Article from 23rd Jan. 2003

Dr Mike Woods

Touch and Go by Dr Mike Woods, Chemistry 1957

Touch and Go, a rather weak Ealing comedy of 1955 co-starred June Thorburn as a student from Battersea Polytechnic, but nobody from Ealing Studios bothered to tell us.

The Oscar Film Unit Film Unit was particularly incensed and invited Miss Thorburn to meet ‘the gang’ and the meeting featured in the film’s promotional publicity. Battersea had been put on the media map – if only faintly. The next year the BBC decided to produce a student film to fend off the launch of ITV and the Oscar Film Unit Film Unit offered their services and the Battersea building, although we suspect that Dr West the Principal at the time was not consulted.

Tony Wicks and a team including me, wrote a script and recruited a cast. The actual President at the time – Keith Sugars – was to act as himself and had a speaking part and even got paid – which was more than the rest of us were.
The plot concerned a rag that went wrong – Oscar our bald eagle mascot was stolen and there was chase over Battersea Bridge. The big scene was a student invasion of the Poly itself where our defence was to block the entrance with hundreds of chairs from the hall. It was a memorable scene with the invading students scrambling and cussing over the chairs while we escaped round the back. In the Battersea Bridge scene some over enthusiastic extras damaged a BBC camera but on the whole it went well and the BBC were pleased.

I had begun my first job by the night ITV was launched. Importantly for me was the fact that I was actually travelling from my parents home in London to my job in Cheltenham on a motorbike at the exact time of the screening. I pulled into a greasy spoon transport café where I knew there was a TV and explained that I was actually on BBC TV in 5 minutes. The owners of the café would have nothing of it and stayed on ITV. I watched commercials for Murrey Mints, ‘the too good to hurry mints’ and Esso Blue paraffin like the rest of the nation and never saw ‘our film’.

The invasion of Poly with the students tripping over chairs occasionally appears as a clip in ‘student life exposé’ programmes. If it is screened again - I am on the extreme left nursing a sprained ankle.


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