Article from 13th Feb. 2003

Phil Verity - Bare Facts the Early Years

Bare Facts 158

It is 1968 and the recently chartered University of Surrey, formed from Battersea College of Advanced Technology is about to relocate to the virgin site of Stag Hill at Guildford. The migration would take some three years to complete.

Early in the summer term of ‘68, a lunch time Student Union meeting in the Battersea Great Hall raised concerns on the split and its affect on the students. At the post meeting SU Exec. the outgoing President for 67/68, Bob Matthews suggested a single page news-sheet, and set about producing the first issue. Intended to bridge the 25 mile gap between the two halves of the University, it would contain information about Club and Society activities and general Student Union notices. This was to help compensate for the difficulties in attending Student Union General Meetings, and also to fill the vacuum left by the usual summer demise of the Surrey Guardian. (An organ which had a high opinion of itself, but appeared erratically and usually well after the reported events.)

In summer term ‘68, Rob Thomasson [Maths 70] had been elected Students Union Vice President (Guildford) and Janice Prior VP (Battersea), and the University was still in Battersea Park Road. Rob agreed at the launch to do the second edition and I, being the Ents. Chairman, foolishly agreed to help. It was Rob who named it Bare Facts; and it appeared each week from its faithful band of helpers including myself, Phil Verity [Elec. Eng. 71], Robin Bradbeer [Elec. Eng. perpetually] with illustrations by Whistling Walsall Fred (AR Pipes). The technology was crude, slow and unforgiving. All text had to be cut into ‘onion skin’ stencils using a ribbon-less typewriter; and the hand drawings scratched onto the same medium. Skins were then stretched over the drum of a Roneo ink duplicating machine before hand cranking to produce each sheet. No one knew in which colour(s) the final copy would appear owing to our technique of begging, borrowing, or "reallocating" underused resources for the common good. We soon acquired a folding machine and BF went from stapled foolscap to folded double foolscap with inserts.

Fresh Bare Facts

Over the summer of 1968 about half the University, mainly Engineering, Physical Sciences and Mathematics (the statistic of 1200 men to 40 women students stays in my mind) moved to Stag Hill. With Wayne Barnacle [Chem Eng?] as the President, Janice was to produce the Battersea BF and Rob the same in Guildford. Five weeks into the autumn term our machinery was found and reassembled with the assistance of Steve Spill [Elec. Eng. 71] (they would not work for anyone else.) Production could now begin in earnest, in the students union on floor 3 [?] of Senate House. A special mention for the great support we received from Maureen Stevens as Clerk to the Students Union (legal advice and common sense), the mysterious and lovely Djinn (who would sometimes do electric typing if we were good), and Mr Paynter (for tolerance and good humour.)

The original team was joined by Brian ‘Brain’ Ellesmore [Elec. Eng. 69] for graphics, humour, and moods; Rupert Glover [Physics 71]; Murray Butcher [Maths 70] and a disproportionate number of women for moral support. BF began its rise to fame with the “Running Man” edition, and included Rupe’s Poet’s Corner, Jim Smith’s Inside Page and ace reporter (a gross distortion) Fil Verity’s “articles”. Unfortunately the Battersea end ‘collapsed’ and BF became a wholly Guildford production.

Murray took over as Editor from Rob, and developed and refined the style - which including more frequent clashes with “authority”. Rupe’s poems caused more than one upset in the higher reaches of Senate House; though Dr. D.M.A. Leggett, the Vice Chancellor, was generally supportive of our objectives, even if the means exasperated him.

A major effort, for the first Guildford Festival [director Rick Welton], saw a bumper edition, stuffed with a full festival programme and a wad of booking forms (known forever as a Packet of Weltons). With the University split between Battersea and Guildford , BF was the only medium to give a complete rundown on the Students Union Presidential elections. Our arch rival the Surrey Grauniad reappeared, edited by Chris Greenwood [Humanities 70] and we achieved a working relationship, before the SG’s usual summer relapse.

During this time BF was invaluable (well we gave it away free) in helping maintain the sense of community as the building continued and the University rules and arrangements were under constant change - causing more than a little friction between managers, academic staff, and students. Throughout BF tried to help overcome these difficulties; occasionally with success.

On Murray’s resignation Brian became Editor. Within 24 hours of the academically justified purchase of a scanner by the Physics department, we put it to proper use by scanning graphics onto the skins, and even better, photographs. BF produced two live editions at the Guildford County Show [May 69] and caused uproar as this coincided with the Arts School sit-in (this was the sixties) and we were less than sympathetic to the County Council. (From here, my personal involvement reduced following my Part I's and Prof. Lovering suggesting a degree was not an optional extra.)

Robin took over from Brian, and Tony Allan joined the crew. This team welcomed the first edition of Grapevine [GV] (scandal, smut, innuendo, rumour) and BF’s first brush with solicitors following an infamous letter from Fred Stride [Mech. Eng 70] and BF’s racing correspondent. Two editions later some innocuous Playboy cartoons nearly got us reported for pornography. Tony Allan took over in Autumn 69 and his first edition caused the catering staff walk-out with his “sloppin’ in” editorial to commemorate the opening of the Library restaurant. GV got larger and more puerile; photomontage became popular, and the Basil Brush, Almost Animal and Angel cartoon series appeared. [BB referred to the bursar Brig. Rush and should not be confused with any foxy TV character]. With Stuart Wilson as President, criticism of SU Exec. were less tolerated, with comment in BF infrequent and censorship common. Martyn Denney took over from Tony, followed by Roger King, where three editions were produced for the County Show; and now offset litho was tried. As Surrey Grauniad and later Polemic reappeared, BF reverted to its original role as a newsheet; a policy continued by Barbie, Chris and Ian.

Why did we do it? Just for the fun of producing something that informed, inflamed, entertained and irritated; when news existed we reported, where it didn't we made it up. [We worked on BF unaware of the dangers of turning out like Maxwell or Murdoch.] By a Thursday midnight, tired and ink-stained, with 100’s of copies of drivel it seemed pointless. On a Friday morning with all copies gone, the sight of a laughing reader, and no invite from the VC to the top floor of Senate House, the world was .... only six days from the next deadline.

Read more about Bare Facts here
Bare Facts 159
(All the images of Bare Facts that I can find, are issues 100 to 200.)

Chronology of editors [Edition numbers in brackets]

Bob Mathews [1], Rob Thomasson [2-16], Murray Butcher [17-28], Brian Ellsmore [29-31], Pete Bramwell [32], Robin Bradbeer [33-35 + 7 specials], Tony Allan [36-44], Martyn Denney [45-57], Roger King [58-68 +1 special], Barbie Cockburn [69-80], Chris Peat [81-91], Ian Kaye [92-100+].

The above was based on the history by Murray Butcher and Robin Bradbeer in edition 100 (30 June 1971); a valedictory time for many of us. It is supplemented by my own rosy recollections up to issue 35 and conversations with some of us who are still alive, including Murray, Chris Chelu, Rupert Glover, and Brian Ellsmore. I have tried where possible to identify the school and year of graduation. Apologies for errors.

Since graduating Phil Verity has worked in engineering and management in commercial, aerospace and defence companies, hoping but without success that some biologist (he married Ruth Warn [Human Biol. 71]) would perfect an anti-ageing potion.