The Polytechnic’s management encouraged the establishment of a Student Representative Council (SRC) in 1933, to create a sense of unity and expand the social activities of its day students. The SRC was affiliated to the National Union of Students but initially restricted itself largely to social activities.
After 1945 it began to campaign on issues such as improvements to the canteen, lifting the ban on religious or political activity within the Polytechnic, and for a formal Students’ Union. The Sectarian Ban was finally lifted in 1962 and a Union granted in 1965. However, the canteen continued to be an issue throughout the 1980s.
By 1968 the Union had secured offices in Elsley Court, with the first bar on Polytechnic premises, as well as two paid sabbatical posts. During the 1970s the number of full-time students at PCL doubled and the newly formed Polytechnic of Central London Students’ Union (PCLSU) engaged in a strategy of protest and direct action. Against a backdrop of general social unrest, PCLSU campaigned against cuts in student grants, lack of accommodation, the rise in costs for overseas students, and the perennial issues with the canteen. Students also joined the many national demonstrations marching in London.
Alongside politics, music was always a key feature of Poly student life, from club socials and LP listening clubs in the 1930s, through to swing and jazz dances in the 1950s. The Portland Hall at Little Titchfield Street became an important music venue from the late Sixties, with performances by Jimi Hendrix, Cream, Fleetwood Mac and Pink Floyd (formed by architecture students at the Poly). This continued through into the 1980s with groups such as New Order and The Stone Roses playing at the New Cavendish Street building.