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13 November 2014

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You are in: Stoke & Staffordshire > History > Local History > Keele Levitation

Clock Tower at Keele University

Keele Levitation

In October 1970, more than 300 students at Keele University tried to levitate the vice-chancellors house 300 feet into the air.  It was an extraordinary event in a year of student activism of which North Staffordshire played a significant part.

October 28 1970, and Keele University students were staging a political protest against tuition fees, when they began to get restless and bored.

That was when student Peter Sykes came up with the idea to make the Clock House and Vice-Chancellors building ‘levitate’.

They decided by joining hands, chanting and dancing around the the building that they could raise it off the ground.

It was all captured on tape by a reporter for BBC Radio Stoke called Gerry Northam, who was told by Peter Sykes that they wanted to make it float 300 feet into the air so people could see it from the motorway.

The then vice-Chancellor W A Campbell-Stewart can be heard on the report in the background telling students if they want to levitate the Clock Tower, “it must be done silently”!

Despite the students best efforts the clock tower never actually levitated. Testimonies on the Keele Oral History web-site includes the statement “the general concensus was the Clock House rose about six inches, give or take about six inches”.

Another reads, “Our levitation wasn’t successful. We blamed the fact there weren’t enough of us to join hands and completely encircle the building!”

Edgar Broughton Band

The Edgar Broughton Band

Out Demons Out!

While taking part in the levitation, students hummed and chanted the words “Out Demons Out!” which were anthemic lyrics from a song by prog. rockers the Edgar Broughton Band.

The act played several gigs at Keele University during the seventies, and used the mantra to get the crowds going.

Pentagon levitation

The students at Keele Students were likely influenced by the so-called ‘Yippies’ – members of the anti-war movement in the United States.

Led by Abbie Hoffman 50,000 Yippies went to an 'Exorcism of the Pentagon'. Using so-called psychic energy, they wanted to levitate the building and rid it of the evil spirits they claimed had caused the Vietnam war.

As with the Clock Tower in Leek, the Pentagon didn’t noticeably float.

last updated: 18/09/2009 at 12:22
created: 17/09/2009

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