Minutes of a Strange Meeting From 10 June 1985, Typed Up 30 December 1985

I have published the hand-written version of these “minutes” under the date of the “meeting”.

Here is the typed up version, scanned from what I think must be carbon copies. Is there anyone else left on the planet who remembers what carbon copies were?

I guess I prepared these for our glorious return visit in January 1986 for the traditional UGM/AGM thingie.

10 June 1985 Spoof Minutes Side One10 June 1985 Spoof Minutes Side Two

An Order To Attend A University of Keele Students’ Union General Meeting, Letter From June Aitken, 13 December 1985

I might have some notes or other artefacts from the meeting itself which I’ll post separately if/when I find them. I know I did attend the meeting. I’m pretty sure several/most of us did. If June said you had to be there, you had to be there.

UKSU Letter 13 December 1985

University of Keele Students’ Union, Letter Requesting Help, 1 November 1985

I remember Nigel Dempster writing a whole load of factually inaccurate stuff about Keele Students’ Union generally and me in particular. I also remember writing a rebuttal, which the Daily Mail, surprisingly, published.

This letter request from June Aitken probably explains why I cannot find copies of the rebuttal and other materials – I suspect that I simply sent them to her without making further copies for myself. In 1985, photocopying/scanning was not the simple, almost automatic thing it is today.

Perhaps this letter from June is now all that remains of the Dempstergate debacle.

UKSU Letter 1 November 1985


A Letter From Keele, Professor Les Fishman, 2 September 1985

I have no idea what must have gone wrong with the earlier correspondence, unless it turns up in a pile I have not yet excavated. I got on well with Les, both in my capacity as a student and as a students’ union officer. He was, in my experience, a wonderful lecturer and steward of his undergraduate students. So my comment about the long-forgotten faux pas would have been tongue-in-cheek on my part, as would Les’s rebuttal have been on his part.

Les Fishman Letter 2 September 1985

In 2008 I went to the memorial mini-conference Professor Peter Lawrence and others held in Les’s honour. I ended up meeting and hiring Les’s grand-daughter, Leo, who thus worked at Z/Yen for a few happy years.

A Letter from Peter Held soon after I left Keele, 24 July 1985

I got to know Peter Held on several of the University committees; he was a prominent member of the University Council. I remember being pleasantly surprised when he invited me and Kate to a Lichfield Festival concert towards the end of our term of office, that summer. I’ll write up that concert in the fullness of time; I’m pretty sure I have the programme.

I would have written quite promptly to Peter to thank him for his (i.e. Marling Industries’) hospitality. This letter is his thanks for my thanks, with the offer of a little bit of employment insurance tucked in there, which I remember pleasing me when I first saw the letter.

Not that I can really imagine a career in industrial textiles, looking back, but who knows where life might have been taking me back then?

Marling Industries Letter 24 July 1985


After The Hackgrass Reveal…Later That Same Day…A Strange Sort of Committee Meeting, 10 June 1985

On top of my Hackgrass reveal antics on our last morning in office, it seems we held some sort of bogus committee meeting later in the afternoon. More a symposium than a mere meeting, by the looks of it.

It looks as though I completed the minutes that December, ahead of our January 1986 appearance at the UGM I shouldn’t wonder, so I’ll publish the typed version at that date. The hand-written version that follows must have been part-written on the day and then concluded later.

Looks as though my Daily Mail rebuttal might have been around the same time.

Experts at handwriting analysis forensics might be able to work out exactly what went on. John White – I suggest you might choose not to apply for this role, if your attempt at the Hackgrass cypher is anything to go by.

10 June 1985 Spoof Minutes Manuscript Page One10 June 1985 Spoof Minutes Manuscript Page Two10 June 1985 Spoof Minutes Manuscript Page Three10 June 1985 Spoof Minutes Manuscript Page Four


Hackgrass Reveal in Pub Circ, Keele, 10 June 1985

When signing out Hackgrass from Concourse in February 1985, I left my name hidden in a not very complex code of initials in the final sentence of that piece.

Most of my fellow committee members didn’t know that I was Hackgrass. Indeed the only person on the committee who did know was Pete Wild, as the only people still at Keele who did know my identity were my remaining former Barnes L54 flatmates (hence Pete), Petra Wilson and Annalisa de Mercur.

For the last day of our office as sabbaticals, I wrote a final Hackgrass one-pager and revealed myself to the lovely Pat Borsky in the print room. (As Hackgrass, I mean; please retain some decorum and concentrate, dear reader). Pat agreed to print the one-pager as a publicity circular (pub. circ.) special and the rest is history.

The one-pager caused more a bit of a stir that day in students’ union circles. I thought best to lie low in my office.

