Archive for the ‘College History’ Category

Steve Marshall – Phoenix Editor: 1979

Sunday, October 7th, 2018

Once more we delve into the days of black and white TV with this 1979 interview with the then forthcoming “The Phoenix” editor Steve Marshall. “The Phoenix”, we are told, was originally started in 1887 by the former student of the Normal School of Science (later the Royal College of Science) H.G.Wells. From 2012, here is a brief history of the magazine by Charles Thomas.

As hard as I try I cannot seem to find any web pages relating to “The Phoenix”, so is it still running I wonder? If you can help find a web site and maybe an on-line edition then please comment and I’ll happily update this page.

Colin Grimshaw October 2018

Live-Net & Westminster Cable TV: 1987

Saturday, September 1st, 2018

Previously, I’ve mentioned the University of London’s Live-Net fibre optic cable system that once connected London’s Universities, from a central BT switching system at Senate House. Recently I’ve discovered the Thames Television news item that covered the official opening on 28 May 1987 and this can be seen below. During the opening event three sites were initially seen on screens in Senate House: Royal Holloway; Imperial and Queen Mary.

Strangely enough I don’t recall us taking any photos during this event and therefore this is the only record of the day. And if you look closely at the central screen with Imperial on it you’ll see me over on the right hand side. My academic colleague Prof Ernie Freeman was sitting in the middle and played host for our site. The image on the right is an off-screen grab of that central screen’s video feed.

Closely linked to the Live-Net technology was Westminster Cable TV. This was also a BT technology and Live-Net borrowed and improved upon that domestic system. In fact it’s closely related to our current Broadband FTTC where optical fibre brings the internet to a local street cabinet and from there it arrives at your home via copper phone lines. In Live-Net’s case it arrived directly with us as a fibre feed termination.

So what is my connection with Westminster Cable TV? Well, because of the on-going BT involvement with both Live-Net and Westminster Cable TV I got to know everyone on both projects. I was approached to sound out how an experiment might be operated to utilise a unique option that existed for the cable TV customers. That was the ‘theoretical’ ability to run video FROM the customer backwards to the Westminster Cable TV hub. Indeed the local equipment in the TV Studio had those sockets on the box, but BT had never pursued the idea. It did work when we tried it, but the image quality at the other end was apparently dreadful and unusable. In September 1990 we’d already agreed to run an experimental computer training ‘at home’ series, that was sponsored by the Training Agency. Everyone was on board, but the ‘reverse line video feed’ technology had, by then, failed us. My BT research labs colleague stepped in and had the ability to order a direct point-to-point microwave link from the top of the Electrical Engineering Building and by using this, our studio feed hopped across Hyde Park to Westminster Cable TV in Paddington.

We took live incoming phone questions too via the earpiece that was worn by Kevin Hamilton. I ran the pre-recorded opening sequence that included the Westminster Cable TV animation logo. The engineers at the other end had to switch a regular channel (A7) to accept my studio feed. Thus you’ll see my instructions on the countdown clock to remind them what to do and when. And yes, this might remind you of the 1977 STOIC News series that I also did live, using the ILEA cable TV system that fed all of the London Schools and Colleges.

Soon, I’ll go on to talk about the Olympus Satellite project, the Live-Net uplink ground station at Silwood Park and yes, you guessed it, more live TV from the TV Studio, but this time to Europe! So, yet more educational ‘firsts’ that have, so far, gone unmentioned (until now).

Colin Grimshaw September 2018

Centenary Round-Up 2007

Monday, June 4th, 2018

Eleven years ago it was all over and yet another piece of archive. It’s hard to believe that the Imperial College Centenary was all those years ago, during the whole of 2007. At the end of that year, Sir Richard Sykes then the college Rector (seen on the right when the Queen visited in 2007), gave his summary of how things went.

We shot this video in the Rector’s office in the Faculty Building. Incidentally, Richard was a dab-hand at reading from Autocue and that always made our job so much easier and quicker too. Hannah Gay, who wrote the official college history, also talks about the task of creating the 900 page book.

Colin Grimshaw June 2018

History of the RSM: 1957

Wednesday, May 16th, 2018

In 1957 Imperial College was celebrating its 50 year half century. Many events took place that year, none of them were recorded visually and only some recorded onto audio tape or disc. One item that does survive is a presentation given by Dr S.W. Smith on the History of the Royal School of Mines up to that time. When I digitised the tape a few years ago I heard one or two things that stood out.

There is mention of attending a lecture in 1897 and the astonishing thing that he heard suggested. And on 13th March 1901 he was present at the RSM half-century celebrations, the formal dinner for which, was delayed due to the death of Queen Victoria. Fascinating to hear a college alumni talking about what was happening in the 19th and early 20th centuries.

Imperial Institute @ 125: 1893

Thursday, May 10th, 2018

This is a quick and extra post to celebrate the 125 years of the Imperial Institute. There are many references within the blog to both the Imperial Institute and the Queen’s Tower, some of which I have linked here. However, today in 1893 is when Queen Victoria attended the official opening ceremony. These actual photos show the scene just prior to her arrival with all the flags and bunting displayed around the building’s entrance.

A special piece of music was written for the day by Sir Arthur Sullivan and was entitled Imperial March which is not to be confused with anything relating to Star Wars for which there is music of the same name. Below is a YouTube link to that piece of music, which was first performed 125 years ago this very day. In the photo over on the left you can see Queen Victoria. If you click the image you can see it full size. Look below the canopy and you will see her, still dressed all in black and sitting on a chair.

