Cold War diplomacy
Due to its radical and innovative approaches to education, Keele was known for a while as the 'Kremlin on the Hill' - and it was no stranger to diplomatic incidents involving the Soviet Union.
"In 1959 or 1960 two women from the USSR came to Keele for a brief visit of a few days or a week. One was called Nina and I had my photo taken with her by a tree near Fresher's Gate. I do remember an evening of tense but relatively animated discussion with a group of students and both of them in a room in Sneyd House. Do the Keele annuls have any records of who they were and why they came? I think they must have been educators but have forgotten the details."
Jenny Waterman (1963)
"I remember the visit of the two Russian students. I invited them to coffee in my room at Sneyd House and for some reason showed them my collection of (art) postcards and gave them some. I did write a postcard to one of them afterwards but never got a reply. I naively referred to some Russian event in the news."
Roberta Buchanan (1960)
"I remember a visit by a group of Soviet students either in late 1959 or early 1960. They were there when hops still happened in the old Union building. On the Saturday evening there was a very lively hop with the rugger club well to the fore A certain degree of over-exuberance led the Soviet group's leader to describe what he was seeing as 'bourgeois entertainment' and saying he was leaving with all his people. There is then alleged to have been an "incident" when it is suggested a rugger lad taking a peaceful nap on the floor woke up, saw a ladies' ankle close at hand and, it is said, bit it. Outrage etc. Gossip rife, rumours of official protests. Oh, my goodness and shock horror!
In 1960 the graduating class, as tradition demanded, had to present a Final Fling. The show had a variety of turns for the first half but in the second half we presented an operetta. It was a joint effort but the major talents involved were music by George Hurley, lyrics by Fred Vale and others, starring Tub Read as Eisenhower, Fred as Macmillan, someone tall as de Gaulle and someone suited to be Khrushchev (sorry, memory leaks away), Jim Maxwell, Tulla Tallianos, Maeve Richardson, the great Ticker Hayhurst and others were deeply involved. I was Sound and Effects man (in a pre-computer world!) The plot was simple: following the 'incident' at the hop, the Soviet government became very agitated and demanded the 'villain' be handed over for punishment. Full and frank discussions ensued and eventually, a Summit was arranged.
Sample songs include:
"Macmillan" (an urbane Fred Vale in very smart dress) sang to a pastiche skipping dance tune:
My name is Macmillan, some say I'm a villain,
But I'm misunderstood,
Just watch as I slum it,
Way up at the summit,
I've never had it so good.
Solo first, then chorus.
"De Gaulle", sung to a march tune with echoes of the Marseillaise:
My name is General de Gaulle,
I'm terribly, terribly tall;
As the man of the hour, I have risen to power,
I'm the greatest dictator of all.
"Khrushchev" had a vaguely Russian folk song feel to it and included:
My name is Nikita, I couldn't be sweeter
I smile at my friend and my foe,
I'm a hell of a chap at the back-slapping stab,
And I'm boss of the Politburo.
The great Tub Read (whom I backed on double bass around the Five towns for Rag fundraising (must have been mad - all that on and off buses with a double-bass) played "Eisenhower" and naturally had a rock/skiffley number that I think went
My friends call me Ike, there's none I dislike
He went on to explain that he was interested only in his golf handicap.
The plot thickens, relations become more and more strained and eventually war arrives and an appalling explosion, flashing lights and darkness in the Walter Moberly Hall. Then a small light and Fred takes over as narrator while up in the control box I'm struggling to get the sound back from a stunned sound system and bring the lights back without blowing the fuses (which had happened in rehearsal). The explosion was created from several sources and laid down on standard tape on a Grundig recorder the size of a small suitcase. I still have the tape and some of my cue notes. We all enjoyed ourselves immensely; the audiences liked the show, which ran for two showings, enough for full houses and most of the Keele population. The one thing we didn't do was to record the show. Nor have I any photos. If anyone has a recording or photos or an original script, a poster, a cast list-anything-it would be wonderful to have a copy."
