Mike Prosser, with an introduction made in the college’s former TV Studio. The interview was made as a ‘special’, within the normal weekly programme called News-Break. That programme was transmitted to all of the college halls across campus, as well as the union building. As in previous early colour videos featured within this blog, it will not be up to even the standards of a modern domestic camcorder, but at least we do have it. The previous colour interview with Lord Flowers was featured in my 2010 entry. That previous video was from 1984 and I had only just rediscovered it, so this 1980 video is adding to our collection. The last time I saw Lord Flowers was during a short visit to his house and we were sitting around his kitchen table having lunch with Lady Flowers.
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!
The oldest videotape recording of one of our rectors of Imperial College is that of Lord Penney (1909-1991). Rector of the college from 1967 to 1973 he took the post over from Sir Owen Saunders who was acting rector from 1966 to 1967 after the death of Sir Patrick Linstead in 1966. Recorded in 1971 for showing to students via the fledgling Student Television of Imperial College (STOIC). I can’t remember whether or not this was part of one of the trial news programmes called IC Newsreel, or perhaps designed as as stand-alone programme, I think maybe the latter is more likely.
Our studio, if you could have called it that, was rather basic and sparse. As you’ll see in the video we had no background of any type at that time. The rare colour photo shows a slight improvement in 1974 when we managed to get some grey curtains! As this was well before the advent of the ‘tie-clip’ microphone, we used what were called neck-mics. A microphone on a thin cord that went around the neck and were very common at that time for PA system use. They did however provided much better sound than trying to use mics on stands or similar.
A former student of Imperial College, Lord Penney initially worked on the Manhattan Project during WW2 and was a flight observer of the dropping of the bomb on Nagasaki. Penney was asked in 1947 to head the team that ultimately produced Britain’s first nuclear test and in 1957 this was successfully carried out off of the Australian coast. He touches very briefly upon this during the interview, even though he was reluctant to discuss it in any great detail (he doesn’t actually mention the British nuclear test). You can watch the TV programme Equinox which includes an interview with Lady Penney. The interviewer for our video was Dave Willis, who I know very little about, other than he was a computer science postgrad student, but I don’t recall the years that he was at Imperial.
This is a newly restored version of the video that was shot originally on Ampex one-inch tape format. I’ve managed to clean, and brighten up, the image to a certain degree, but it is 42 years old. The original master tape now resides in the Imperial College Archives. On the link to the film of Operation Hurricane you’ll see Penney (on board a boat) turning around and using Binoculars to see the resulting explosion.
If you are new to the blog or perhaps arrived via the Alumni web page, you might have missed some previous gems. If you go back further to earlier entries you will find some memories of Imperial College captured on videotape. One such recording is the only interview we have with Victor Mooney (Died on December 27th 2012 aged 89), college catering manager from 1953 to 1985.
He was a major figure in college life, especially with the student’s phrase “Going for a Mooney”, which meant going to the refectory for a meal of some kind. Do you remember the Upper and Lower Refectories in Southside? How about WAITRESS service in part of the Refectory in Sherfield? And also a time when the JCR eatery was still called the “Buttery”!
I have now managed to clean up the quality of the recording which was made in November 1979, just prior to us going into full colour. Here’s Victor Mooney, in the College TV Studio, talking to STOIC regular presenter Dave Ghani.
If you have any film or photos of the college eating places in use during the years before say 1970, then please get in touch. Please also add comments or memories of eating at Imperial 🙂
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.
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!
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.
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!
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.
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.
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). Please click on MORE to continue reading this post.(more…)
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…
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.
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. Please click MORE to continue… (more…)