In this blog we have the oldest interviews with an Imperial College Student Union President. Nick Brayshaw had just been elected into the post in March 1976 for the period 1976-1977. STOIC’s news programme was then called Lunch Break and was largely broadcast live from the college TV studio. These particular programmes were only recorded so that we could see what they looked like after the broadcasts. Luckily, for what ever reason, these interviews were copied onto the U-matic format and survive to this day.
Firstly, live coverage from the Great Hall with Nick Brayshaw’s acceptance speech and interview by Mark Caldwell.
Chatting to Nick Brayshaw later that week was Mike Williams. Mike was a former editor of the Imperial College student newspaper FELIX (1974-1975). He did many interviews for STOIC including another one also broadcast live, but this time over the ILEA cable network covering the whole of London. On that occasion in 1977 he interviewed the then film reviewer for the BBC Barry Norman. I was in touch with him recently and he now resides in the USA and is working at the University of San Francisco.
Three months after I started this Video Archive Blog I featured STOIC, that was in February 2010. Then, it was a mere 40 years since the Student TV Service had started. But now it’s reached the half century. You can of course read the two blogs about STOIC (One and Two) where you’ll find videos and lots of photos. So I won’t repeat all of those things again. What I will do is to include items that were never featured before and in particular videos discovered in the current digitisation of the STOIC archive.
What better way than to begin with those who started STOIC back in 1970 and continued thereafter. In 1980 it was 10 years since the start of their TV service and the video “Happy Birthday to Us” was made to celebrate and you can see that video in my blog STOIC One (links above). At the anniversary reception, held in the Senior Common Room on 15 February 1980, interviews were recorded with past Chairmen of STOIC including Andy Finney who was really the person who got things off the ground. Asking the questions is Grant Richmond who you will read more from later.
In the blog STOIC One there’s a 1971 tour of the Electrical Engineering Department’s (level 3) TV Studio, but now we have the tour made in June 1974. This is also a great record of the studio itself which is not captured anywhere else. Mark Caldwell, seen in the birthday video, makes the introduction. It was shot in one go with no editing except for one or two stops and starts between sections (stopping and then restarting the video recorder). It also features my former colleague Steve Bell (on camera one) who is in the next video too!
In January 1974, six months before the above video was made, STOIC pre-recorded an opening sequence for the then news programme TOPIC. Like the studio tour video it was shot in one go. But, regardless of the production quality it has some great shots of the (Elec Eng) TV Studio along with STOIC’s very own rotating logo, studio control room and STOIC’s RCA 2 inch quad recorder, all now long gone! Steve Bell is heard at the very start announcing the ‘take number and then seen with headphones on. You can also see a brief glimpse of STOIC’s Sony “rover” camera on a tripod in the studio.
The Electrical Engineering TV Studio as it originally looked when STOIC started in 1970, can be seen in some unique colour film. It shows the original PYE black and white vidicon cameras and studio set-up. I’m seen, blurred in long shot, operating the Ampex One Inch recorder. You can also see the crude video monitors (with me operating the film camera) and the PYE vision mixer.
And finally, some 3 years before STOIC ceased to use what, by then, had become the College TV studio, we have a rediscovered recording, shot behind the scenes. It was recorded in the Control Room on 13 June 1983 during the weekly transmission of Newsbreak. Martin Bolding is on sound and also continuity with Tim Davey on vision mixing.
Earlier I mentioned Grant Richmond who now lives in Cairns, North Queensland, Australia. He had a few comments to make when he looked back at his time studying at Imperial and his involvement with STOIC and its 50 years.
“I would say it is really impressive and reminds me of how much extra-curricular activity there was at Imperial, especially considering such a small on-campus population. My point is how remarkable STOIC was to inform (& entertain?) the student community and I would like to think, staff too. I know technology has changed so anyone with a mobile phone can capture events these days and upload to YouTube, but there is no editorial discipline and it’s probably quite hard to get attention. At least with STOIC they had no choice in the JCR at lunchtime! I am most grateful for the opportunity STOIC gave me to participate and to be able to see the record of some of these activities all these years later.”
A lot more will be found from my first two blogs featuring STOIC and in particular the “Happy Birthday to Us” video, which more or less tells the whole story of how they started, and indeed ran, until leaving the College TV studio in summer 1986. To end, I have recreated the STOIC logo that I designed and added an updated version of the jingle that has never been heard before. It was on the master tape at 15ips, which was a tape speed that we couldn’t run. Now, hopefully, the sound quality will come through at last.
