Archive for the ‘College History’ Category

Iranian Embassy Siege memories: 1982

Friday, January 10th, 2020

In the September 2019 blog I showed what I thought were the only archived videos from STOIC’s reports on the May 1980 Iranian Embassy Siege. However, in digitising more videos I have discovered an item that would have been missing, had it not been included in a 1982 news programme as an ‘archive’ clip. One of the reporters for STOIC was Tracy Poole (now Tracy Dudley) and she was about to leave Imperial after her 3 years of study. Lawrence Windley managed to speak with her during a chance visit to Imperial’s field station at Silwood Park.

Interestingly, this video includes shots that are not in the previous September blog. They include dramatic views from the top of the Southside Hall of residence when the embassy building had been set on fire. You can also see a fire engine parked outside Weeks Hall which backed onto the embassy. Indeed I’m fairly certain that some shots were taken from the rear of Weeks Hall.Another view was clearly from the Queens Tower.

The original video report was before we moved into full colour.

Colin Grimshaw January 2020

Pram Race with Willie Rushton: 1978

Wednesday, January 1st, 2020

As mentioned in a previous blog about rag events, here is one of only two surviving recordings of a Pram Race. This is from 1978 when comedian Willie Rushton (1937 – 1996) took part. It started at Southside in Princes Gardens and seemed to work its way down Exhibition Road to South Kensington. STOIC’s Lunch Break reporter Colin Palmer (a former Felix editor) followed along and interviewed as the procession progressed.

I have also discovered a video of a Raft Race taking part in Hyde Park. These also seemed to start from Princes Gardens, but more of that soon.

First though, here is that 1978 Pram Race, and did YOU take part?

Colin Grimshaw 1st January 2020

Diana Rigg opens the 1978 Rag Fete

Saturday, December 21st, 2019

In the 1970’s it seemed to be the ‘in thing’ to get celebrities to open the Union Rag Fete each year. In 1978 it was Diana Rigg (now Dame Diana) who was asked to perform the duty of opening the event. As usual it was held in Princess Gardens and the day was Saturday 6 May. Sadly in the FELIX archive there are no editions recorded (assumed lost) for the years 1977 and 1978. This makes it a little difficult to get any further background details about the fete and how much was raised on the day.

Luckily though, STOIC were there to record the event and were able to get an interview with Diana Rigg. Judging by the ‘shuttered concrete’ background, this was clearly shot somewhere in Southside. Once again this video was rescued during the digitisation of the STOIC video archive and was originally shot on the Sony “Rover” recorder and mastered on the old Ampex One Inch videotape format. And, because the editions of FELIX for that period, now appear lost, this is the only record of that day.

Colin Grimshaw December 2019

Chris Fox – ICU President: 1979

Sunday, December 8th, 2019

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…

Happy Birthday 2009-2019.

Colin Grimshaw 8th December 2019 (10th Anniversary Day)

Lord Flowers Imperial’s finances: 1980

Tuesday, October 15th, 2019

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.

Colin Grimshaw October 2019

Iranian Embassy Siege: 1980

Sunday, September 1st, 2019

For a thankfully brief period, 39 years ago, in May 1980, life in and around Imperial College changed. This was due to the now famous Iranian Embassy siege that took place in Princes Gate. The main concern for Imperial College was the fact that in Northside of Princes Gardens the buildings of: Weeks Hall, Garden Hall, Sports Centre and more, all backed onto the embassy building. I recall students from Weeks Hall telling me that they had to keep all windows closed and covered and to stay away from the windows at all times.

That week’s copy of Felix the student newspaper seemed to be somewhat concerned that the Rag Fete would have to be relocated to the Queens Lawn rather than Princes Gardens as planned. They also included a photo of a police marksman somewhere behind the embassy, probably in the rear gardens of college property and that there was also one of the roof of Weeks Hall. There was also mention of at least one Imperial student being arrested.

Clearly this was news for both Felix and in particular for STOIC. With the aide of their trusty portable camera and recorder they ventured off to report of what was happening. Thanks to the current digitisation of the STOIC videotape archive I found all three location reports and saved them. These reports were such hot news that they had to be fitted in prior to and after, the showing of the weekly news programme NewsBreak at lunch time and in the evening. Mike Prosser was continuity voice-over that day and introduced the clips.

