RWAV - September 2009

Table of Contents

  • IFIS - 30 years on by Chris Turner
  • IFIS - 30 years on

    A long long time ago, in a place not actually that far away, a group of students decided to start getting together and discussing their interests in science fiction and fantasy. They called their little group The Institute for Impure Science and 30 years on the name remains, but the society has changed a lot.

    Prior to 1986, the SU didn't formally recognise societies and so initially the main focus was meeting up every week and socialising with other members in Athlone common room. The society also had some books donated to it and it was decided to start a library that members could borrow from. Initially it was stored in a wooden trunk that would live in someone's room on campus who nominally would be the librarian for that year.

    At some point around this time it was also decided to move the Thursday social gatherings to a local pub - The Royal Ascot. This had the added benefit of serving food and alcohol and was also visible from campus, so new members could find it easily. This remained the society's much loved home away from campus for over a decade until '99 when the landlord retired and the pub became the Monkey's Forehead. Since the remodelled pub wasn't really suitable for sitting around and chatting, a pub crawl was suggested to scope out alternative venues. After much exploration, thievery and recrimination, the society ended up moving to the Barley Mow until a change of the pub management convinced us to relocate to the Beehive briefly before finally settling in the Alma Mata.

    The 90s also saw other significant changes to the way the society operated. With the advent of home entertainment, the society started to show movies. At first this was limited to weekend triple bills, but in 1995 the committee decided to incorporate a film showing into the Thursday social and membership numbers soared to their highest point to date. This in turn fuelled a greater expansion of the library and by 1996 it had grown so large that a large metal cabinet was obtained. This necessitated a more permanent home and after discussions with the SU and the college, space within Athlone common room was secured. By the end of the 90s the library grew yet further and a second cupboard was bought.

    Where as the 90's could be considered a golden age for the society, the society's fortunes took a down turn in the 00's. The society has always had short periods where disagreements would divide the membership in two, but they were about trivial matters and soon forgotten. But in the autumn of 2003, the decision was made by the committee to move the film night to Tuesday and have a separate social event afterwards. This could have been a non-issue, but they also decided to "reboot" the society and not actively encourage past members to rejoin leaving the society populated entirely by Freshers. Without a strong cohesive social environment, membership levels plummeted and it's only in recent years that the side effects of this decision have finally overcome and membership numbers have started to climb again.

    The 00's weren't all bad though. The internet had kicked off by this point and the society had a shiny website (, hosting pictures from events and stories and jokes provided by the membership. In 2005 the 1500 book library had to be relocated as Athlone was knocked down to make way for Tuke and Butler. This seemed like a good time to create an online system for the library to make it easier for members and the librarian to interact. The library is currently looking for a new home again, but with being able to reserve books online, it is still available to the membership.

    So as you can see, the society has had an exciting 30 years so far and hopefully will enjoy another 30 years of prosperity and fun.

    by Chris Turner