Grace Dean looks through the archives to trace Newcastle’s campus history.
Anti-Star Wars (1988)
The Courier reported on the establishment of an Anti-Star Wars Action Group on campus in 1988. This, much to your Editor’s disappointment halfway through writing this article, had nothing to do with the George Lucas franchise, with Star Wars simply being an alternative name for the American Strategic Defence Initiative (SDI), a proposed missile defence system intended to protect the US from attack by ballistic strategic nuclear weapons, first announced by President Reagan in 1983. The University had been shaken by rumours that research for the SDI was being carried out on campus, with the University however repeatedly denying that the three-year, £117k contract for the Department of Electrical Engineering was directly linked to the Star Wars programme. The Vice-Chancellor addressed the allegations, claiming that “there is one contract with an American university, not the American Government, to do work which could be made relevant to SDI. That is not, however, the immediate purpose of the work, which is of general scientific and technological interest.” This contract, however, from Auburn University Alabama, was funded by the Innovative Science and Technology Office, which was an SDI body, indicating that the SDI programme was indeed financing Star Wars-related research at Newcastle. The writer argued that “this inevitable conclusion is indicative of the secrecy and evasiveness surrounding such projects in a supposedly open establishment such as this University”.
Nestlé banned by SU (1990)
In 1990, sales of Nestlé products were banned from the Students’ Union. A motion calling for the boycotting of Nescafé, Coffeemate and Dairy Crunch in Union shops was passed at the Union’s General Meeting with 103 votes in favour to just one against. Proposer Richard Bellamy said the aim of the motion was not so much to affect retail sales but to raise awareness of Nestlé’s aggressive marketing tactics, where poster and leaflet campaigns within hospitals encouraged mothers to use bottled milk rather than breastfeed, which contradicts guidelines produced by UNICEF and the World Health Organisation. A proposal was also made for the Union to affiliate with the Baby Milk Action Confederation. The Union’s Vice-President Finance, however, questioned why Rowntree Mackintosh products – including the brands Polo, Yorkie and Aero – were not also being boycotted, as the company is also owned by Nestlé. He reported his concerns that the Nestlé ban was “merely political posturing in order to get the motion passed”, as a ban of Rowntree Mackintosh goods was deemed likely to be much more controversial among students.
Windsor Terrace opposed (1991)
Students were outraged to discovery that new “luxury halls” were to be built on Windsor Terrace. The en-suite rooms were predicted to cost up to £35 a week, and at the time the location was on the very edge of campus and far away from the University’s catering facilities – a concern at a time when self-catered student accommodation was still somewhat uncommon. The Students’ Union actively campaigned against the development, arguing that it did not provide affordable accommodation.
Radiohead slated (1993)
The Courier printed a mixed review of Radiohead’s 1993 debut album Pablo Honey. Described by others as “the future of Brit guitar pop”, the reviewer offered a much more cynical perspective, describing ‘Creep’ as the album’s highlight but arguing that “all the other tracks detract from it”. Even then, ‘Creep’ was described as “merely the best of a baffling and sometimes mediocre collection”. The reviewer concluded that “Radiohead are not dogs’ cock, but they could clearly do better and this record suggests that there is more to come”. That certainly was the case, with OK Computer released four years later which reached top spot in the UK album chart.
Last modified: 19th February 2020