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IFIS - 30 years and counting

This history was mostly written at some point in September 2009 with minor adjustments as time has moved on. We're still unsure exactly when the society was formed.

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 plus years on the name remains, but the society has changed a lot.

Prior to 1986, the student union (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 Railway which was renamed to 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 (www.ifis.org.uk), 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. After many more moves, several cupboards being damaged beyond repair and having to be replaced, the library finally has a new home in the societies cupboard and has grown in size as well. We also decided to celebrate the society reaching 30 years old with a lavish party with food, drink and a quiz with exciting prizes and many current and past members had a very enjoyable evening.

Of course, nothing ever lasts for ever, especially good times. In 2013/2014 the committee decided to change the venue for the weekly social to a pub that was more local to campus and cheaper. They also thought changing the weekly social from being on a Thursday to Monday would also help attendance, but it had the opposite effect and the socials were eventually discontinued due to no-one being able to make them. In late 2015, the societies cupboard was deemed unsafe due to asbestos, so had to be relocated. This meant yet another relocation of the library which meant the library was out of action for several months whilst we waited for everything to be in one place and for the librarian to be able to get access.

It has taken until 2018 for things to settle down and for the library to become fully operational again and the society has started holding more social-like events on Thursdays too.

All good things must come to an end though. A combination of Covid and the inability of the committee to transform into an online based society resulted in the demise of the society in 2021.