I have a feeling that this is yet another RAG event that has long disappeared. The Chariot Race down Oxford Street from Speaker’s Corner was last referenced in FELIX way back in 1976 and has not been mentioned since. Well, until today of course because we have some silent 8mm film once again shot by STOIC. This was yet another item featured in their weekly news programme TOPIC. This particular item has suffered from the ‘home processing’ that was carried out on these black and white films. I think that a combination of over exposure and dodgy processing has resulted in rather poor quality. However, it is a wonderful record of what Imperial students used to get up to to raise money during RAG week 50 years ago.
This 8mm film that we have is from 1972 and is not even listed in the STOIC archive index. That is simply because the original videotape in which the film was used no longer exists. In this case I cannot find any corresponding audio, which I assume was added during the recording of TOPIC, so it will appear silent.
The Inter-CCU Raft Race across the Serpentine in 1979 is yet another part of college history that’s very difficult to find anything about. I can certainly find several references to the event in Felix, but nothing about why it started. What I can tell you is that this 1979 race is the first I found mentioned, so it could have been the first race to happen and the reason why STOIC recorded it.
Of the listings in FELIX, there are only mentions of the fact that it’s happening or that it had already happened and which CCU won it (photo on right). Just one tiny extra piece I found was this ‘thanks’ from the Union President who said after the 1979 race: “Thanks to the Underwater Club for giving up their Sunday Lie-In to ensure the safety of the Raft Race“. And there was one photo in Felix announcing that RCS had won the race.
So sit back and enjoy this brief coverage of what may have been the very first Raft Race across the Serpentine in London’s Hyde Park. It started in Prince’s Garden and then up the roads to Hyde Park.
Let’s go back 50 years this month to see the RAG Procession taking place around the High Street Kensington area. This is yet another ‘find’ in the archives. I had just digitised a whole collection of 8mm films and spliced together on one reel were three films with white leader in-between. All of the films were used in the now lost series of STOIC news programmes called TOPIC.
Because the only method to cover events was on 8mm film, a collection of these were kept; even though the programme videotapes were erased 50 years ago. I also recalled that I’d discovered a reel of audio tape marked STOIC Sound Archives along with a written list of what was on the tape. I went back to the list and RAG Procession was listed there. I digitised the segment and discovered that it was a pre-recorded voice-over and background sound that would have run in sync with the film when used in the programme. I also recognised the voice of STOIC member Robin Davies recording the commentary. Getting the sound off of the tape was not very easy because it was spliced into the reel of tape the wrong way around and was also over-recorded onto a tape that had an original 1/2 track recording on it and this was breaking through. Never the less, I got the tracks off and attempted to sync them up with the original film. It then appeared that the commentary and background sound did not cover the entire length of the film, but rather started at a later point. Therefore the section at the start is mute before the sound track commentary starts. I guess a decision was made to not use the first 30 seconds of the now edited film. When I was digitising the tape I could hear clearly a film projector running in the background and assume that’s how the commentary was synced with the film when it was recorded by Robin. Former STOIC Chairman Tim Dye recently passed a diary listing onto me of things that were happening between 1972-1973. I can now tell that Tim was the person who actually filmed this event on Saturday 12 February 1972 and would also certainly have edited it.
So for the first time in 50 years here again is that RAG Procession film, seen as it was originally shot in colour, but only ever seen once in black and white. And of course with that slightly delayed start to the commentary.
During most academic years STOIC would actively cover the ICU Elections. These became a very important part of their news events and of course included the famous live coverage of hustings and election results from the Great Hall. To assist people with finding out what was involved in these elections many different people came into the studio to talk to STOIC. Way back in January 1981 it was Liz Lindsay’s turn to be in front of the cameras. Liz was then ICU Honorary Secretary and she was chatting to Grant Richmond.
On the 29 November 1979 edition of STOIC’s News-Break, Bryan Steele spoke to the Rag Chairman, Rachel Snee about how she thought things had gone so far. There then followed a video of the “Exec Torture” which she had taken part in. The following week on the 5 December there the first of two summaries of Rag Events that had happened. On the 13 December programme, which was also the Christmas Special, the last summary was shown.
