In February 1969 the then Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Michael Ramsey made a visit to Imperial College. From the 3rd to 6th of February he had several engagements at Imperial. But the most important to us was a special televised event at 12noon on Tuesday 3rd when Sinclair Goodlad hosted “Face to Face” in the fledgling TV Studio, then located on level 3 of Electrical Engineering. The programme was relayed live to many locations as well as recorded onto videotape. As you will already suspect, that videotape was lost a long time ago.
What we have left is one black and white photograph taken at the time. But, I did happen to have my 8mm cine camera loaded with film and had it with me on the day. The fragment of 24 seconds of colour film is therefore all that remains of this important day. I did manage to find a reference to his visit in the archive collection of Felix, the Imperial College student union newspaper. The file will download as a PDF and look at the top of page 3 for the article.
If you are new to the blog or perhaps arrived via the Alumni web page, you might have missed some previous gems. If you go back further to earlier entries you will find some memories of Imperial College captured on videotape. One such recording is the only interview we have with Victor Mooney (Died on December 27th 2012 aged 89), college catering manager from 1953 to 1985.
He was a major figure in college life, especially with the student’s phrase “Going for a Mooney”, which meant going to the refectory for a meal of some kind. Do you remember the Upper and Lower Refectories in Southside? How about WAITRESS service in part of the Refectory in Sherfield? And also a time when the JCR eatery was still called the “Buttery”!
I have now managed to clean up the quality of the recording which was made in November 1979, just prior to us going into full colour. Here’s Victor Mooney, in the College TV Studio, talking to STOIC regular presenter Dave Ghani.
If you have any film or photos of the college eating places in use during the years before say 1970, then please get in touch. Please also add comments or memories of eating at Imperial 🙂
In “Promotion: 1” (March 2010), I mentioned the Civil Engineering and Chemistry Departments. In June 1981 I was asked to take on the task of making a promotional video for the Chemistry Department.
This was intended to promote all aspects of what the department did and to assist in the recruitment of new students. I also recall it being shown at Open Days which seemed obvious . Two members of the staff were appointed as ‘producers’ so most of the content and the wording of the voiceovers was decided for me. Looking back at the video over 30 years later it has too much in it. The history section seems unnecessary and there’s too much detail in the various elements featured. It runs for nearly 20 mins which is about two thirds too long in todays modern YouTube video world. Leave them wanting more is the theory, not wanting to leave the room as soon as the video has eventually finished! This was one of two videos made for the department, the second being made four years later in July 1985. It’s worth noting that both of these videos were made using our original colour camera. It needed massive amounts of light (as mentioned in the Library video) and suffered ‘smearing’ on highlights, the colour itself was none too brilliant either!
The second video was also far too long but did, thank goodness, have Professor Sir Geoffrey Wilkinson in it. He appeared because he was then head of department. Being a Nobel Prize winner it was considered important and prestigious to feature him. I said thank goodness because it has given us the only interview recorded with him whilst at Imperial, an archive gem. Like the first video in 1981 I had little control over the content. It seemed that almost everything including the kitchen sink appeared in the video. I truly ‘cringe’ when I watch it, especially the Kensington Gardens sequence! One of the few times I managed to get my way was on the intro sequence. I used so called ‘production music’ rather than music created by a family member as in the first video. The video does use, for the first time, electronic effects. The multi-picture sequence later on and during the opening where the image slides down were all very new at the time. Now, these are common place and all achievable on a computerised edit suite, but we had a dedicated box to do it that cost thousands of pounds.
On an historical note, the first person you see talking is located in a lovely garden area…that’s where the ‘blue box’ Faculty Building is now standing! You’ll also see Princes Gardens, as it then was, in the summer of 1985. Between 1981 and 1993 I made around 10 teaching videos that were used on various ‘lab days’ to show the students how do undertake the experiments they had to do. It was considered more effective to show one correct version of an experiment, rather than several slightly different versions by several different people based around the labs. I’ll try and get some of these on line soon. Maybe you had to do one of these experiments whilst at Imperial?
Also, if you are featured in any of these videos do let us know. The two still photos were by my former colleague Neville Miles, who like me, helped to capture some of the history of Imperial College in the many photographs he took over the years.
In recent months, whilst the blog has been on hold, I gather there has been great interest in the late Professor Eric Laithwaite’s research work. To see all the videos available that feature him, you may wish to go to the Imperial College YouTube Archive Playlist.
Some while ago I came across footage of the experimental tracked hover train that was built at Erith in the UK. He had expanded his original designs of the Linear Motor, with support from a government grant of £5 million. The result was a prototype for the world’s first magnetically levitating train. The ‘Tracked Hovertrain’, as the prototype was called, was a high-speed, wheel-less vehicle which was propelled by the force of a magnetic field. Early trials of Laithwaite’s model looked promising with the prototype reaching speeds of up to 100mph, yet in 1973 the government cancelled the project, blaming high costs for little return.
I know very little about the project, but after the Government brought it to a halt there were bitter exchanges between Eric Laithwaite and Government Ministers. Around 1974 Eric Laithwaite asked me to make a recording (in audio) -in his own words- of what really happened; who said what and why. In front of me, that audio tape was put into an envelope, sealed and signed and was then to be held in his bank until his death. That tape DID surface again after his death, I personally unsealed it and transferred the contents into digital form! I did not keep a copy of this tape or digital transfer.
Imperial College does not hold any RTV31 footage or photos related to that project. However the footage I did come across is held by the ITN Source Library in the UK. It’s really only available to buy but people can see a preview of the footage, which is good enough to see what the vehicle looked liked and how it operated. The video is located on the ITN website and can be seen via the link below. I have also given the ITN information related to the clip at the bottom.
The two colour photos on this page were taken by me in December 1966 and are seen here for the first time. In was later in this month that Eric Laithwaite presented the first televised Royal Institution Christmas Lectures, so the Linear Motor being made and the model train too, could have been for that event.
I was about to make this new entry live when, by chance, I came across this video on Youtube. It seems that the RTV31 shell still exists, although it’s painted very differently to the original footage you’ll see from ITN. It’s housed at Railworld, Oundle Road, Peterborough, PE2 9NR. The Youtube video is in French but it has Youtube ANNOTATIONS added in English. So ensure the Annotation options in the player window is set to ON (it should be a RED square when the video runs).
Test run of Hovertrain TX 7.2.1973 ENGLAND: Huntingdonshire: Erith: Demonstration of experimental hover train along concrete rail at speed. Michael McNair Wilson MP (Conservative: Walthamstow East) interview with Keith Hatfield (Reporter) about applications of technology for fast surface travel. Table-top model being demonstrated by Professor Eric Laithwaite (Imperial College). Hovertrain on track.