Category: College History

C&G Union film: 1972-1973

Once more we have a discovery from the past and in this case it’s 50 years ago. A Super8mm colour film that was only marked as “City and Guilds College STOIC records 1972-73″ has now been digitised. Some of the content was also shot on standard 8mm film and I have already used that in the previous Lord Mayor’s Show blog. This previous version is the one that I have managed to sync audio with. But the version on this Super8mm film is different and not seen before. Why was it filmed in two versions at the same time? One of the many mysteries I’m finding with these films. Sadly these were only intended to be used once in the news programme and then put to one side. So, I guess that’s because the actual videotapes were erased (weekly because of videotape costs) then no one thought it was important to index or log these 8mm films?

The C&G film contains: activities in the C&G union office, London to Brighton run, building the float for the Lord Mayor’s Show, BO and students on way into London for the show, the actual Lord Mayor’s Show from two different years, Morphy Day at Putney and Guilds Elections in Mech Eng 220. Unfortunately, actual dates for these items are not marked on the film or its reel, we only know it’s 1972-73. But even then it could be, for example, Autumn term 1971 through to Summer 1972 and so on. I’ve tried to find information on who was president during these years but sadly even the C&G web pages don’t even record presidential years or names. So, any help on naming people would be great and I’ll add anything I get to this page. It will also help in logging the actual film. Having said all of this, I CAN name just one person on a Lord Mayor’s Show sequence. It’s Cathy Gee (now Morley I recall) and she was a main presenter on the news programme TOPIC, in which the film would have been used. Cathy (seen wearing the orange coat in a frame from the Lord Mayor’s Show sequence) was in C&G (see below update) and I’m wondering if she might have been involved with this film being made in some way. What I cannot discover is exactly why it was made. There is a letter inside the film container from the then secretary of STOIC to David Barnes in the C&G office in Mech Eng. The letters says that this was the film that David Barnes was asking about etc. I did find that David Barnes was Chem Eng 1975 and that I think he was also Vice President. Clearly this film was then returned back to STOIC along with that letter inside. Why did C&G use it and when? Sadly even this letter is undated but has to be post-1973.

UPDATE: Once again, since this was posted, I have had feedback & info from Paul Jowitt. He starts with references to Cathy Morley (Gee) and also adds some names he can remember:-

“She (Cathy) was C&GU Hon Sec in 71-72.  I was President – and seen in the back of Bo waving a top hat in the Lord Mayor’s Show!  Brian Darling was VP, Malcolm Newman was President the year after – he’s pictured with other C&GU Exec members further down your link.  Dave Barnes was VP, and Graham ? Hon Sec.
Thanks for sharing.”

Colin Grimshaw April 2021

IC Newsreel Number 2: 1970

The second and final IC Newsreel was recorded on 2 March 1970. It was shown, like the first programme, at lunchtime the following day in the Junior Common Room in College Block (Sherfield). This final programme was a bit different and had a scoop too. Prior to the main recording, the Yugoslavian Prime Minister was visiting Imperial College and we were able to get the departure of him, his Police escort and his entourage.  Andy Finney and Vivienne Taylor stood outside the mechanical engineering building to cover the event, even though this was not originally their intention for being there. Andy was on a very long-range radio microphone and we used the longest lens possible on the camera, which (along with a second camera) was located on the third floor of the electrical engineering building. Because we had no way of inserting the item into the actual forthcoming news programme, Andy had to pre-record the item as it was happening, and we ran the item before the main program started. Not the conventional way to make a news program, but at least it was new and it was unique for that time. The news item by Andy is then followed by what was called a ‘crash’ edit (stop recording then restart again) so there are a few wobbles on the screen before the main programme starts.

Included in the programme were interviews with the three main candidates for the election of IC Union President. The first ever recording of this type.  Judith Walker won the election and became the first female in the role. She talks to Vivienne Taylor, also seen in IC Newsreel Number 1.
Just as we had ended the main recording and faded to black, the current Union President Piers Corbyn asked to be able to say a few words. So, following yet another crash edit, we faded back up and sort-of started again. The reason for these types of stops and start edits was because we only had one Ampex Videorecorder and that could not actually edit anyway.