Both of these were brought together, and also compiled by, Alastair Knights, who was at that time the STOIC Archivist. This time period is now important because it’s the year when we moved onto the Sony U-Matic tape format, and videotapes were then subsequently kept. Up until then Ampex format videotapes were erased and re-recorded over each week. I encouraged the setting up of a card index and the inclusion of a running order in each tape box. From all of this we now have this amazing archive and associated index – which is now digitised.
Sadly, all of these video items were still being recorded in black and white, or maybe it was better that way? You judge for yourself as we go back 42 years into student Rag history…
On 5 December 1979 the editor of the student newspaper Felix called into the TV Studio to chat to STOIC about the 30th birthday. Colin Palmer was then the editor of Felix having already appeared on STOIC several times. Adrian Jeakings chatted to Colin about the beginnings of the newspaper and we had an actual copy of the very first edition to show just how very basic it was back then in 1949. They even discuss the Felix cat!
Colin Palmer was indeed no stranger to appearing on camera having covered the Pram Race in 1978. I hope you’ll also spot the STOIC sweatshirt that he’s wearing during this interview.
Negotiations were begun by the Architectural Association Council in the early 1960’s to incorporate the A.A. into the state education system by discussing the idea of merging with Imperial College. Imperial broke off negotiations in February 1970 citing concerns at the nature and intentions of the AA school community. The decision to call off the negotiations left the Architectural Association stunned and many students at I.C. and the A.A. dissatisfied. The I.C. governors raised various issues in coming to their decision. On the actual fusion of the A.A. within a composite College of Science and Technology, Lord Penney wrote that the A.A. desired the fusion “only on their own terms’.
The AA Principal and the AA Council prepared for closure and the winding up of the school. Students and staff mobilised and a search committee for a new Chairman was established, resulting in the election in 1971 of Alvin Boyarsky. Ultimately he transformed the AA into a major international cultural institution.
As part of all of this, on 10 February 1970 Imperial College Union (along with AA students) organised a Moratorium as a protest at the break-down of the talks. The Union cited this as being the first public demonstration at Imperial College. Of course this didn’t go without STOIC noticing and a film camera crew were there to capture events. By chance, on the 17 February the very first news programme called IC Newsreel was recorded; it was shown the following day in the Junior Common Room. One of the organisers John Goodman came into the TV Studio to discuss what had happened and to introduce the film that STOIC had shot. This and the next IC Newsreel are the only two programmes to survive from those early years. But the actual 8mm film also survives after 50 years. What was different was that the film was in colour and the programme was in black and white. I have therefore taken the videotape sound track and re-synced with the HD version of the 8mm film.
In re-syncing the film and audio I ran into a problem. Whatever I did, I couldn’t get the original sound and new film transfer to match. Eventually I re-watched the video and discovered that two very small sections are now missing from the 8mm film compared to what was used in the TV programme in 1970. Coming to my rescue was Andy Finney STOIC’s first chairman and producer of the programme. He was involved with the filming and told me that after the film was used in the programme it was later shown at a students union meeting. I therefore can only assume that either these sections were removed, or more likely they were damaged when being shown at the meeting and then removed. So I’ve cheated and replaced the missing sections with the 50 year old, but very poor quality, videotape. (See update below)
For the keen eyed you will see some blue hoarding when the group is in Imperial Institute Road (now Imperial College Road) and this was the start of the demolition of the old Chemistry Building. Also some staff are seem in white lab coats on the steps of the old Chemistry Building just before the blue hoarding shot.
Here then is the re-synced film in colour from 50 years ago. Oh, and also spot a miss spelling on banners.
UPDATE AUGUST 2022: In digitising a 1971 student project film (more about that at a later point) I have found the missing footage mentioned earlier. It’s the film (in colour) that you will see inserted from the original videotape, but in black and white.