Brian 'Ned' Lusher (1960)
Image below: Not the controversial Hop but definitely a Hop at the UCNS - taken by Ticker Hayhurst (1960)
"Ned Lusher's recollection of the visit by Russian students in 1959-60 and the incident with the rugby club led by John Arrowsmith – the biter on the floor - at the Students Union Hop is absolutely correct. His memory of the 1960 Finalists Review based on the incident is also pretty good – but there are one or two corrections viz – Hugh Oliver (famed for his Swiftian satire 'Hoblyn's Tour of Leek' in Cygnet ) contributed both to the idea and the lyrics, and I was too busy being the Narrator to play any other role. For those with an antiquarian bent the cast was as follows:
Narrator – Fred Vale; David Lloyd – himself; Malcolm Muggeridge - Fred Elson; General de Gaulle – Martyn Brookes; Eisenhower - Tub Reed; Macmillan – Peter Smith; Khrushchev- Mike Smith; Army Chief - Frank Aldred; 1st Sea Lord – Ted Lambton; Air Marshal – George Hurdley
Chorus (men): Russians – Mike Smith; Fred Elson; Malcolm Kier; Martyn Brookes; Peter Smith; Welsh – Jim Maxton; John Arrowsmith; Frank Aldred; English – Ken Plampin; Cliff Blakemore; Tub Reed; David Lloyd; Ted Lambton
Chorus (women): Jocelyn Tully; Pauline Taylor; Joyce Parks; Tulla Tullianos; Janet Armstrong; Margaret Brown; Elaine Stacey
The world's last surviving copy of the script (with handwritten stage notes by me) is in my possession. It is typed on old very long MS paper (not A4)." Brian (Fred) Vale (1960) Ed. See image of page 1 above.
"Oh, Ned - what a wonderful remembering: I love those ditties! I can't say I myself recall this particular moment in the old Nissen hut Union, though I do remember that old Union and the bar there. According to the records in the Keele Library Special Collections sent to me by Helen Burton, the Russian visitors are mentioned in the UCNS Principal's Report for 1959-60. It mentions two groups of Soviet visitors that academic year. Your lively telling must relate to the group of 13 from Sverdlovsk in March; I met the two women who came in May."
Jenny Waterman (1963)
"This must have been end of 1959 or beginning 1960. I definitely would have remembered it as we (in my year 1959) know all the names. Would have loved to have been present. Fantastic!"
Dot Bell (Pitman) (1959)
"Congratulations to Ned on his powers of recall and to Fred for preserving material not to mention being able to find it. One further ramification not yet mentioned was a testy Union meeting where efforts were made to ban the Rugby Club's post-match celebrations from Union premises so future guests would not be insulted!"
Tony Powell (1959)
Soviet diplomacy 1953-style
"Since Jenny's memory is from 1959/1960, it's not the visit of Russian guests that I remember from 1952/1953. I think they were students? They answered questions in the Students' Union, one of which were what they thought might happen after Stalin's death. As I remember, they weren't able to countenance such an eventuality. Does anyone else remember this? And how was it that they were able to come?"
Anna Swiatecka (1954)
"I remember a Soviet visit during our time at Keele and I also recall that the issue of Stalin's death was front and central. As Stalin died on 5 May 1953 maybe the visit was either at or close to that time."
David Jeakins (1954)
"It would be the summer of 1956 when I returned to Keele before term began for an amorous assignation with a Keele employee in the Geology Department. I spent an evening with an exuberant and voluble student from Kiev who had the most over the top Oxford accent. We played what looking back was a boisterous game of snooker fuelled no doubt by alcohol. I have no idea why he was at Keele at the height of the Cold War."
