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