Of course, all that remains of the buildings is what we now call the Queen’s Tower. The bells of the now free-standing tower are still rung on special occasions. Even while the building was slowly going into disuse it was made famous in a brief sequence in an Ealing Comedy,  The Titfield Thunderbolt (1953), where a shot is clearly seen of the steps from the building’s main entrance. The building was not actually featured as the institute but rather as a ‘museum’.

Colin Grimshaw May 2018

A unique Commemoration Day: 2002

Tuesday, May 1st, 2018

Recently, whilst rearranging the shelves of archive videos I came across something I’d forgotten about. In 2002, Imperial had honoured Senior Minister of Singapore Lee Kuan Yew (in recognition of his promotion of international trade and industry, and development of science and engineering study initiatives with the UK) by appointing him a Fellow of the College at the Commemoration Day held at the Royal Albert Hall.

Because this was a significant event, college had hired a company that occasionally provided a large video screen and cameras to help people see events in the Royal Albert Hall. We attended the event to get some background video shots and to also see what effect this new idea had on the ceremony. The previous night we had attended the first ever Commemoration Eve Dinner held at the Natural History Museum, where he gave the keynote address (seen left), we recorded and used that in full. College did not need his Commemoration Day speech recorded because we had the one from the previous day.

However, as this was the first time that cameras had been covering a Commemoration Day, I felt that this was unique enough to ask the company to make video recordings (right) of both morning and afternoon sessions. College had already indicated that they had no use for any of the footage, but, by being a ‘first’ I disagreed. So, both morning and afternoon events were recorded and promptly put into our archive collection and there they have sat for all of these 16 years.

Let’s see the first ever fully recorded Commemoration Day sessions from 23 October 2002 which are now available on line for the first time.

Colin Grimshaw May 2018

New Discoveries from the past

Tuesday, March 27th, 2018

And yet more STOIC discoveries from 48 years ago. I was at Imperial yesterday and came across something I’d forgotten about and had really meant to do something about years ago. It’s another batch of 8mm films from the STOIC 1970-1972 “TOPIC” and “IC Newsreel” programmes era. A lot of it was shot on colour film stock, even though we only had black and white TV. All manner of things are there too! More of this once I can get them digitised.

And, just for a change, today I’m digitising two Betacam tapes that are now 16 years old. Commemoration Day 2002 was when Lee Kuan Yew was made a Fellow of Imperial College. The tapes I’m digitising are historic, as it was the first time a Commemoration Day had been recorded in its entirety and that was initially because of the special Fellowship being awarded. I have to say that they are all playing without errors – amazing!

More on all of these, soon…

Colin Grimshaw March 2018

City and Guilds Handover: 1979

Wednesday, March 14th, 2018

One of the great benefits of having offered to help save the large videotape archive of STOIC, can now be seen here. In May 1979 the traditional president’s ‘handover’ ceremony for the City and Guilds Union took place on the steps of the Albert Memorial.

Also featured and captured on tape was the guilds ‘Boomalaka’ cry. Making an appearance too are ‘Spanner and Bolt’ the union mascots. I’m very much hoping that when I can fully investigate all of the videotapes that there will be more items like this one, that captures the life and history of Imperial students.

You can read more about this event in the 19th May 1979 edition of Felix – see page 6.

Colin Grimshaw March 2018

Queen’s Tower at 125 years old

Friday, November 17th, 2017

Back in April 2010 I devoted a whole blog to the Queen’s Tower and all of the audio-visual material we had available. Now here on 17 November 2017 it’s time to celebrate the tower’s 125th (quasquicentennial) completion date or more correctly ‘topping out’ (17 November 1892). In fact the true celebration should really be next May 2018 when it will be 125 years since Queen Victoria opened the Imperial Institute that the tower was originally part of on 10 May 1893.  But I guess that’s yet another blog opportunity for me next year.

One item that escaped in that previous 2010 blog was this sound recording that I made of the tower’s bells being run. I placed microphones in the actual the bell chamber to exclude all external noises like cars and so on. Needless to say I was not that silly to stay anywhere near the bells when they were rung. So, in the short video below you’ll hear that recording for the first time.

Watch out next May 2018 for more on the Queen’s Tower when we’ll look at the opening of the main Imperial Institute buildings.

Colin Grimshaw November 2017

Peter Mee: 2006

Sunday, October 1st, 2017

Peter Mee graduated in economics from University College London. In 1959 he moved to Imperial as assistant planning officer, a position he held for eight years and in 1967 was appointed registrar, a post he held until 1996, then becoming College secretary and clerk to the governors until his retirement. In collaboration with John Smith, the then secretary to the College, he formed the Harlington Trust.

Consistent throughout Peter Mee’s time at Imperial had been his support of sporting activities. He had been president of the IC Union Football Club and chairman of the Harlington Athletic Ground Committee. And the boat named after him by the IC Boat Club has crossed the winning line twice at Henley.

This discussion between Peter Mee and Anne Barrett, the college archivist, was recorded in the college TV Studio in May 2006. It was used, in part, during Imperial’s centenary celebrations in 2007. This is the first time that the full interview has been made available.

Colin Grimshaw October 2017