Derek Evans (1957)
Demonstrable troubles at the final fling
"Reading the accounts reminded me of our final fling review in 1969. It followed shortly after the first ever "sit-in" in the Registry and was themed around those troubles to Gilbert and Sullivan tunes. I think like all such reviews, the Walter Moberly Hall was packed to the rafters and, unbelievable as it now seems, I even sang a solo. I think I might even still have the script somewhere in the loft. A few months ago, my Keele friend and contemporary, Linden West (1969), and I met two campus children of the time, Godfrey Jordan (son of Dominic Jordan – Maths lecturer) and Chris Tough (son of Arthur Tough – Deputy Registrar) at half-time in the Fulham v Stoke City game. Godfrey said (amazingly) that his mum remembered me being carried on to the stage in that show, which prompted Linden and me to spontaneously strike up with a rendition of that music – much to the astonishment of Godfrey and Chris and the nearby crowd. Perhaps the most amazing thing was that we still remembered the words (or some of them!). Godfrey and Chris had memories of passing those student demonstrations on their way to primary school and wondering what on earth was going on. Happy days! By the way, the Fulham crowd were treated to this:
Oh, is there not one Senator, whose liberal past and princely station
Can help us to espouse our cause
And fight the lodgings regulation
Is there not one ?
(lone voice) – yes, one !
Ah ! 'tis Lampert
(i.e. Eugene Lampert, Professor of Russian studies, believed to be the member of Senate most sympathetic to the Union cause)"
Malc Clarke (1969)
"My strongest memory is of Malc's singing (never completely his strong point), 'Oh is there not one Senator' and of some confusion to who was playing John Dent, John Hodgkinson and David Ingram, but I don't think it spoiled the theatre. David of course later became Vice-Chancellor at Kent, and interviewed me for a job, in 1990. 'The last time we met Linden was', he recalled, right at the beginning of the interview, 'on opposite sides of the barricades in the Keele Registry in 1968...'; not sure that was totally true, or about the precise date, but it also made for good theatre."
Linden West (1969)
"That must be the one I was in when a bunch of us 'girls' imitated a car engine under the guidance of Don Foster(1969)."
Clare Radstone (Woodward) (1969)
"The splendid Gilbert and Sullivan pastiches were written by Mike Brereton: Three Little Fresherettes (Three Little Maids From School) being a minor masterpiece ("Come to a place where love is free")."
Francis Beckett (1969)
"Actually I only directed the 1969 final fling review. As I remember it, the G & S pastiche was written by John Hartoch. It was of a Senate meeting and part of it ran (from memory) "We won't have to beg or to barter/ To get our names writ into the Charter/For when Dave Ingram sucks up to her/ She's such a susceptible Chancellor." (This would probably be actionable nowadays and we did wonder about the central heating in the Tower of London!) I think that Malc Clarke, Linden West and others did a 'Match of the Day' skit involving final exam results being classified in slow-mo replay (I think Malc did the David Coleman bit!) There was also a chorus line of distraught undergraduettes presenting themselves to the Hall Tutor system ( I think I wrote this but I may be wrong) based on a Beatles melody (a pregnant Harrowby resident singing "Mr Day - love was such an easy game to play . . . etc.). But memory fades."
Mike Brereton (1969)
"I don't think this exchange should conclude without a brief mention of the notorious Final Fling 1968, which was I think masterminded by Ray Johnston. It included the usual G & S pastiches, as well as a number of revamped Beatles numbers. The centrepiece was a re-write of "Yesterday", performed by a nubile but apparently very pregnant finalist (the lovely Jane Wood). The full torrid lyrics are available on application, but the plaintive refrain ("Oh, Mr Day came suddenly") was sufficient explanation for the equally sudden departure of a number of senior staff, led by the usually unflappable Registrar. I think we were all forgiven in time."
Bill Proctor (1968)
"I don't think Bill Proctor made two appearances in a Final Fling revue but Malc Clarke certainly did. In '68 along with Jane Wood's song, when Ray Johnson played Mr Day - there was a running Martin Dent joke with Tony Barrand as MJD. In a fake cricket sketch, Malc (a decent bowler, I recall) said:
Oh, Martin, you've slashed outside your off-stump.
In '69, Malc certainly did the Colemanballs bit with Linden's slow-motion "First Class Honours Answer." He also interviewed Francis Beckett, playing Dave Ingram, on the subject of Gypsies. It brought the house down - and Dave Ingram's rapid exit. Francis's Ingram was as good as Mike Ridley's the year before, but more audible. Linden West's other great triumph was singing "the 18th Day of November" in a staging of Brendan Behan's The Hostage. Now there was a playwright."
John Meager (1968)