Soon enough, John White plonked himself in my office with pub. circ. and a copy of the February Concourse, saying that he wanted to break the code.

I said that I didn’t much care who Hackgrass was and that I wanted to finish off some work, as I was still very busy.

John laboured with the puzzle for some time in my office, concocting some highly convoluted theories such as:

a=1…z=26, reverse the number series and rework the letters

Once I got irritated enough, I suggested to John that whoever Hackgrass was, he or she probably wasn’t that sophisticated a cipher-wright, so John might be better off trying something really simple like the initial letters of the words in the sentence.

About 10 seconds later, I received an unrepeatable (indeed forgettable) stream of invective from John. I have forgiven him for the invective and I believe he has forgiven me for keeping my identity as Hackgrass a secret during our sabbatical year.

Post script – John White has left an extensive comment on the above few paragraphs, but for reasons known only to himself (perhaps cognitive dissonance between a need to vent his spleen in public while simultaneously hoping no-one will find and read the venting) has posted the comment on a different posting – click here to read both posting and comment.

In all the excitement, I don’t seem to have kept a copy of the printed pub. circ. itself, but I do have the original text, a scan of which follows.

Hackgrass Reveal Pub Circ June 1985

Keele Students’ Union, Concourse – the Juicy Bits, May 1985

I have extracted a few good pages from the May 1985 edition of Concourse. By that time, my Education and Welfare sabbatical year was coming to an end, so the paper was interested in ushering in the new and ushering out the old. Hold the front page…

Concourse May 1985 Page 1
Superb picture of John White on the front page, the main (nay only) reason I have uploaded this page

There had been some sort of hoo-ha about the FY exams that Easter, so it seems that I got busy and Margaret Gordon (a lovely lass, I wonder what became of her?) interviewed me about it:

Concourse May 1985 Page 4
FY stands for Foundation Year, the late lamented “try a bit of everything” course, sadly no longer taught at Keele. Gresham College is perhaps the closest thing to it.

I like the next two pages – a double page spread on the new sabbaticals. Nice to still have pictures of faces I remember. Hayward Burt’s comments on my style raised a smile with me.

Concourse May 1985 Page 12

Concourse May 1985 Page 13
I don’t think the term “stress head” had been invented back then, not least because, if it had existed, I think that is exactly the term Hayward would have used to describe me.

I love this little article about John White, Kate Fricker and the Students’ Union cleaners. John looks like a rabbit startled by headlights in the picture. Little did he know that he would subsequently become seasoned for photo shoots, such as his gig as the poster boy for Food Retailer Monthly magazine (or whatever it was called, why can’t I remember?)

Concourse May 1985 Page 14
Top tank top, John.

Finally the following review of the UGM. These days, the (anonymous) author of this piece would surely not get away with the ethno-physiognomy remark made about me, especially in that context. Where was editor Krista Cowman’s red pen when I needed it? Surely the UGM and Concourse should have been safe space from such comments for people like me? Is it too late for me to seek redress?

Strangely, I have no recollection whatsoever of reading that comment before, although I must have read it, so it must have seemed like water of a duck’s par for the course back then.

Concourse May 1985 Page 19

Ronnie Scott Review, Concourse Juicy Bits, February 1985 Part Eight

A final extract from that superb memory-jogging issue of Concourse from February 1985.

Ronnie Scott came to Keele several times while I was there. This would have been the last time I ever saw Ronnie himself perform, although I have been to “Ronnies” in Soho since.

My diary records little about the evening (Friday 25 January 1985), other than a statement that I went and a confession “got drunk”. So I am grateful for this review. My memory of at least one earlier Ronnie Scott evening at Keele (probably more than a year, perhaps two years earlier) is better and has a story to it, but I’ll save that story for my diary trawl later.

Janie loves Ronnie Scotts and I have often mentioned to her the wonderful evenings we had at Keele when Ronnie and his band visited. Here’s an independent report on one of those evenings.

Concourse Feb 85 Page 17

What A Relief, New Union Toilets, Concourse Juicy Bits, February 1985 Part Seven

The piece I want to blog about is preceded by a long rant by Robert Coyle about the use of the term “fascists” to describe Conservatives. Good on Krista Cowman for allowing a Wally that much space, while still failing to resist giving the piece a derogatory headline.

But the piece “what a relief” made me laugh out loud and did bring back a very faint memory of the “official opening”. Don’t think it would have been Pomagne in my hand, though. I had eschewed cider-type beverages ever since my disastrous evening with cider at the Andorra after show party.

The running headline phrase “juicy bits” does not sit too happily with a story about new union toilets, but I think I should rapidly move on from that line of thought.

Concourse Feb 85 Page 18