Reflections and recollections

Wild talk, and easy enough to laugh.
That’s not the point and never was the point.
What was real was the generosity, expectant hope,
The open and true desire to create the good…
– Thomas McGrath, from ‘Letter To An Imaginary Friend’

This section of the blog is open to anyone to contribute their thoughts on looking back these events – or their memories. Just email contributions to Gerry Cordon at

The edition of “In Living Memory” about the 1970 student protests at Keele, Liverpool and Warwick was broadcast on 10 August at 11am on BBC Radio 4. This YouTube clip contains the section on the Liverpool protest.


I have also posted here some pieces that look back on the period and which reflect on the factors contributing to student radicalism at the time.

Challenging Myths of the 1960s: The Case of Student Protest in Britain by Nick Thomas

If you fancy settling down to a lengthy and sceptical analysis of the period (which mentions Liverpool several times) try this. (However, note that the greatest amount of implied sarcasm is reserved for a quotation from Guild Gazette article that was published anonymously – it’s on page 286). There is also some interesting ‘pre-history’ of student protest at Liverpool (ie, before our time) concerning protests by female students in 1965 against hours and male visiting restrictions (wasn’t that what kicked off Nanterre in 1968?).

If that’s not to your taste, try Tariq Ali’s Storming Heaven (link below), a piece written by Tariq Ali in 1988, to mark the 20th anniversary of 1968. Or Sheila Rowbotham’s When resistance didn’t seem futile: written for the 30th anniversary of that momentous year (link below).


7 thoughts on “Reflections and recollections”

  1. I went to Liverpool to try to be an architect and forty years on I’m still trying. My website has stories I’ve written…’Corridors of Power’ covers the events in campus in a biographical note, should anyone have absolutely nothing better to do.

    After life in San Francisco, New York, the West Indies and Poland I’m in London but currently designing the Nelson Mandela Childrens Hospital in Johannesburg and doing pro bono work with Palestinian students at Birzeit University in the West Bank.

    I’m still banging on.

    Architects for Health

    Architects and Planners for Justice in Palestine.

    And Hot Rats is still cool.

  2. What a wonderful blog. I was a first year during the sit-in and although I was a member of soc soc – mainly sociology and politics students according to Prof Hair – I was not really involved in any of the organisation. I remember listening to some of the debates prior to the occupation. Funnily enough I remember Jon Snow always being a “moderate” and I remember Steve(?) Jenkins and his welsh accent and being slightly bored by his contributions – and that is not meant as an insult! As for other contributions I can’t really remember, but do remember Dave and Pete being signficant “others”.

    Looking through your wonderful blog, Gerry, happy memories indeed. The two week occupation (or whatever it was) has always been one of my fondest university memories and especially Ian Williams policing the occupation to make sure no bad behaviour took place! I didn’t pay too much attention alongside my circle of friends (mainly politics and sociology students!!!). Drugs and alcohol played a significant part – sorry Ian!

    But above all the politics of the event is fascinating. That is what motivated us all from a variety of perspectives. 40 years on what on earth was the fuss all about? The fact that some people at the university (according to Pete and James) are still sore about these events just makes me wonder what planet these people at the university live on.

    The world has moved on and most people from the centre(even the centre right) leftwards would find the 5 demands perfectly reasonable and “moderate”. So looking back I don’t know whether it is comforting or not, but maybe I was not as left wing as I thought I was in my youth! I thought being young meant being as unreasonable as possible. Maybe we weren’t after all!

    As Ian says on Facebook, most people can’t remember the 5 demands (I thought it was 10!). They were so boringly normal and that’s why we’ve forgotten – except the one about that shit Lord Salisbury and no victimisation and the eventual and continued disgraceful approach to Pete.

    Anyway to you Gerry thanks again for this. You are using your retirement very productively, but make sure you find the time to walk your dog!

  3. Gerry,
    This is a magnificent contribution.
    Like Nev Bann, I was a first year politics student. I was stuck out in digs in Bootle and paid over £5 5 shillings each week for full board so the opportunity to occupy the Senate was not just a political act but an amazing social opportunity girls, dope, music.
    I particularly remember hearing ‘Volunteers’ by Jefferson Airplane for the first time. Later, in June that year I saw them at Bath Festival. Hot Ratz was another biggie at that time. I remember being on a rota to call the Vice Chancellor throughout the night. Don’t know whether it was official action but it must have wound him up.
    I remember looking up at the stars from the roof at night (Wow Maaan, far out! etc) I was pleased to see my face cross legged on the floor in the photo published in Jon Snow’s book ‘Shooting History’ a few years back.
    I still feel shame faced that I slunk off at the end of term and didn’t see it through.

  4. I was accepted by the architecture school after a good
    wacking in Poland in 1968 I recieved as a student at
    the Politeknika Warszawska during the riots. Contemporary
    was Jon Snow at Gladstone hall ,but then I moved in to 140
    Parliament street as other pads, nurtured by architecture students as design projects, next to a brothel. Entranced and amazed I met some of the finest in minds in Britain.
    Phil Gusack ,Charles Adams,Greg Braithwaithe.
    Unfortunately I was too distracted by music sex and reality
    to take part .Vietnam was far a bigger deal.

  5. wojtek!!! cesc!!!
    just saw your piece…where the hell are you??
    London or Warszawa?
    Hennu and I were remembering a few weeks ago.
    Please email direct to me or call 07500 123 231

  6. andrzej martin tarnowski
    Your comment is awaiting moderation.

    Hi Wojtek,
    I’m still alive and I’m trying to find you.
    I hope, you still remember me-
    Andrzej from Poland.
    I just saw your few words and I think
    YOU, MUSIC AND SEX must be realy you.
    Please contact me by email or 00 48 505 58 31 78.
    Over 10 years gone and I’ll try rebuild things.
    First I want to go to Cuba for wide breath.
    See you soon I hope – Andrzej

  7. I cannot believe that I have missed this event. This occupation was a formative influence on all who took part. It has and does still colour my judgement.

    Leaving aside the politics I obtained beer from Francis Davies for the “palm tree bash”

    The last significant event I was aware of was the intrusion just prior to the clean up. It was not clear at the time who the people were. I think the initial entrace was made via an open window from the Hepworth plinth..a woman…and others appeared later in the building. a vehicle approached the rear of the building without lights and its occupants atempted to contact those inside. They were escorted from the building but it was apparent that they were looking to remove something while the majority of the occupants were in the chamber discusing departure.

    It could have left a damaging postscript to an otherwise well conducted operation. Does anybody know who they were?

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