Sadly no photos were taken at the time of these two news programme recordings, only the videotape survives, which is rare. The upper photo is of the TV studio in the late 1960’s and the lower, is just before the Philips Videorecorder, seen in the photo, was replaced by the Ampex, which was used to record the two IC Newsreels. The opening coverage of the Yugoslavian Prime Minister’s visit also gives the original view across Dolby Court, all the way from Electrical Engineering to Mechanical Engineering, a view now lost forever with the creation of the Faculty Building.

IC Newsreel paved the way for STOIC’s; TOPIC, Lunchbreak and then News-Break.

Colin Grimshaw March 2021

AA Merger Moratorium: 1970

Negotiations were begun by the Architectural Association Council in the early 1960’s to incorporate the A.A. into the state education system by discussing the idea of merging with Imperial College. Imperial broke off negotiations in February 1970 citing concerns at the nature and intentions of the AA school community. The decision to call off the negotiations left the Architectural Association stunned and many students at I.C. and the A.A. dissatisfied. The I.C. governors raised various issues in coming to their decision. On the actual fusion of the A.A. within a composite College of Science and Technology, Lord Penney wrote that the A.A. desired the fusion “only on their own terms’.

The AA Principal and the AA Council prepared for closure and the winding up of the school. Students and staff mobilised and a search committee for a new Chairman was established, resulting in the election in 1971 of Alvin Boyarsky. Ultimately he transformed the AA into a major international cultural institution.

As part of all of this, on 10 February 1970 Imperial College Union (along with AA students) organised a Moratorium as a protest at the break-down of the talks. The Union cited this as being the first public demonstration at Imperial College. Of course this didn’t go without STOIC noticing and a film camera crew were there to capture events. By chance, on the 17 February the very first news programme called IC Newsreel was recorded; it was shown the following day in the Junior Common Room. One of the organisers John Goodman came into the TV Studio to discuss what had happened and to introduce the film that STOIC had shot. This and the next IC Newsreel are the only two programmes to survive from those early years. But the actual 8mm film also survives after 50 years. What was different was that the film was in colour and the programme was in black and white. I have therefore taken the videotape sound track and re-synced with the HD version of the 8mm film.

In re-syncing the film and audio I ran into a problem. Whatever I did, I couldn’t get the original sound and new film transfer to match. Eventually I re-watched the video and discovered that two very small sections are now missing from the 8mm film compared to what was used in the TV programme in 1970. Coming to my rescue was Andy Finney STOIC’s first chairman and producer of the programme. He was involved with the filming and told me that after the film was used in the programme it was later shown at a students union meeting. I therefore can only assume that either these sections were removed, or more likely they were damaged when being shown at the meeting and then removed. So I’ve cheated and replaced the missing sections with the 50 year old, but very poor quality, videotape.

For the keen eyed you will see some blue hoarding when the group is in Imperial Institute Road (now Imperial College Road) and this was the start of the demolition of the old Chemistry Building. Also some staff are seem in white lab coats on the steps of the old Chemistry Building just before the blue hoarding shot.

Here then is the re-synced film in colour from 50 years ago. Oh, and also spot a miss spelling on banners.

Colin Grimshaw March 2021


 

Andy Rushton – C&G President: 1982

On 13 January 1982 edition of STOIC’s News-Break, Mike Hackett visited the City and Guilds office. Andy Rushton was then the president of C&G and he spoke about what was coming up and happening during the term. He also spoke about the forthcoming C&G elections. Some information I managed to find about Andy tells me that since 2011, he has been a Principal Consultant at ESR Technology providing major hazard services onshore and offshore. He also has involvement with the Institution of Chemical Engineers.

