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Staff Memories - Liz Thompson

Random jottings...

Visited the brand new University of Warwick when it was ‘on show’ to the local population (1965?) – the Airport Lounge in Rootes Hall was particularly impressive – very airy and spacious, with panoramic views from the windows.

1972. I took up a part-time secretarial post in the Department of Economics, then located in the Arts (Humanities) building; this marked a return to work after a 13-year gap, and my first encounter with an electric typewriter. I started on the first day of the academic year and was told by the old hands not to worry if nobody spoke to me that day – things were going to be hectic. They were, but I had 3 peaceful days typing out huge chunks from The Guardian, and getting to grips with an IBM golfball typewriter. This was the machine that brought maths typing within the compass of every typist – in theory. We produced the Department’s Discussion Papers on stencils – bright pink correcting fluid was the fastest moving item in the stationery cupboard. The Discussion Papers were collated on the office floor.

1974. A secretarial post in the Arts Centre. In fact, I moved to East Site, where its offices were temporarily located. The Arts Centre building was, worryingly for the theatre-oriented staff, behind schedule; the first season was programmed, the box office about to open, but the Arts Centre was still in the hands of the harassed builders. A single telephone was duly installed, and I was sent to woman it. For the first few days, alone in an eyrie at the top of the building, I was the box office et al. – I took on various persona as the need arose. The hairiest moment was a power failure that plunged the whole place in to darkness.

I spent three happy and exciting years in the Arts Centre, and we lived through a lot of ups and downs; attracting and keeping an audience, going through the exercise of ‘papering the house’ when shows opened on a Monday, encountering aching ballet dancers on the stairs after their daily class, and meeting many visiting ‘stars’. We had some pretty good parties, too! For several months we regularly assembled in the car park during the daytime: when too many loos were flushed at the same time the cumulative effect was to set off the fire alarms. From my office window I used to watch the seasonal changes on the hilly field on the other side of Gibbet Hill Road. Where once there was corn and wheat, now there’s Radcliffe House.

As I mature student (1977-1980) I was part of the first intake of Single Honours students on the Theatre Studies course. Some of our practical sessions were held in the Arts Centre Studio, and visiting ‘lecturers’ included John Barton, Patrick Stewart, David Suchet and Roger Rees, all with the RSC at that time. Unforgettable!

Liz Thompson (Economics, Arts Centre, DERC, MMB, CSGR 1972-2003 off and on!)