Charlton Heston, Vietnam and the NUS Grants Campaign

City has a long tradition of its student publications featuring strong and politically charged editorials stretching right back to its founding as the Northampton Institute in the 1890s.

Take this edition of Beacon from May, 1968 as an example:

Black and white front cover of The Beacon, May 1968, featuring the headline 'Vietnam No'
Beacon Front Cover, May 1968

The front cover features a quote from a Royal Shakespeare Company production of a play called ‘US’, used to help illustrate the publication’s anti-Vietnam War stance: and there is a two-page spread inside on pages 6 and 7 which deals with some of the issues involved in the conflict, including examining some of the facts behind the headlines.

But arguably it’s the Editorial which is most interesting. It talks about the dehumanising aspect of war and how it can be easy to forget that it’s not organisations or countries fighting or being bombed, but people- human beings affecting the lives of others. It also talks about the impact of geography on how we understand and interpret events, suggesting that because a country like Vietnam is so far away people don’t see it as having much impact on their lives and so care less about the war and more about what are, by contrast, trivial matters local to them, commenting that “sometimes we should perhaps remember that there is a world outside.”

The piece concludes with a rather stark assessment of the political climate and a hint at the dangers of apathy which often prevails on such matters:

“Thus we look at the gathering storm of protest. The songs, the speeches, the banners. We try and stir the conscience. Not just because a baby was burnt to a cinder by napalm yesterday, but because we let it happen.”

This powerful statement demonstrates the importance of giving voice to people and facilitating freedom of speech and expression, even during the most challenging of times: and how local journalism, including student newspapers, have often provided such an opportunity.

In the classic tradition of tabloid newspapers and The One Show though, the Beacon did like to offer its readers a lively mix of politics, Union society updates and photos of students being silly. In addition, there was regular content such as these film reviews featuring the Charlton Heston classic Planet of the Apes, although evidently the concept of ‘Spoiler Alert’ wasn’t a thing back then:

 

Film reviews from Beacon including for the film Planet of the Apes, May 1968
Beacon Film Reviews, May 1968

 

Finally, from this edition, there’s some handy guidance on how to write a letter to your local MP to complain about the cost of going to university and advocate to back the proposals of the NUS campaign for better student grants- although it’s not clear if the Secretariat covered the costs of stamps as well…

 

A letter template from Beacon in May 1968
Guide to Writing to Your Local MP, Beacon May 1968

Calling all freshers

Have you collected your official tie? Fancy being a cox? Ready to share with the world your moderate singing voice usually confined to the shower?

Well you’re in luck because Welcome Week can meet all your needs. At least it did fifty years ago.

The images featured here are taken from September and October 1967 editions of Beacon, the Student Union Magazine, copies of which are kept in the City Archive.

Beacon, the SU Magazine

In those days Beacon was almost Berliner sized and monochrome, but over the years it was printed in various shapes and colours and regularly featured an array of announcements, reports and displays of wit, although some of the editorial choices and humour were very much of its time: I doubt today’s Union would feature a ‘Miss Fresher’ winner on the front page, for example.

Picture 1: last minute supplement

In picture 1, the inserted supplement shows just how hot off the press the publication was, one highlight being the section where interested choristers are assured that “a high standard of voice is not necessarily expected”, no doubt giving hope to many.

Picture 2: vacant editorial posts

Picture 2, from the September issue, identifies many of the magazine’s vacant posts, reflecting the fact that at the start of each new academic year departing graduates create opportunities for new students to get involved- and this hasn’t changed, anyone attending Freshers Fair this year should keep an eye out for any clubs or societies which spark their imagination.

Sport has always featured strongly at City, dating right back to our founding as the Northampton Institute in the late 1800s. Over the years we’ve had football, rugby and cricket teams, people swimming in the Pool in College Building, whilst the old Saddlers’ Sports Hall even once hosted a European shooting championships; and societies too, be it drama, photography or Winnie-the-Pooh focused, have a long established history.

Picture 3: advert for the Fencing Club

Picture 3 is an advert for the Fencing Club who were, like all of the groups at the time, seeking new members. It describes Fencing as being the ‘politest’ of sports, though suggests that “gentlemanly would have been a better word but women also fence”: presumably a satirical observation, emphasised by the recent photo of fencers on City’s Sports Club website. In 1967 the club met on Wednesday afternoons, but a quick look online shows that the current Fencing Club will next get together on Saturday the 30th of September for both training and taster sessions.

It’ll be fascinating to look back in another 50 years to see what our current students got up to…