Once again this video was not without its technical problems and challenges. The studio sequences are all more or less OK, because they used high quality cameras. However, the camera that STOIC used for location work was nowhere near such quality and used what was called a single striped colour tube. The combination of being a tube camera and it producing the final colour by this method, was never without its problems.

The colour balance on the original was way-off and at the time, in 1982, we had no way of correcting this in post production. The still (above) that I’ve grabbed, is what it looked like directly from the programme master-tape during correction. I’ve struggled to produce something less green but have had to settle with what you are about to see. If the colour isn’t there, you can’t produce it out of thin air!

Colin Grimshaw January 2021

Film Talk Animation: 1975

Today we have yet another untold story from Imperial’s past with an idea that started at the college and ended up on worldwide TV. Way back in 1975 Mark Caldwell, then Chairman of STOIC started an ambitious series of interviews with both film stars and TV celebrities. The first included American film director and actor Mel Brooks, British actor Malcolm McDowell and Australia’s very own Dame Edna Everage, otherwise known as Barry Humphries. The series ended up being called Film Talk. Coinciding with this were the services provided by the ULAVC, over the ILEA Channel 7 cable TV network – which I have covered previously.

I was the TV contact at Imperial and knew both the staff at the ULAVC centre in Bedford Square and the ILEA TV Centre in Battersea. Somehow or another I mentioned the idea of them showing some of these programmes over their network. The idea was accepted, so future recordings were made with both local viewing and remote viewing via ILEA in mind. We had progressed so well that a contact at Imperial College introduced us to yet another new idea. In Mechanical Engineering there was a computer-aided design system called CADMAC. It used a mini computer, storage-tube system and plotter as its basis for the generation of ‘animation’. For normal film animation at the time, cells made of plastic film were drawn on and filmed frame-by-frame by a normal film camera. The concept was to use the computer output to produce either cells or to output onto paper. These would then be captured onto film as usual. The difference here was the computing. Things could be manipulated on the screen by using a lightpen and objects merged and moved around. This could (at that time) not be run in full-motion playback, so it was therefore outputted onto film or paper.

A company was formed called Video Animation (later called Electronic Arts) and they were looking for ideas to showcase the possibilities of this new technology. We met them and they offered to make a short animation based on three photos that we would provide. These were inputted to their system by using a light-pen system to trace the image. It was then animated to produce an end result. So, the images were Mel Brooks, Malcolm McDowell and Barry Humphries as Dame Edna. The end result is not perfect. They could not, for some reason, cope with Dame Edna’s glasses or hat, and these are missing from the animation (see actual photo on left). It’s a very heavy contrast line drawing with no grey scale, but for us it was at least unique. They also created and added the title. The final product was given to us on 16mm film, the sound was added later. The film (seen on the right) was then played into any of the programmes via tele-cine. If we happened to be recording at the ILEA Battersea Studios, they had a tele-cine unit within the control room. For anyone who remembers the opening sequence to the worldwide TV series “The New Avengers” it was Video Animation who produced the opening title animation. It’s no coincidence that the Avengers TV series started the very next year in 1976. So, the experiment for Film Talk could well have been used to persuade the TV company to use animation in the opening titles. Our animation has some very close similarities to that of the New Avengers opening titles. See the bottom video for the Avengers animation sequence.

Colin Grimshaw 1 January 2021


 

QEC Integration into Imperial? – 1981

FELIX Dated Friday 4 December 1981

In December 1981 and January 1982 STOIC’s news programme had reports on the proposed integration of Queen Elizabeth College in Kensington, INTO Imperial College. The main theme of the proposal was that Q.E.C would have been incorporated into IC as a fourth constituent college.