And with the time just after 6:24 STOIC is now closing down……
Colin Grimshaw 17 February 2020 – Happy Birthday to Them
In 1982 the then Home Secretary announced that an independent inquiry under the chairmanship of Lord Hunt was to consider the broadcasting aspects of the possible expansion of cable television in the UK.
It was announced that they had managed to secure the help of Lord Hunt of Tanworth, Sir Maurice Hodgson and Professor James (Jim) Ring to conduct this inquiry. They had a lot to do in a short time, but they had already started work and a copy of the consultative document which they issued on 7 April 1982 had been placed in the Library of the House of Commons. Jim Ring was Professor of Infra-Red astronomy in the Department of Physics and appeared regularly on TV programmes such as the Sky at Night.
I knew Jim Ring well, and had previously recorded an archive interview with him in 1980. On the 21 October 1982 he came into the TV Studio to chat to STOIC’s Lawrence Windley about the committees work and their report.
To celebrate the 10th anniversary year of my Video Archive Blog, I am bringing you a recent 40 year old videotape re-discovery.
1979 was interesting for both STOIC and the TV Studio. It was when we started our move into colour and also the move from Ampex open spool tape, to Sony U-Matic cassette. Because of that move, a large number of early Ampex tapes were never copied onto cassette (some actual tapes we still have). I can still playback these Sony cassettes, use and transfer them into digital. However, it was sheer luck that during recent transfers I found today’s video on what was called a ‘dump’ tape.
Back on 15th March 1979 STOIC were broadcasting their evening version of Lunchbreak, the news programme usually made for showing at 1pm and then repeated at 6pm. This particular programme was not recorded but was live. That’s because it was the day of the UGM (Union General Meeting) where the new sabbatical officers and president for the student union were elected. The evening ‘election special’ programme was therefore a round-up of what happened and who was elected. The newly elected president for 1979-1980 was Chris Fox.
This particular interview was deemed to be important enough, that sometime around 1980 it was copied onto a Sony U-Matic cassette. Important it has now turned out to be, because: former 3rd year chemistry student, former president of the Royal College of Science Union (RCS) and President of ICU, Chris Fox, is now Baron Fox of Leominster. Chris joined the House of Lords in 2014. He is currently (2019) the Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy). You can read about Lord Fox on the UK Parliament web page.
It’s great to have a former student move to such heights and also the fact that we have him recorded while he was still a student at Imperial College. All of this goes to show the importance of videotape archives, the maintaining of them and allowing people to be able to see them. I’ve enjoyed doing all of this for the first ten years…
The background to this weather forecast, and images, is something you may recall if you were around Imperial at the time. What I mean by this is, do you remember the Level 2 area of the Sherfield Building by the lifts in the early 1980’s? If you do then you might remember seeing the TV monitor that I oversaw the installation of. To the left of the two passenger lifts you would have seen a 15 inch monitor showing weather satellite images. These were a live feed from Atmospheric Physics where they were processing and animating, in false colour, the received data from MeteoSat using the Interactive Planetary Image Processing System (IPIPS).
A cable was run from Physics to both the Level 2 area of Sherfield and also straight down the walkway to the TV Studio. That meant that I could access the IPIPS feed from our patch panel. And, if you look at this photo (right) from 2007 you can still see the socket marked IPIPS. It was this feed that STOIC used in 1983 to provide their daily weather forecast. It was this processed end-result that Francis Wilson used for his BBC Breakfast weather forecast. You can see more of him using this feed when he did the weather from the Queen’s Tower in 1988.
This IPIPS feed used for STOIC’s weather has been recovered during the digitisation of the STOIC videotape archives.
Whilst transferring more of the STOIC videotape archive into digital, I found this interview. It’s one that I had forgotten all about and is with Lord Flowers, then Rector, recorded 39 years ago in the TV Studio in October 1980. He had, a few days earlier, given his address at Commemoration Day. In that address, for the very first time, an appeal had been made to alumni for a covenant from each student of £20 a year for a total of five years. He had explained that this would assist the college with approximately a quarter of a million pounds a year. Just before you’ll see this interview there is a brief sequence actually shot during that speech at the Royal Albert Hall. This is actually the very first time a Commemoration Day had been videotaped, so it’s unique for that alone.
Here, he is talking with Mike Prosser both a presenter and a past chairman of STOIC.