How was Christmas celebrated around Imperial College in years past? Very little remains in terms of records and archives of what happened or indeed what the campus actually looked like. We do have a glimpse of what people saw through the lens of STOIC and via the videotapes that remain. For the weeks leading up to Christmas of 1981 it was a time to announce that this particular year was the first that STOIC would be in full colour (better late than never). What better way for them to celebrate this, than to ‘make festive’ their very own logo. If anyone remembers the original BBC One moving logo, then this Imperial College version by its students gives a feel from the period. This only exists because it was archived on videotape and has remained unseen for these nearly 40 years. Interestingly, this would not now be possible to make. The shot was taken from the TV Studio window and that’s Mech Eng in the background. The Faculty Building would now block the entire view and besides, the college closed the studio anyway! The trees (now gone) of Dalby Court had genuine snow on them back in December 1981, so this gave a festive feel for a few days at least. The TV monitors in the Junior Common Room, Southside, Union and Weeks Hall all displayed “Christmas in Colour” prior to, and after STOIC’s transmissions on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 1pm and 6pm.
STOIC’s Christmas 1981 didn’t end with just this logo. They were prompted to replicate Blue Peters very own Advent Crown. But don’t worry, this was far from being sensible and indeed is typical of “silly” students at their best. Martin Cowan was the main leader of silliness that year and he’s emailed me to say that he has fond memories of his time at Imperial. A lot of effort was put into this sequence including shots outside around the Queens Tower and in (what was) the workshop area of the college TV Studio on the main campus walkway. Even at the end of the programme there were still laughs to be had from the presenters. Oh well it was Christmas I guess and a time when we still had a Rector! The picture of the Christmas studio crew was taken at the end of the 1981 recording. Sadly though, two of that crew pictured here have since died, but their contributions can still be seen today in the saved STOIC videotape and film archive.
And finally, something a little different. Martin Cowan was also involved in a music group called SSIK. The last video we’re going to see was their contribution to the Christmas programme. In a somewhat complicated and psychedelic production that they filmed all around Imperial. Can you spot the obvious Albert Memorial and steps leading to the Albert Hall? Also. eagle-eyed might also spot the sequence from the top of the Union Building along with some interior corridor shots too. The editing was very involved when they were trying to match-up the music track to what had been shot outside. I was asked to help on the editing and to also add the colourising, and we might have gone a little over the top with that perhaps? Anyway, it’s a bit unusual and something to cheer us all up these 40 years later with various UK restrictions in place (Covid-19).
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year and let’s hope it will be a better year in 2021.
In December 1981 and January 1982 STOIC’s news programme had reports on the proposed integration of Queen Elizabeth College in Kensington, INTO Imperial College. The main theme of the proposal was that Q.E.C would have been incorporated into IC as a fourth constituent college.
So, in December 1981 the college statement said; the bioscience part of Q.E.C is proposed to be physically moved to the IC site, which would require a new building (probably on the site next to new Chemistry). The physical sciences at Q.E.C would be “accommodated elsewhere within the university”. Joint planning and consultative committees would be set up to achieve a closer working relationship prior to the eventual integration. The timescale of the proposal is approximately five years, but major developments might be expected before that time. The proposal is in response to the problems of finance and student numbers facing London University (that Imperial was then part of). It is not clear however just what financial savings would be made, and no mention is made of this in the statement. Student numbers would presumably fall, although the new ‘super IC’ would be larger than it is now.
Of course this all came to nothing, here though are STOIC reports from 2 & 9 December 1981.
And on the first edition of News-Break for 1982, Nick Morton the ICU President came into the TV Studio. He spoke with Lawrence Windley and gave his view and opinion on the situation. He also corrected various misunderstandings on these proposals that were currently going around the college and also printed in Felix (the student newspaper). Students kept talking of this as a ‘merger’, but this was never the proposal, but rather an ‘integration’ of Q.E.C into Imperial College. Once again, the saved videotape archive of STOIC has rescued the news and voices of Imperial College, which would have otherwise been lost for ever.
From 40 years ago see all of the delights of Rag Week in November 1980. Seen here by the black and white location camera of STOIC for their weekly programme News-Break. This is the only record of the 1980 event that still exists. There are probably reports and a few photos in Felix, but here we can see and hear the week in all of its detail. We can’t smell some of it though!
Do you remember such delights as the Raft Race or the Pram Race? Maybe some of the events are in fact seen better in just black and white? Morphy Day on the Tow path at Putney is one good example (above colour image from a later year). A large number of things that used to happen in rag week are now just history. For example, I don’t recall hearing of the Raft Race for many years. The STOIC reporters on location were: Mike Hackett,Tracy Poole (now Tracy Dudley) and Grant Richmond.