So, in December 1981 the college statement said; the bioscience part of Q.E.C is proposed to be physically moved to the IC site, which would require a new building (probably on the site next to new Chemistry). The physical sciences at Q.E.C would be “accommodated elsewhere within the university”. Joint planning and consultative committees would be set up to achieve a closer working relationship prior to the eventual integration. The timescale of the proposal is approximately five years, but major developments might be expected before that time. The proposal is in response to the problems of finance and student numbers facing London University (that Imperial was then part of). It is not clear however just what financial savings would be made, and no mention is made of this in the statement. Student numbers would presumably fall, although the new ‘super IC’ would be larger than it is now.

Of course this all came to nothing, here though are STOIC reports from 2 & 9 December 1981.

And on the first edition of News-Break for 1982, Nick Morton the ICU President came into the TV Studio. He spoke with Lawrence Windley and gave his view and opinion on the situation. He also corrected various misunderstandings on these proposals that were currently going around the college and also printed in Felix (the student newspaper). Students kept talking of this as a ‘merger’, but this was never the proposal, but rather an ‘integration’ of Q.E.C into Imperial College. Once again, the saved videotape archive of STOIC has rescued the news and voices of Imperial College, which would have otherwise been lost for ever.

Colin Grimshaw 2 December 2020


 

Bo goes London to Brighton: 1977

Today I have what was another mystery film from the STOIC archives. In digitising the 8mm films that were used in their earlier programmes I found two reels of Super8 colour film marked London (to) Brighton. No date or further details were on the reels. It was a mystery as to why this was shot on film because clues lead me to believe it was perhaps around 1978 or so. By then, STOIC had their own Sony portable videorecorder for location work. I looked for clues in the actual footage but couldn’t spot anything that might give me a date. Until…..in one very small segment you will see Bo (Boanerges) has broken down outside of a cinema. This was in Streatham in South London. I could just make out, by zooming into one frame, a film title on the outside hoarding on the cinema. I looked it up on Google and it was dated as 1977. So, this was clearly the London to Brighton run on Sunday 6 November 1977.

I have no clues or idea as to why this was shot on 8mm colour film. The two reels are unedited and even look as if they were never used. If anything was indeed used it would have been in the weekly Lunchbreak programme. Was Rag week the same weekend as this event and therefore the videorecorder was not available because it was already in use?

We may never know the answer, but here anyway is the digital transfer of Bo, going from London to Brighton in 1977. Oh, and that’s Sir Hugh Ford sitting on the back seat in the middle.

Colin Grimshaw November 2020


 

Eric Laithwaite 40 year anniversary: 1980

I’ve only just realised that it’s 40 years ago this very month that I interviewed Professor Eric Laithwaite. I had suggested to the college archives that we should record this interview. Although, at present, I’m not able to get access to the mastertape, I have attempted to correct the colour and enhance the original version, the best that I can. There are potentially other unseen interviews with Eric Laithwaite that were made by STOIC, but until Imperial sees the advantage of these archive gems, they will forever remain in the archives. Sadly, money is needed to fund the transfer of these Ampex Type A videotapes into digital form. This is something that I can no longer do myself because all of our old videotape equipment was disposed of when the TV Studio was closed in 2007. So this interview is therefore the only one with Eric Laithwaite that’s recorded at Imperial College.

I was the interviewer and it was recorded in his office in the heavy electrical engineering laboratory at Imperial College. The slight background noise is from the various motors and machines running in the lab.

Colin Grimshaw September 2020


 

TOPIC – rediscovered 8mm film: 1972

Recently I’ve been digitising, in HD, my personal collection of 8mm home movies. Now that those are all transferred, I’ve moved onto a large collection of 8mm films from STOIC’s archive. Why did STOIC have 8mm films? Well, back in the early 1970’s there was no easy way to record anything outside of the TV Studio, so film was the only option. For the early news programme TOPIC, 8mm was shot and developed by STOIC. They bought all of the kit that was needed to process and ‘reverse’ the film from negative to positive. This film was then edited and used within the next edition of their news programme. In some cases, it was easier for them to use normal film to shoot what they needed, and to then let Kodak process the film. And in these cases the film was colour, even though it was only ever seen in black and white.

