Taking the long view – London Student 50 years ago

Despite only existing in our current form since 2015, London Student has served the students of the capital in one form or another for almost a century.

From the 1920s to 1954, the paper was called Vincula, which means “link” in Latin. It then became Sennet before in 1979 adopting its current name.

In 2014 the paper was closed by University of London, the organisation that was funding it. Students then took it into their hands and it was reopened as a workers cooperative in 2015.

To this day, it remains a student-run paper.

In this new column, we’ll look back at what London’s students were up to fifty years ago – in January. Thankfully most of the paper’s archives are stashed in a back room in the Senate House Library, meaning that the paper’s connection to the past will not be forgotten.

Front page of 30th January 1968 edition

Despite being removed from the events by half a century, much of it would fit in with our paper today. Cuts in grants and luxurious overspending from upper management continue to be fought against by students.

It might appear that not much has changed but other stories from 1968 seem pretty alien. We have the advent of second wave feminism and the miniskirt, a duel between two lovestruck students and a debate about whether the country’s destiny would be better managed by the House of Lords. Thankfully we are moving on.

The second wave of feminism in the 1960s, brought a reclamation of sexual identity and an increasing push for women in the workplace, which Royal Holloway students were only too keen to showcase through their sartorial choices.

A fashion clip from 16th January 1968 edition

Miniskirts were confidently becoming a  norm on a campus, with them being described as a “mixture of sex symbols and spinster staff”. Coupled with an increasing number of men entering into three-year programmes, the university was praised for its “small, friendly atmosphere that was growing in liveliness and virility”.

In a push to rebel against more archaic norms of previous generations, London Student fashion pages advocated “ruby lips, heavy rouged faces, perfume and plunge necklines.. (and) the shorter the skirt the better” for women who wanted to appear “sexy”. Following a government proposal to cut the value of student grants by 50 per cent, representatives of student organisations met at an NUS debate and came to a consensus about the devastating impacts of unilateral cuts to student grants.

Though united, the benefits of which were echoed by the Federation of Conservative Students, the responses to the cuts differed. Unsurprisingly the Communist Party National Student Committee took a more “extreme” position, advocating that “every penny spent on education is an investment in a viable economy”. Moderates on the other hand, were willing to make sacrifices in student grant amounts provided there were other concessions. The Chairman of Nottingham Union was wholeheartedly in favour of cuts to student grants pointing to the other sections of society such as pensioners, who were more in need of funds.

Clip from 23rd January 1968 edition

While conflicts of the heart in 2018 are more likely to play out over shady subtweets or Instagram DMs, 50 years ago a more primordial form of conflict resolution was adopted for two emboldened suitors.

Mr. Dick Blackburn and Mr. MB Murphy, both final year undergraduates in the Department of Social Science at West Ham College (now the University of East London) were to fight the “first duel of the century at daybreak at Hampstead Heath”.

London Student travelled to the “Victorian urinal in Stratford East’ to interview the participants and investigate the “indelible and pungent solution” that would be utilised in the water pistol conflict as the “use of more lethal weapons was frowned upon”.


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