Putting Up The Great Yorkshire Pudding For University of Keele Students’ Union President 1984/85, February 1984

Keen to add some spice to the elections, I surreptitiously put my flatmate, Alan Gorman, down for the presidential election under his nickname, “The Great Yorkshire Pudding” (Alan was skinny and from Lancashire).

My behaviour (forging a candidacy) was unbecoming for the chair of election appeals committee, I do now realise.

Alan was really furious when he first found out about it – understandably so. I went out that evening wondering if I had gone too far and permanently messed up a good friendship. When I got back to the flat, Alan had gone to bed but had left a piece of paper on the table.

GYP Supplementary Manifesto Written Draft

I laughed a lot – partly because it was very funny and partly the relief of learning that he had decided to go along with the wheeze. The following two scans are that “supplementary personifesto” as it appeared in its published form. Connoisseurs of my doodles might recognise Schlock in the top right corner of the first page. Connoisseurs of 1980s culture might like to identify the personalities on the second page – no prizes but lots of kudos if you populate the comments section with some answers:

GYP Supplementary Manifesto Side OneGYP Supplementary Manifesto Side Two

The main manifesto is lost in the mists of time; probably just as well. It wasn’t a patch on the above supplementary.  I did also keep a copy of the little “Relayer” messages from that election; see the following couple of pages:

Fricker Pudding Election Relayer Side OneFricker Pudding Election Relayer Side Two

Mercifully, rather than Pudding, the delightful Kate Fricker won that election – she was excellent and working with her was such a pleasure.

Keele Gossip Columnist H Ackgrass is born, Concourse, February 1984

1983/84 was my finals year. I was Chair of Constitutional Committee that year (somewhat press-ganged into running I might add), so I was strangely on the inside of the students’ union politics without really being part of its core.

I thought it would be fun to have an anonymous gossip column, so came up with the idea of H Ackgrass, or “Hackgrass”. Many myths about that column spread in the years following about the column’s antiquity, but I know I made the name up myself. There had been others, such as Molesworth, in earlier years, but this name was new, as was the somewhat visceral nature of the humour. I know the name was subsequently re-used by others. I am flattered.

I knew the Concourse (and Union Committee) lot would want to know who H Ackgrass was and I thought I’d be a prime suspect. Thus I was rather harsh on myself, in this first column and subsequently, in order to try and divert attention. This approach pretty much worked.

I had a spare old portable typewriter, so battered about that I didn’t really use it any more; it was very obvious in its idiosyncratic type, so I thought that using it would add to the mystery and might put people off my scent, as long as I kept the offending machine hidden. Indeed, I know at least one Concourse person sneaked into my flat at one time to check out my (regular) typewriter, only to conclude that Hackgrass couldn’t be me.

Quentin Rubens, the Concourse editor at the time, hardly edited anything out of that first piece. I thought he would tone it down a lot; there were certainly a couple of edgy lines I expected would go. Surprisingly, Quentin did edit out one descriptive phrase I made about myself, “arch lefty”. I don’t know whether that reflected his feelings about my politics or his own sense of what is an insulting term. In later pieces, he got the redline pen out a lot more. Deservedly so in several cases.

Anyway, here is the very first column, both in published form and then its original submission form. My submission copies are clearly photocopies but I know they were originally carbons. I must have made photocopies just before I left Keele and disposed of the carbons.

Ackgrass Published Feb 1984 Page 1 of 2Ackgrass Published Feb 1984 Page 2 of 2Ackgrass Photocopy of Carbon Copy of Original Draft Feb 1984 Page 1 of 2Ackgrass Photocopy of Carbon Copy of Original Draft Feb 1984 Page 2 of 2