September 25, 2017, by Nicholas Blake
Mind the Gaps
The search for student publications; a blog by Nicholas Blake, Library Assistant with Manuscripts and Special Collections.
It’s tempting to think that students these days rely solely on the Internet and social media to disseminate information, Whatsapping, Snapchatting and Instagramming all the important news and gossip about their University lives. Yet print still has prestige, and student run magazines like Impact continue to be produced. We collect and preserve an impressive array of publications made by students from the last 120 years. Sadly, we have lots of gaps.
Student publications can be tricky to get hold of, appearing and disappearing without warning, sometimes distributed only within society meetings or displayed in indeterminate and ever changing places around campus. We develop relationships with societies and editors, approach stalls at Fresher’s Fairs, and scrounge from stacks of free magazines in libraries and the Portland Building, but there’s still issues that get away from us.
The publications we have cover a broad range of student activity and interests, from informative newsletters to cheeky comedy and satire. Often they’re a mixture of both. Some are produced semi-professionally by wannabe writers, designers and editors. Others, like the newsletters produced by student halls of residence in the late 70s and early 80s, seem to relish their low-fi, anarchic status. It’s amazing that we have any issues at all of these typewritten, stapled sheets, often with the title scrawled in felt-tip bubble writing.
Sometimes the name had some obvious relation to the hall of residence: The Boot, for Florence Boot Hall (1979), and Cavendish capers, for Cavendish Hall (1981-82). Hugh Stewart Hall had Kiwi times (1982), presumably a reference to the hall’s namesake having lived and worked in New Zealand, though this doesn’t explain why Nightingale Hall adopted a similarly Australasian feel with Dingo flat (c.1984). Rutland Hall had a newsletter called Boffer (1979), but the less said about that the better.
Many student publications eschew numbering or dating which makes it difficult to work out what’s missing. The Internet can help identify the status of ongoing publications: we hold eight editions of The mic, a glossy magazine which reviews music acts, but can see from their website that they’re currently on issue 42. That’s a lot of gaps, but it’s still one of our better represented music publications, especially when compared with our single, unnumbered copies of Jerk (c.1980s, produced by the University Blues Club) or It’s a corker (1987), both with very distinctive, high contrast black and white art covers. Did these ever reach their difficult second issue, or were they one hit wonders? It’s impossible to tell.
Politics is a subject far better represented in the collection. From 1980 to 1983 the Nottingham University Conservative Association produced a title called Climax: the blue magazine. Blue by name and blue by nature, Climax is a rare example of right-wing comedy satire, full of jokes, cartoons and parodies railing against Marxism, Trotskyism, the National Union of Students, and the University’s own Students’ Union executives, with a disclaimer practically daring anyone to make a complaint against them.
On the political flip-side, we also hold three issues of a paper produced by the Nottingham University Socialist Society in 1969 which is just as scandalous as Climax. Titled (perhaps unfortunately) Red blob, it includes its own attacks on the University, the Vice-Chancellor, hall wardens, the student newspaper, and ratings systems for academics. As the editors declined to use any kind of numbering, we have no way of knowing whether we hold all the issues produced.
Politics wasn’t the only way that students found to cause mischief. Since the dawn of time (or at the very least, the 1930s) students at Nottingham have engaged in massive annual charity fundraising, organising rag-raids, parading grotesque mascots on floats through the city centre, and producing carnival magazines, the earliest of which was called Chickerah (1932-1938, revived 1950-1953). A high quality magazine with beautifully illustrated colour covers, Chickerah is chock-full of crude humour and adverts from well-meaning sponsors, the juxtaposition of which meant that said sponsors would on occasion make formal complaints to the University. At least it was all in a good cause.
Academic departments have also got in on the publication act over the years, with a notable current title being the Medical School’s blindingly glossy Echolalia (‘meaningless repetition of another person’s spoken words as a symptom of psychiatric disorder’, according to Google). Nevertheless, Echolalia is an informative, fun, and well produced piece of work by medical students, and it’s pleasing to know that all four of its issues are present and correct in the collection.
The earliest student publication we have in our collection is The gong, an arts publication celebrating writing and poetry by staff and students which was first published in 1895 and then appeared on and off for the next eighty years. Featuring work by various luminaries (including DH Lawrence), The gong was very much seen as a prestige arts publication and we have most – but not all – copies of it.
By far our most heavily used student publication is the infamous newspaper The gongster (later known simply as Gongster), and it’s frustrating that here too there are gaps in our holdings. The gongster is an excellent resource for queries about staff, students, and general University news and events. From irreverent mishaps, Students’ Union squabbles, debates on tuition fees, halls of residence getting TVs, halls of residence getting fees, and halls of residence getting members of the opposite sex, The gongster is a catch all of University life from its inception in 1939. It continues to this day despite its name changing to BIAS in 1978, Impact in 1985, and then morphing into a magazine in 1996. Impact magazine is a mainstay of the University of Nottingham Students’ Union and we still track down and keep every issue.
The student publications represent a fascinating snapshot of the student experience at the University of Nottingham over the past century, and we attempt to keep the collection up to date as well as seek out past material so we can provide a wealth of resources for researchers now and a century or more in the future. Thanks to kind donations from alumni there’s always hope that we can find more student material thought lost for ever, so remember: if you’re moving house and discover a box full of student publications in your attic, do get in touch. With your help we may be able to fill in those gaps.
Catalogue records for all of the student publications in our University of Nottingham Collection are able to be discovered via NUSearch. Anyone interested in taking a look at The gongster or any of the other titles featured in this blog are most welcome to come and view them in the Manuscripts and Special Collections Reading Room on King’s Meadow Campus. To arrange a visit please contact us, or to find out more see our website, follow us @mssUniNott or read our newsletter Discover. There’s more about our ongoing search for student photographs and student ephemera from all the University of Nottingham campuses in our Time Capsule blog.
Here’s a selected list of a few University of Nottingham publications (both student produced and otherwise) and the issue numbers we’re currently missing. If you happen to discover copies of these (or any other University of Nottingham publication) which you are willing to donate to us we would be delighted to receive them! Please do get in contact with us first to check we still need them as we do not have the capacity to keep duplicates.
Missing: unknown – if you locate a copy please contact us to check if we have it or not
Missing: Vol.10, no.3 (1944), Vol.17, no.1 (1947), all issues from Jan-Nov 1955, Vol.23, no.1 (Oct 1962), Vol.24, no.1 (Oct 1963), Vol.24, no.10 (Mar/Apr 1964), Vol.25, no.9 (1965), 4th November 1965, any issue(s) from June 1968, any issues from June 1972 (?)
- Impact magazine
Missing: 173, 223
- The mic: Nottingham University’s official music magazine
Missing: 1-3, 19-20, 22, 24 onwards
- Nottingham University Mountaineering Club journal
Missing: 1964, 1986
- Omega (University of Nottingham Economics Society)
Missing: 6 (1970)
- On (Lakeside Arts brochure)
Missing: Apr–Aug 2008, Dec 2010-Mar 2011, Sep 2012-Nov 2012
- Oy! (University of Nottingham Law Students)
Missing: Vol1. no.1
- Pharmakon (Pharmaceutical Society Magazine)
Missing: 3 (1954), 23 (1964/65?), 28 (1966/67?), 30 onwards
Missing: 1, 2