Speaking Backwards at Christmas: 1974

December 18th, 2017

In previous posts I have mentioned the Royal Institution Christmas Lectures given by Professor Eric Laithwaite in December 1974.

I was involved with one of those lectures ‘Jam Tomorrow and Jam Yesterday’ which was lecture 3 in the series. During the late summer of that year Eric Laithwaite had approached me to discuss various ideas to do with things going backwards. He particularly wanted to play around with the idea of speaking backwards. These days you can very easily do such things on your computer let alone on a phone. I managed to find within our Electrical Engineering Department an audio/instrumentation recorder that was able to run backwards.

I asked Eric Laithwaite to call into the TV Studio so that I could demonstrate this to him. I recall us both playing around with speaking, or trying to speak, ‘backwards’ and then playing the actual tape backwards to see if it came out ‘forwards’. At one point he almost slid of the chair in hysterics at what sounds were coming out of the loudspeaker, some of which sounded very rude! He was sold on these ideas and I said that I would play around some more and make extra investigations. What I then decided to do was to create a tape with a sentence rather than just single words. It took ages to do and I had to cheat by editing a string of words together to create something special for the lecture. Over on the right is the original tape that was used in the lecture and now looking slightly aged.

When Eric Laithwaite heard my sentence he roared with laughter and said ‘right, I want YOU to present that in the lecture’. And so I was therefore seen presenting my achievement and also helping him during various sound recording experiments with members of the RI audience. I recall the first recording with the young boy who immediately turned his back on the cameras to face the tape recorder. The BBC floormanager then started to make furious gestures to me to get him to turn slightly so that the cameras could see him.

Five years later in his 1980 book, to go with the series, he gave me a most wonderful credit. “…Colin appeared ‘officially’ in the third lecture taking over part of the lecture in effect…”

And so, 43 years later, here I am speaking backwards at the Royal Institution.

Colin Grimshaw December 2017

ICU Sabbatical Officers: 1981

December 1st, 2017

In 1981, elections were due for the next year of Sabbatical Officers for the Imperial College Student Union. To assist people in deciding if they wanted to run for election, STOIC recorded interviews for the then current officers in post. John Passmore (ICU President), Rachel Snee (ICU DP) & Liz Lindsay (ICU Hon Sec) were all interviewed in their Union Building offices, rather than, as usual, the TV Studio. This is a wonderful snap shot of Imperial College student life, with the people currently doing union jobs recalling what they did during their one year in office.

Once more this was all shot in stunning black and white.

Colin Grimshaw December 2017

Queen’s Tower at 125 years old

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

Michael Arthur – Welfare Advisor: 1979

November 1st, 2017

38 years ago in May 1979, Michael Arthur held the post of Students’ Union Welfare Advisor. He later became College Assistant Secretary within Central College Administration.

Here he is talking to Paul Johnson about how to go about finding accommodation during the next academic year. Once again, this is an edition of STOIC’s Summer Lunch Break with an interview recorded in black and white, but with a colour introduction.

Colin Grimshaw November 2017

Commemoration Day Demo: 1979

October 17th, 2017

In October 1979 Imperial College Students’ Union staged a series of protests against government education cuts. Occupation of the Senior Dining Room was one part of these protests. Another took place on Commemoration Day itself. Those who took part in the occupation, together with many others carrying placards and wearing black armbands, joined in a “Funeral March” following a black coffin, held aloft by six students, through the Beit building and on a journey around the Royal Albert Hall. Students were already leafleting the parents and other visitors to the ceremony in the Albert Hall.

STOIC were there to record the event and reporter Bob Powell spoke to a future ICU President John Passmore. Note that the incorrect name was used by Mike Prosser in the studio introduction to the news report.

Colin Grimshaw October 2017

Peter Mee: 2006

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

Students’ Union Rag Fete: 1979

September 4th, 2017

Way back in the days of black and white, the Student TV Service STOIC captured some of the excitement of the 1979 Students’ Union Rag Fete, that was held in Princes Gardens. This is also a good record of what the gardens looked like before they were altered at the time of the rebuilding of Southside Halls and Linstead Halls (see 1990’s photo on right). Guest celebrity was actor Christopher Biggins. The report is introduced from the TV Studio in colour, by Sarah Clifford.

Colin Grimshaw September 2017

Harvey Nadin – IC Radio: 1979

August 20th, 2017

In 1979 BBC Radio London obtained a world record for broadcasting for 48 hours non stop. IC Radio were there as part of the attempt and Paul Johnson spoke to Harvey Nadin the newly elected IC Radio manager about this and his plans for the station in the new academic year. However, in January the following year (1980) Harvey resigned from his post. This could well be the only interview with him about IC Radio, unless I uncover something else!
Page 2 of the January 14th edition of the student newspaper FELIX has the report on his resignation.

Some of the tape has been damaged which you’ll see as lines running down the screen.

Colin Grimshaw August 2017

Election Lunch Break: 1976

August 2nd, 2017

In 1976 the student television service STOIC covered the student union election results live from the Great Hall. The videotape that we still have, these 41 years later,  is the earliest one that still exists. One or two programmes were made in years prior to 1976 but as these were live broadcasts, videotapes were not made. It’s a fluke that this 1976 recording is still around. It was made as an ROT (Record Off Transmission) for no other reason than for us to be able to review what was done. I actually recorded it myself on a now redundant Sony open-spool half inch tape format machine (on the right is an example of such a tape). However, for some reason it was then copied onto the U-matic format which is still (just) in working order. We moved to U-matic in mid 1979. The recording is unstable in places and has many tape drop-outs (white flashes across the screen where tape oxide is missing).

This programme was amazing in a way. Up until then all videos were recorded, or broadcast live from the studio. This was different because I had made use of some new cabling that had been installed from the Great Hall to the TV Studio. I considered that it should be possible to use this to send video and audio both from the hall to the studio and back again. I also used one of the audio cables to feed ‘ear phone cue’ to any of the presenters. Amazingly it all worked and we did that for several years. This programme was introduced in the studio by former FELIX editor Mike Williams and from the Great Hall by Mark Caldwell also with them was soon to be STOIC Chairman James Sinclair. In the photo, Mike is top left with Mark lower left and James lower right.

Colin Grimshaw August 2017

Meet Imperial College: 1979

July 24th, 2017

On 2nd May 1979 Imperial College ran a PR exercise for the local residents around the South Kensington campus. The event was called Meet Imperial College. The objective was to inform, update and educate the residents on what the college was doing at that time. The following video is the only record of the event and was shot by the student TV service STOIC. Having said that, I actually shot the video using our newly arrived colour equipment as I wanted us to have a record of the event and to have it shot properly! I’m glad I did that, some 38 years ago, because now we have a chance to see it again. Grant Richmond was the STOIC reporter at the event itself.

FELIX the student newspaper reported the event as:
” The aim of this public relations exercise was to enhance goodwill among College’s nearest neighbours for IC by showing them something of what the College was doing. Residents from all walks of life received invitations including members of the Knightsbridge Residents Association, some of whom had been vocal in their opposition to the proposed Linstead Hall extension.”

You’ll catch a brief glimpse of Eric Laithwaite and his linear motor among the many things on display. Lord Flowers the Rector, put on a brave face and spoke about the number of people who attended! The picture quality is poor. Our colour camera (as mentioned in previous entries) needed loads of light to give good images, however the location in the Sherfield Building lower refectory was dimly lit. The studio shots prior to Grant’s location report were with the same camera, but under good studio lighting.

Colin Grimshaw July 2017