Given that this edition marks the 200th anniversary issue of Impact magazine, your devoted editors have sacrificed their degrees to spend weeks diligently trawling through the archives of student publications. Safely tucked away in the dusty reading rooms of King’s Meadow Campus are 115 years of publications produced by the students of The University of Nottingham. They are a record not only of the history of the magazine and the University, but also how the student social life has evolved over the past century.
The Gong, launched in 1895 was the University’s first foray into the world of student journalism. A polished literary pamphlet, it published the students’ own stories, poems and literary reviews. The Granddad of the students’ creative voice continued for decades alongside its news-based rival, The Gongster, which was launched in 1939 and after several image changes eventually became our very own Impact. The paper suffered many teething problems, coming under fire for being ‘too serious and stodgy’ and people were unwilling to pay the 2d, thus the editorial team failed to shift even 400 copies.
The publication also faced difficulties when war broke out, resulting in a print reduction as the country encountered a serious paper shortage. In 1941 Gongster was suspended throughout the summer months due to a lack of funding, given the restrictions imposed on all societies by the SU as the full effects of rationing took their toll. It was only by 1947 that the paper finally found its feet, selling 100% of copies.
Having read over 300 editorials unsurprisingly they all began to merge into a confusing mix of opinionated tripe. The most memorable came from a certain David Rees, editor for the 1949 academic year. Rees wore black cloaks and cravats teamed with wide-rimmed hats to the office… A far cry from the trackies and trainers of our very own James Sanderson. The eccentric Rees responded to a barrage of complaints retorting “We hear that The Gongster is too intellectual, puerile, left wing, right wing, adolescent, coarse, red, pink and indifferent and that the editor is a neo-crypto-pseudo-strap-hangero-Fascist-beast.”
The Editor elected as his successor promised to “build a new office out of the bricks thrown at us.” The student body certainly had no qualms in ruthlessly tearing to pieces the efforts of the editorial team. From the thickness of the paper and the “pretentious” font to the lack of humorous writing, if they didn’t like it they told you. And this coming from a generation who complained endlessly about student apathy? Today Impact fail to print a ‘Letters to the Editor’ page… Because no one can be bothered to write. Gongster even managed to maintain an intimate relationship with its readers through their ever-patient agony aunt Mrs Dick. A certain ‘Luckie Leslie’ required Mrs Dick’s advice for an unfortunate courting dilemma,
‘Dear Mrs Dick,
I am in love with a girl but every time I kiss her, her spectacles get in the way and scratch my face. Should I get a wad of cotton wool and iodine for my face or ask her to remove her specs. Unfortunately if she removes her spectacles she cannot see and bites my Adam’s apple, which is a most prominent one.’
She dutifully responded,
‘Have you thought of using your gas mask? Take off the metal part that looks like a sprinkler and I think your problem is solved. Your Adam’s apple trouble can be successfully cured if you cut away a small portion of it daily when you shave.’
Sadly Mrs Dick felt the full force of a mid-term shake-up and the paper printed her obituary in 1941.
The style section of the magazine is a permanent source of amusement given the changing fashions of the past eighty years. As far back as the sixties the magazine attempted to prevent students committing fashion faux pas. One 1960 issue prescribed a dose of knee length chequered skirts teamed with woolly cardis. Shoot forward thirty years and the editors still had their fingers on the fashion pulse, awarding the ‘Impact Best-Dressed Fresher Award’ to a girl wearing a pencil skirt, sandals and zip-up top. Apparently the “razor sharp tailoring of the pencil skirt strongly echoed Prada’s particular brand of minimalism.”
The swinging sixties were the years which brought sex to the sheets of our paper. “Students must enjoy life, that is, have a lot of sex. What most of the women of this place need is to be well and truly laid.” The wise words of a male contributor in 1965.
If the sixties were all about the sex then the seventies were all about the beats. Record reviews filled the sheets, along with abundant club and gig reviews and countless drug-related pieces. There were headlines calling to “legalise drugs” and the excitement caused by Magic Mushrooms left some people certain there was “no hope for dope.”