Colin Grimshaw September 2019

Linstead Hall Extension: 1978 & 1980

Monday, July 1st, 2019

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.

Colin Grimshaw July 2019

Vision from the past

Wednesday, June 26th, 2019

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.

Colin Grimshaw June 2019

South Kensington Campus: 1998

Sunday, June 2nd, 2019

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.

Colin Grimshaw June 2019

Olympus Satellite Uplink Silwood Park: 1990

Tuesday, January 1st, 2019

There are a few previous blogs about Live-Net, two in 2013 and one in 2018. But I’ve not really talked about where the system eventually was able to link to. Towards the end of the networks life it had been extended (42Km) all the way down to Royal Holloway in Surrey and eventually a little further (6Km) down the road to the Imperial College field station at Silwood Park. You can click on the Live-Net map over on the right to view it bigger.

The reason for the extension to Silwood Park was primarily to enable the temporary installation of an ESA Satellite uplink station. The Olympus satellite was, by this time, (1989 launched) then operational. To cut a very long story short, the Silwood Park uplink enabled any of the connections within Live-Net to get TV pictures across Europe. In October 1990 we did just that, for a very technically complicated programme involving the French Association of Veterinary Surgeons Annual Conference being held in Poitiers, France. The link from France was provided by France Telecom. The feed was sent via normal ground connections to the London BT Post Office Tower. As you can see from the Live-Net map, we also had a feed to and from the BT Tower. That bit was easy…

Then came the complicated bit. They wanted London participation from various groups including the UK’s chief veterinary officer to allow a discussion on the then major topic of BSE, otherwise known then as Mad Cow Disease. So the concept was that the French feed would arrive at the Imperial College TV Studio mixer and that at the appropriate time our studio guests would take over and contribute. However, this is where it got complicated. They wanted a two-way discussion to happen, so my audio had to feed all the way back to France! It turned into a bit of a ‘Eurovision Song Contest’ in the end. But it still didn’t get any easier, because we had to have two-way simultaneous translation French to English and then English to French. For this a double sound booth with two translators was installed at the rear of the studio. We all wore earphones to hear what was being said. In France they would occasionally insert videos and graphics which was no problem for me. However, London wanted to do this too, so it got even more involved. We were never sure just when the French participants would want to link to us, so we were always poised to switch feeds and start the sound translations. The first video is when we were called upon to come into action.

Even more involved was that they wanted me to provided an edited version of my promotional video that I’d made about Live-Net and get a summarised commentary recorded in French and this is what you can see next.

Of course I had to expect potential problems and I didn’t take any chances in case something happened. And it did! The incoming vision feed from France Telecom/BT just disappeared during one of the London participation segments and I was left with a blank screen. But I did have a stand by caption ready for such a situation. Luckily the vision feed reappeared and we were back to normal again. My end result vision and sound feeds were sent back to Live-Net and thus onward down to Silwood Park and via the ESA uplink station to Europe (seen left) on the Olympus Satellite. I was also watching our feed coming back to me from the satellite so I could see if we were actually transmitting or not. And that was the other problem. You can’t just uplink to a satellite without a specified start and end time because there are other people wanting to do something similar. So we couldn’t start until the correct time, but equally we had to finish at the right time too. I don’t think our colleagues in France appreciated this because they didn’t realise that time was running out. I had a permanent open phone link with them and was updating them on timings. When the end was approaching I expected them to sum-up and run end credits, but nothing was happening. I ended up yelling at them to “run the end credits” and rather abruptly you’ll see their end video appear on screen and then run, taking them all by surprise, with various words in French about the loss of satellite time and goodbye. A few seconds later I saw our feed disappear from the Olympus satellite so we only just made it in time. THE most complicated event I have ever done, with me alone doing live vision and sound mixing along with inserting graphics, videotape and talking on the phone, whilst my colleague operated cameras and then broadcasting to the whole of Europe. Phew!

Colin Grimshaw January 2019