The second and final IC Newsreel was recorded on 2 March 1970. It was shown, like the first programme, at lunchtime the following day in the Junior Common Room in College Block (Sherfield). This final programme was a bit different and had a scoop too. Prior to the main recording, the Yugoslavian Prime Minister was visiting Imperial College and we were able to get the departure of him, his Police escort and his entourage. Andy Finney and Vivienne Taylor stood outside the mechanical engineering building to cover the event, even though this was not originally their intention for being there. Andy was on a very long-range radio microphone and we used the longest lens possible on the camera, which (along with a second camera) was located on the third floor of the electrical engineering building. Because we had no way of inserting the item into the actual forthcoming news programme, Andy had to pre-record the item as it was happening, and we ran the item before the main program started. Not the conventional way to make a news program, but at least it was new and it was unique for that time. The news item by Andy is then followed by what was called a ‘crash’ edit (stop recording then restart again) so there are a few wobbles on the screen before the main programme starts.
Included in the programme were interviews with the three main candidates for the election of IC Union President. The first ever recording of this type. Judith Walker won the election and became the first female in the role. She talks to Vivienne Taylor, also seen in IC Newsreel Number 1.
Just as we had ended the main recording and faded to black, the current Union President Piers Corbyn asked to be able to say a few words. So, following yet another crash edit, we faded back up and sort-of started again. The reason for these types of stops and start edits was because we only had one Ampex Videorecorder and that could not actually edit anyway.
Sadly no photos were taken at the time of these two news programme recordings, only the videotape survives, which is rare. The upper photo is of the TV studio in the late 1960’s and the lower, is just before the Philips Videorecorder, seen in the photo, was replaced by the Ampex, which was used to record the two IC Newsreels. The opening coverage of the Yugoslavian Prime Minister’s visit also gives the original view across Dolby Court, all the way from Electrical Engineering to Mechanical Engineering, a view now lost forever with the creation of the Faculty Building.
IC Newsreel paved the way for STOIC’s; TOPIC, Lunchbreak and then News-Break.
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.
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.
Something that seems to go unrecorded are the times when a student creates a project with an end result that then greatly benefits the college. In this example we need to go back to the summer term of 1970. A 3rd year student from Electrical Engineering undertook a project to create a simple video effects generator. This unit was able to make split screens, squares and so on. It became an essential tool within the TV Studio from the moment it was made until the day the studio was closed down. In the photo, the arrow indicates the unit installed in the first TV studio in January 1975. Recently I found some 8mm film that I shot showing the student with the unit that he made. We paid for the workshop to fabricate a case and you’ll see that in the film and following videos. In more recent times (in the second TV studio) we fitted it into the equipment rack and you’ll see that at the end.
There were many videos where we took advantage of being able to use split screens. Such an example is the APL video I made with Professor Bob Spence in 1975, you’ll see a clip from that. And, in the two clips showing the unit working, yes, it really is a very young version of me!
So, a worthwhile project that created something that lasted in use for 37 years and NEVER ever had a single fault.
On STOIC’s weekly news programme “News-Break”, all sorts of things were featured. From interviews with Rectors about college funding cuts; the siege at the Iranian embassy; potential integrations of another college into Imperial, through to….making badges!
Yes, the making of badges was indeed a feature on the 13 January 1982 edition of News-Break. Regular presenter Mike Hackett talked to the chairman of Badge Soc, Chris Taylor from Mechanical Engineering. In fact when you see the badge making device it does look like it should have been in the Mechanical Engineering Workshop. Below, from FELIX, is Badge Soc’s Small Ad.
So, in the same programme that featured the potential QEC ‘merger’ with Imperial we have Badge Soc. Chris Taylor is doing his impression of Imperial’s own (Dr) Brian May with that haircut it seems. Here then is STOIC’s very best ‘Blue Peter’ item for the first programme of the year (1982) 38 years ago.
On 2 December 1980 I assisted STOIC with the recording of an interview with Lord Flowers (1924-2010) who was Rector from 1973 to 1985. This was the first time that we had recorded the Rector in colour and at that time STOIC did not have their own colour equipment, hence I helped out. This was an interview that former STOIC Chairman Mike Prosser carried out and at the end Mike asked if he’d record this separate special message. I’ve only just found this recording, included in the Christmas edition of their News-Break programme. The Rector’s office in the Sherfield Building is long since gone, as it moved into the new Faculty Building once it was opened. So yet another record in the archives of Imperial’s ‘times-past’.
On 13 January 1982 edition of STOIC’s News-Break, Mike Hackett visited the City and Guilds office. Andy Rushton was then the president of C&G and he spoke about what was coming up and happening during the term. He also spoke about the forthcoming C&G elections. Some information I managed to find about Andy tells me that since 2011, he has been a Principal Consultant at ESR Technology providing major hazard services onshore and offshore. He also has involvement with the Institution of Chemical Engineers.