As the paper hit the ‘80s it was decided Gongster was long due a shake-up and soon became Bias. The new name, coupled with an edgier, aesthetically pleasing design, lasted only five years when someone concluded the paper would be better served as Impact. Still a newspaper and still partially funding itself, at ten pence a copy, Impact promised to be more adventurous and more attractive.
Having spent about a week painstakingly trawling through eight decades of newspapers, in celebration of this great milestone, something shocking came to my attention in the year 1986. Some moron accidentally labelled Issue 12 as 13, thus missing one issue and rendering this entire bloody feature fairly pointless. So we’re actually bringing you a celebration of Issue 199. Ah well, bit late now…
There was a certain naïvety to student life in the early twentieth century. Imagine being a student in an era when scandal involved a soirée to the Staff Gardens for a cheeky hand-hold, as opposed to a brazen Walk of Shame down Derby Road. Long before the sweaty Friday nights of Ocean, students were invited to socialise at the regularly held ‘hops’ where they partied tamely until 11.30pm. These were the frolics of a bygone era where complaints were lodged about “the degrading struggle to obtain refreshments and the persistent darkening of the Ladies’ Common Room by those who insist on indulging in intimate embraces.” And those lucky ladies who managed to score at the hops would proceed to the afterparty in the Staff Gardens, where couples could continue their fumblings in private (along with the all the other couples with the same idea).
Alongside the hops was the annual Union Ball, the highlight of the social calendar. In 1953, students queued in sleeping bags from 3.30am to snap up tickets. It seems Nottingham students were always insanely keen not to miss out on the fun – 7am at the SU box-office for Ocean tickets anyone? According to one contributor the ball meant a change from the daily “tousled heads and baggy flannels to well scrubbed stiffs in starched-shirts and visions of beauty in taffeta and net.” Day to day student wear hasn’t changed much then. Neither, you might be surprised to learn, has the sexual frivolity of the students as one 1951 student was suspended from university for going to breakfast in his evening wear, probably still dazed at his success from the previous night. For many years, the lake featured heavily in the social events. Notably the Great Lake Joust took place on rowing boats with men dressed in their evening attire. The event survived for over twenty years in an era before the Health and Safety obsession stole our souls.
As far back as the 1940s fancy dress was an integral part of student life. The Great Beer Marathon involved groups dressing in their pyjamas and decorated potato sacks in order to carry one of their number round campus. The chosen one had to down pints of beer at designated check points and groups were disqualified if the beer was “regurgitated”. Nice.
Drinking was of course also central to student life and pubs in Lenton have always profited well from student alcoholism. In the fifties The Windmill, The Talbot and The White Hart were popular watering holes, particularly the latter, which was overrun with students.
Throughout the sixties, gigs became the most popular social event, where drugs tended to prevail over alcohol. The laid back attitude adopted by students was not welcomed by all however; in 1971, six male students went to the ‘Penny Farthing Club’ in town and were outraged when they were refused entry for having long hair. In the eighties, the nightlife thrived, with the opening of Rock City, where Gary Glitter and Status Quo made appearances. Other popular places which sadly didn’t survive were The Mint, Venue 53 and The Hippo Club. In the eighties too, apparently The Happy Return was given a £45,000 refurbishment, unfortunately it doesn’t look to be ever getting one again. And the nineties saw some favourites springing up such as The Cookie Club and our very own Quasar-inspired Market Bar.
Piling into a canary yellow bus dressed ridiculously to collect money, whilst getting trollied on a three hour journey and occasionally stopping to pee at the side of a motorway, is a tradition unique to our beautiful, classy university. And in fact it’s a tradition that extends back further than you might think. The association of student charity with drunken hooliganism goes back as far as the 1920s. In fact, Karni is an aged hooligan alive and kicking at the ripe old age of eighty, waving his walking stick and collecting tin at the Modern World. From the 1920s the students took to the city streets to collect for the Nottingham General Hospital. Between 1928 and 1938 the students ran the annual Rag Carnival; a five day event which raised enough to build an entire ward. However, in 1939 World War Two reared its ugly head and spoilt everyone’s fun. The idea of holding the Rag during the war was deemed “scandalous.” Regardless of the conclusion of the war in 1945, the students failed to reinstate the celebration as the University opposed the event, claiming it promoted hooliganism and widened the gap between the University and townspeople.
