Archive for the ‘College History’ Category

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

2019: Year TEN of Video Archive Blogs

Tuesday, January 1st, 2019

Well here we are in 2019 and the 10th year of the Video Archive Blog. The first real blog of the year is coming up next and that will be a bigger than usual read too.

I’m still finding interesting video gems to post and there are masses of new videotapes to be viewed and digitised during 2019. I just have to get to them and sort them out. Assisting me now is the original card index files started by STOIC the student TV service (right). Amazingly, their original archive has more ‘college’ events than the TV Studio’s own archive. STOIC covered just about anything and anywhere, to fill the news programmes. There are interviews with college personnel and administration that I never had the opportunity to record myself. They also captured and covered more college events than I did, so these are true archive gems.

By now you’re thinking ‘why didn’t the TV Studio cover these things rather than the students?”. Well, the answer is simple, I wasn’t allowed to. We had a remit to charge for any work we did in the college TV studio, so unless someone was paying me, I couldn’t do the work! It’s sad to know that the only coverage of some important and unique college events are only on STOIC tapes. So, fortunately those tapes are now held safely and, as I mentioned previously, I also have access to the two-draw card index that I’m now slowly scanning into digital.

Scanning the cards is somewhat time consuming as there is no easy way to be able to autoscan them. I’m scanning them in batches of four on a flatbed scanner and creating continuous PDF files of each batch of A through to Z. I’ve got as far as “N” at this time! If you click on the photo that I took (left) you can see that even this particular card I’m holding shows an interesting 1980 interview with Prof Anderson about the UROP project. I seem to recall that it stood for Undergraduate Research OPportunities. There are no other such interviews, so this is also unique. How long before you’ll get to see it remains unknown, but keep watching as I go into year TEN

Colin Grimshaw January 2019

Lord & Lady Flowers, full interview: 2006

Saturday, December 1st, 2018

Lord Flowers was appointed Rector of Imperial in 1973 and held the post until 1985.

In 1979 he was made a life peer as Lord Flowers of Queen’s Gate. He became Chairman of the Committee of Vice Chancellors and Principals in 1983–85 and Vice Chancellor of the University of London, 1985–90. He was a founder member of the Social Democratic Party.

I shot this video on 17 May 2006. It was used the following year as part of the Imperial College Centenary Celebrations. Small extracts were only ever used at the time, amounting to about 6 minutes in total. This, the full version, runs for 40 minutes and has never been seen before. Both Lord and Lady Flowers speak about their rolls in college life. Anne Barrett from the college archives spoke to them both in the council room at 170 Queen’s Gate.

Colin Grimshaw December 2018

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