Once again this video was not without its technical problems and challenges. The studio sequences are all more or less OK, because they used high quality cameras. However, the camera that STOIC used for location work was nowhere near such quality and used what was called a single striped colour tube. The combination of being a tube camera and it producing the final colour by this method, was never without its problems.
The colour balance on the original was way-off and at the time, in 1982, we had no way of correcting this in post production. The still (above) that I’ve grabbed, is what it looked like directly from the programme master-tape during correction. I’ve struggled to produce something less green but have had to settle with what you are about to see. If the colour isn’t there, you can’t produce it out of thin air!
Today we have yet another untold story from Imperial’s past with an idea that started at the college and ended up on worldwide TV. Way back in 1975 Mark Caldwell, then Chairman of STOIC started an ambitious series of interviews with both film stars and TV celebrities. The first included American film director and actor Mel Brooks, British actor Malcolm McDowell and Australia’s very own Dame Edna Everage, otherwise known as Barry Humphries. The series ended up being called Film Talk. Coinciding with this were the services provided by the ULAVC, over the ILEA Channel 7 cable TV network – which I have covered previously.
I was the TV contact at Imperial and knew both the staff at the ULAVC centre in Bedford Square and the ILEA TV Centre in Battersea. Somehow or another I mentioned the idea of them showing some of these programmes over their network. The idea was accepted, so future recordings were made with both local viewing and remote viewing via ILEA in mind. We had progressed so well that a contact at Imperial College introduced us to yet another new idea. In Mechanical Engineering there was a computer-aided design system called CADMAC. It used a mini computer, storage-tube system and plotter as its basis for the generation of ‘animation’. For normal film animation at the time, cells made of plastic film were drawn on and filmed frame-by-frame by a normal film camera. The concept was to use the computer output to produce either cells or to output onto paper. These would then be captured onto film as usual. The difference here was the computing. Things could be manipulated on the screen by using a lightpen and objects merged and moved around. This could (at that time) not be run in full-motion playback, so it was therefore outputted onto film or paper.
A company was formed called Video Animation (later called Electronic Arts) and they were looking for ideas to showcase the possibilities of this new technology. We met them and they offered to make a short animation based on three photos that we would provide. These were inputted to their system by using a light-pen system to trace the image. It was then animated to produce an end result. So, the images were Mel Brooks, Malcolm McDowell and Barry Humphries as Dame Edna. The end result is not perfect. They could not, for some reason, cope with Dame Edna’s glasses or hat, and these are missing from the animation (see actual photo on left). It’s a very heavy contrast line drawing with no grey scale, but for us it was at least unique. They also created and added the title. The final product was given to us on 16mm film, the sound was added later. The film (seen on the right) was then played into any of the programmes via tele-cine. If we happened to be recording at the ILEA Battersea Studios, they had a tele-cine unit within the control room. For anyone who remembers the opening sequence to the worldwide TV series “The New Avengers” it was Video Animation who produced the opening title animation. It’s no coincidence that the Avengers TV series started the very next year in 1976. So, the experiment for Film Talk could well have been used to persuade the TV company to use animation in the opening titles. Our animation has some very close similarities to that of the New Avengers opening titles. See the bottom video for the Avengers animation sequence.
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.
Some of the 8mm films that I re-discovered, and have since digitised in HD, are for the 1971 Christmas edition of TOPIC. This was the weekly news programme made by STOIC and shown in the Junior Common Room. There are several items that were featured in the programme that originated on 8mm film, some in colour and some not. As previously discussed, very few videotapes still exist from the early years of recording in the TV Studio. It was mainly the cost of the actual videotapes that prohibited us from keeping them for archiving. However, a way to keep something of a programme was to copy the audio onto a relatively cheap audio tape. Fortunately this was done for a few programmes made by STOIC the student TV service. I also have some extracts from various TOPIC programmes that I kept myself. However, the interesting thing about TOPIC from Christmas 1971 is that not only does the audio from the programme still exist, but the film inserts do too. So, I am recreating some of the items as they would have been seen some 50 years ago. The only difference is that many of the filmed items were actually shot in colour, even though we ran in black and white until 1979.
The first item to be recreated in HD is the City and Guilds Motor Club’s A to Z Rally. I have slight confusion over the date though. Dave Willis who you’ll hear on the soundtrack says Sunday 4th December, but the Sunday was the 5th. I’m assuming, from looking at the film, that this was indeed a Sunday because the roads look very quiet and that he was simply given the wrong date.
Either way, we know that it’s December 1971 regardless of the actual date. So here then is what would have been seen nearly 50 years ago, along with the original studio commentary and background sounds.
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.