40 years ago, during the summer of 1979, the TV Studio slipped into colour with the purchase of a single colour camera, portable recorder and edit suite. Before that time everything we made was obviously in black and white and that included the output of the student television service STOIC. They had, at times, been ahead of the college TV studio with some technology. They were first to get a Sony portable videorecorder and associated camera. This allowed them to record items outside of the confines of the studio. When we wanted to do the same we had to move a large videorecorder and take a camera with us on a trolley.
Clearly we had to make a move to upgrade to colour and in the process replace the Ampex One Inch videotape format we’d been using for many years. We needed both colour and also the ability to electronically edit. The U-matic system from Sony was what we selected and the equipment arrived before summer 1979. During the college vacation period we made our first colour production for the Life Science Library. By the start of the autumn term in 1979 we had re-equipped the studio to work only on the U-matic system, but because we still had only the one colour camera, the main studio stayed in black and white (for some while).
A short while after we had received the colour camera, STOIC was clearly interested in also moving away from black and white. But until we moved the entire studio into colour STOIC’s type of programmes were not possible on a single colour camera. However, it was possible to include the occasional ‘single camera’ colour item within a programme. So, just before term ended for the summer of 1979 I consented to the inclusion of a colour item within one of their news programmes. James Miller, a regular on STOIC, had expressed a keen interest to be the first to be seen in colour and I agreed. We thought to do this with a fanfare. So, James linked from an item he’d pre-recorded in black and white on their own portable videorecorder, to him sitting in the studio, also in black and white. At an agreed moment I turn the system switch on the recorder to colour and James’s wish came true. I re-discovered this 40 year old item during the current digitising of STOIC tapes.
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.
We will be having some newly discovered items coming up in future blogs. I’m now slowly working my way through many boxes of videotapes from the extensive archive of STOIC and digitising then. If you recall, I managed to save these from being trashed many years ago when STOIC had to clear out their space for rebuilding. If I hadn’t had the college archives take the lot, then they would, by now, have been recycled!
Why is this collection important to Imperial? Well, in the TV Studio we had a specific remit and that was to record what was required for teaching, promotion and so on. All of these jobs created income for the studio and we could not just go off and record what we wanted to, without someone paying for it. However, STOIC could and indeed did just that. Therefore, in their archive we have interviews with not just students but with people like Rectors, Admin Staff, College Secretaries, Professors and so on. These, in some cases, are unique and now invaluable to us.
At present I am digitising a U-matic videotape that has a 40 year old recording of the then Student Union President Chris Fox (seen on the screen above). On the 15 March 1979 live on STOIC, from the college TV Studio, he chatted to Paul Johnson. I’ll be showing that in the next blog. Getting these videotapes to play back is not always that easy. Tapes are showing their age and tend to shed oxide and clog the video heads. This then requires the lid to be taken off the machine and the heads and guides, cleaned (photo on right).
Once the tape will play back from start to finish it’s then time to adjust the video levels before capturing onto hard drive and finally onto DVD. When these tapes were made, the cameras were within a category called ‘industrial’ and sometimes ‘educational’. They had pick-up tubes, not chips, as in these days. Lighting was basic and sometimes crude. Our ability to adjust these cameras individually was limited to say the least. Therefore, when replaying these tapes here in 2019 I have to almost ‘ride’ the video signal and adjust it, as the cameras switch around on the recording.
The final DVD then resides in the tape box and the side marked accordingly. That will mean (hopefully) that even if the tape can’t be played back in the future the DVD will be. It’s worth pointing out that the quality of a DVD is higher than the original videotapes would have ever been. Therefore we have not lost any quality in using this method. And, when the time comes, we can further transcode from the DVD into MP4 for web use. Not only is there a problem with the actual tapes playing back, but even more vital are the machines to play them on. Maintaining these machines is now vital and using them to transfer tapes onto new media is a big task for everyone with a videotape library. For example, the BBC, over many years have done this same process to digitise the whole of its archive, both videotape and film.
Back in 2016 I posted some stock footage of the South Kensington Campus that I had shot in 1992. Here’s an updated version of that with footage shot 21 years ago in 1998. The quality will be better because it was originated on broadcast quality Betacam tape. You will see some nice views of Princes Gardens with both of the original Southside and Linstead Halls. Maybe you might even see yourself in the JCR or on the original Exhibition Road entrance and walkway? I’ve added some captions to remind you of the names of certain places along with any new names that might have come about since 1998, an example being Dalby Court.
I hope this might bring back some memories for those who were at Imperial during this time period.