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Staff Memories - Andrew Paine

Airline food

When HRH the Prince of Wales visited the University in the late 1980s to deliver a lecture on the Gibbet Hill Campus, he was entertained to refreshments. However, the two pilots of his helicopter had to be served food prepared by different chefs in different kitchens, to minimise the possibility of their both being taken ill at the same time.

The American President

The memorable visit of the American President, Bill Clinton, to the University on 14 December 2000 is well documented. What is often forgotten is that the University had only 8 days to make the arrangements. As a member of the organising committee, one saw behind the scenes, the stage management of the camera shots of young people by Ms Angie Hunter, from the Prime Minister’s Office, the invitations from the White House Executive Chef, ’to visit anytime you are in town’,the identical stretch limousines, Chelsea Clinton’s Secret Service call sign SW3, the paving slabs being laid the night before from the helicopter landing pad to keep VIP feet dry, the incongruity between Tony Blair’s Gazelle helicopter and the President’s fleet of Chinook helicopters, the parking of half a dozen Outside Broadcast wagons on the Arts Centre lawn and the President’s palpable powers of communication. I sat on the very back row of the Butterworth Hall. When the President diverted from his prepared text and spoke spontaneously, he had an amazing ability to engage with his audience, which can only be described as charismatic.

The Farmhouse Cellar

In the late 1980s when Clark Brundin was Vice Chancellor, wine used to be stored in the cellar of the Cryfield Farmhouse. Staff from Warwick Hospitality used to have to stock the cellar and go down to bring up wine in preparation for dinners at the Farmhouse. They regularly reported seeing rare newts, a colony of which inhabit the medieval cellar.

Naming Student Residences

The naming of new student residences has always been a matter which received careful consideration at the highest level. When the new first en-suite residences were constructed in the late 1980s they were initially designated, with great originality, New Hall. Once the identity of the University’s great anonymous benefactor, Helen Martin, was revealed they were named Jack Martin in memory of her brother.

It is ironic that student residences should have been part-funded from the success of a world drinks brand Smirnoff Vodka and that one of the phases of the Jack Martin Residences should have, as a result, been officially opened by the Chairman of Grand Metropolitan.

Arthur Vick Residences were named after and opened by, the distinguished scientist, former Vice Chancellor of Queen’s University Belfast and distinguished Chairman of Council, Sir Arthur Vick.

Subsequent Student Residences have been named after local historical or topographical features. Claycroft reflects the medieval pottery industry which flourished on the site in the 12th and 13th Centuries and both Lakeside and Heronbank are taken from field names taken from the 1766 Stoneleigh Estate Map.

Rootes Social Building

Following an expenditure of more than £6.5 million over the last decade, the Rootes Social Building (RSB), the iconic Yorke Rosenberg Mardell design from the 1960s, is today almost unrecognisable.

It was conceived as a social centre for the first 1,000 students living in Rootes Residences. Other such social centres were planned, but never built. In the late 1970s RSB was an anachronism. The prevailing colour scheme was ‘swinging sixties’ brown and orange, the bar was known as the ‘airport’ because it was alleged that the same design had been used for Newcastle Airport Terminal Building, there was an Grill Room on the ground floor, patronised by staff in the evenings. On the second floor there was a student workroom, a staff club decorated with two 18th Century Penny Farthing bicycles and a locked and darkened room, where a few staff played snooker.

Striking an attitude

Strikes and picketing were, from time to time, a feature of the Warwick scene, well into the 1990s. One of the last incidents was a well publicised but reasonably brief occupancy, by students of both Senate House and the Arts Centre, in support of increased student loans. The abiding memory of the occupancy of the Reception in Senate House was how courteous the students were to visitors (opening the doors for them) and how many of them seemed to be pre-occupied by talking on their mobile ‘phones.

Andrew Paine, Director of Hospitality Services