I made an amazing discovery too. There is a spool of ‘home processed’ film for the Easter edition of TOPIC from 23 March 1972. That seemed familiar to me and so I dug deep into my collection of audio tapes and discovered I had the sound track to the actual programme. I was then able to sync-up the studio commentary from the (now erased) programme soundtrack, to recreate what would have been seen some 50 years ago. But this was not without difficulties that I thought I would never solve.

Once STOIC had processed the film it ended up as a 16mm spool that needed to be split down the middle to produce 2x8mm film. A spool of 25 feet of 16mm ended up as 50 feet of 2x8mm. However, splitting the film needed to be done accurately. My 8mm digitiser is very fussy about accuracy of film size and the STOIC film certainly wasn’t accurate. I discovered that at certain points, the film stopped and seemed to jam in the gate mechanism. Upon closer inspection with a magnifying glass I spotted that the film was going wide to less wide, then back to normal and so on. When it got extra wide it jammed and then released again. The end result is seen above, with the film frame going up and down with the changing of the film width. Look at the extreme right hand side to see the film edge getting wider and then narrower again.

And, when a film splice happened, it could easily go from normal width to extra wide width, as indicated by the arrow in this photo. I had to redo most of the original splices in the film and cheat to make the transition slightly less bad. However, the end result still had the frame moving up and down at different times. But, I discovered a solution. During digital editing I tried ‘tracking’ and stabilisation. Tracking allows a specific point of reference to be used to keep an image where you want it. So, I under-scanned the film to see the sprocket holes and for them to be used as my key reference point. A few minutes later and I had a workable end result. I synced my soundtrack, as best I could, cleaned up the image and we now have for the first time in 50 years the film inserts for TOPIC as they were seen in the programme.

Here then are the two film inserts used in the programme after I’ve managed to digitally stabilise and correct them. The first is a report by Richard Woodhead on the March 1972 Student Union Elections. Note that the commentary was made live in the studio as the film ran, so does not sync perfectly to what is being seen. Also, there are big gaps where nothing is said and this was intentional, other than some taped background noise. This programme was only ever seen ONCE, on 23 March 1972.

The second and final film is a comedy sequence apparently shot in the Union Building Heating Tunnels. You’ll notice that there is a slight delay and confusion in the film sound starting, but can eventually be heard. This background music was played in live, from audio tape, and clearly there was an initial technical hitch which delayed the start.

And, things just keep being found. With another reel of tape I’ve discovered a piece of paper that listed the original background sound and music for both of these films. Indeed that was correct, so I now also have the tape that was run live at the time behind the studio commentary. And there’s more to come…

Colin Grimshaw August 2020


 

Digitising film archive in HD: 2020

Seen for the first time in HD, it’s Morphy Day c1972. Digitised from 8mm film you’ll see Morphy Day, as you may never have seen it before. Well, you might have seen it, but only if you had viewed the actual 8mm colour film, but that’s unlikely.

Morphy Day was filmed on Super8 for inclusion in STOIC’s news programme called TOPIC. Sadly the spool is undated, and I’m not surprised. They were extremely bad at archiving; unless of course I moaned at them. This spool, along with some others, seems to have slipped through the net. So, I’m second-guessing at a rough date of around Autumn term of 1972.

Recently, I bought, for myself, an 8mm film scanner. This is not a projector, but rather a device to capture each film frame, one by one. A standard 50 foot reel of 8mm film takes about 30 mins to capture in HD. As I have many reels of my own film in both Standard 8 and Super8 formats, it was a worthwhile purchase. Having completed all of my personal films, I’m moving on to the archive collection.

The film scanner has a built in screen to show the frames being scanned, but I connect it to an external monitor to see better whether I have the exposure and other adjustments set correctly. Then it’s just a case of sitting back and waiting for the scan to end. I make some adjustments to exposure and colour in post-production after the scan is complete. The end result is vastly improved over the previous version that I put up in 2016 and of course it’s now in HD.

Colin Grimshaw July 2020