So began the lengthy battle to reinstate Rag Week. It took them five years, but the students emerged victorious and in 1951 they celebrated through the streets of Beeston and the city centre. They held a procession with dozens of themed floats, a Lake Battle, collected spare change, held formal balls, hops, variety shows, concerts, sports days, debates and hosted celebrities. They drew in huge crowds to watch the excitement and sold thousands of Rag Magazines called ‘the Chickerah,’ a publication composed for the occasion. The procession became an annual tradition with halls and societies attempting to outdo each other with ever extravagant floats and costumes. Sutton Bonington Agricultural College were often fields ahead of the rest of the pack with their efforts. Such as the infamous Milli the Million Dollar Cow, only trumped by the 150 mile tractor parade from London to Coventry the following year. The Ag-College students’ efforts completely overshadowed the Hugh-Stu Monster which returned in a bigger and better form annually.
A few years down the line however, things weren’t so dandy. The introduction of ‘Stunts’ to the Rag itinerary raised a few eyebrows. Chaos ensued when bystanders encountered a dramatic heist of a well-known Nottingham jewellers. The students performed a little too realistically resulting in a 999 call within minutes. Other controversial stunts included calling the police to report someone painting the lions outside the Council building in Market Square. When the old bill arrived, they discovered someone had indeed painted them, with the utmost attention to detail, on a large canvas which hung gleefully above. Another year the students precariously climbed the Castle rock to hang a banner which read ‘SUPPORT THE RAG.’ Elsewhere they hung a line of dirty washing between the flag poles of the Council House on Market Square. As you can imagine, the University were not best pleased.
And the University were still scowling no less than twenty years later when the newly krowned ‘Karnival’ organised a Raft race during the recently extended Karnival season, which now ran from October to December. Several students emerged from the River Trent with gastroenteritis and typhus and it was deemed ‘a miracle’ that no one drowned.
The eighties saw the arrival of the mean streak. No longer the healthy, jovial kompetition of the 50s, Rutland had declared all out war. The hall of residence had its own ‘Karni room’ which was essentially a gentleman’s smoking room in which they got drunk and revelled in their high powered status as Reps. One Rutland resident, of the non-karni kontingent described the reps as ‘hate figures’ due to their self-absorbed nature.
Some of our favourite Karni events have been running with similar formats for decades. 1952 saw the first ever ‘Miss Nottingham’, taking place under the guise of ‘Miss Carnival.’ Competitors did not perform fellatio on fruit, or lick whipped cream off their wingmen. In fact the kompetition was a traditional beauty pageant, with contestants no doubt answering the clichéd world-peace-style questions. 7 Legged began in 1983 and the Snowball showcased in ’92. RagRaids have been constantly evolving from the 1920s. The Rag Carnival began by ‘raiding’ Nottingham and Mansfield in their newly purchased double-decker bus. Destinations were later selected by the committee who hired double-deckers weekly to ship the students to destinations nationwide.
(N.B. Apologies for the excessive use of ‘K’s in the above report, we felt it only appropriate to preserve the irritating style of journalism employed by the Karni representatives throughout the 60s and 70s.)
When The Gongster was launched in 1939, Nottingham, like many others, had not yet received its University charter and was known as University College Nottingham (UCN). It was home to only 700 students studying the Arts, the Sciences, Pharmacological Studies, Economics or Engineering. Soon after the outbreak of war, Nottingham became the adopted home of Goldsmiths University and the Institute of Education, both hurriedly evacuated out of the war-torn capital.
Despite tireless campaigning from the NUS to allow “the future of the country” to complete their degrees first, many young students were forced into Conscription mid-term. The outbreak of war naturally had a great effect on the student body. One contributor described how “studded boots and khaki shadows replaced the swish of ball gowns.” The war was a disorientating time for The University, with an influx of Londoners and an overwhelming female majority which left the social life somewhat lacking.
In 1948 the UCN was granted status as a university and from here the institution blossomed. The fifties saw the erection of the Union ‘Portland Building’ which housed a brand new buttery, coffee bar, and billiards room where students piled in to discuss the events of the previous night’s hop. This sparked the start of a new skyline for Nottingham campus and ‘science city’ sprung from the foundations in the 1960s. There remains a longstanding problem on campus however, which dates back to the sixties when the ‘war on parking’ began. Parking permits and clamps were reinforced, allowing only third years still in halls to bring their cars on to campus.
The campus boundaries were expanded to accommodate for the influx of new constructions. Alongside the academic buildings, Sherwood, Rutland, Derby, Lincoln, Willoughby, Cavendish and Ancaster joined the pre-existing Florence Boot, Florence Nightingale, Wortley (later Lenton and Wortley), Hugh Stewart and Cripps. Even as far back as ‘64 it was reported that Rutland was ‘hard pressed to find students willing to go into residence’. No change there then… References to Hugh Stewart seem to go back the furthest; the notorious first male hall who took their pick from the Florence Boot fillies. Both halls complained endlessly about the food in their establishments, with the girls claiming “the authorities have an eye to our figures” due to the chef’s obsession with lettuce sandwiches.
Further reference to Hugh Stu in 1975 makes you thank your lucky stars you didn’t reside in Block N, which was unanimously voted the worst accommodation on campus due to the underground location, rat infestation, crickets relentlessly chirping and unbearable heat. And these lucky residents still forked out the same rates as those living above the basement.
On the contrary, when the all-female hall Willoughby was opened, the architect, Mr Williamson was heartily congratulated for creating ‘the best designed exterior on the campus.’ And fifty years later we personally extend our thanks to him for creating such a heinous bogey-roofed, concrete, eye-sore.
The University had to quickly take stock when faced with its first serious accommodation crisis in the fifties due to an unprecedented rise in applicants. Freshers were reported to be sleeping on the floor of Cavendish JCR, in B&Bs, in caravans and lodging with University staff until solutions could be found.
In the times before television, internet and mixed halls, with curfews rarely extending beyond 10.30pm, evenings were spent drinking coffee, listening to the gramophone or partaking in poetry discussion groups with the wardens. Although the decision wasn’t made until the seventies, debates on mixed halls began in 1961, with much opposition. One male contributor wrote, ‘These mixed halls of residence will be nothing more than a prison. In the women’s halls they rip each other to pieces thus weakening themselves and ensuring easy male domination’. However, another pointed out that mixed halls surely meant women could darn men’s socks? The women were more keen on the idea as it could dispel rumours that Florence Boot girls were ‘shapeless book worms’ living in a ‘nunnery’. Nightingale, Cripps and Lenton retained their single sex status until the mid-nineties, meanwhile those Ancaster liberalists were all too happy to allow mixed sex bathrooms.
And as for Lenton, it became the undergraduate hotspot in the early 80s, with concerns raised even then about the prospect of this student ‘ghetto.’ The council were hot on our heels from the offset, complaining about the unsatisfactory noise levels and rubbish disposal.
Discovering the history of our University has been an enlightening experience, one which Impact sincerely hopes the magazine editors of the future generation will repeat as they approach the 500th anniversary edition in around 2050. I can picture them laughing at our appalling fashion sense, (jeggings anyone?!) taste in music and tame attitude to sex much as we have done. This conclusion provoked an office decision to protect the record of our generation by creating a time capsule to epitomise Nottingham student life today. Thus far we have included a current issue of Impact, a Baywatch t-shirt, a Park Stores sandwich, a queue jump pass to the Den (!), a Blackberry, a campus parking permit, and the Week One Exec’s egos. That’s if they’ll fit… Any further suggestions on a postcard addressed to the Impact office, if your student apathy doesn’t prevent you…
Hattie Hamiliton and Emily Goodyear