It’s the last trumpet.
It’s been an intense few months up on the Ridgeway; preparations for our big change have gathered pace. At first things went slowly – infuriatingly slowly – but as the years crept on so we felt the pressure develop. It’s like the feeling of being in a crowd of people surging forward, slowly accelerating. You’re forced to break into a trot, and have to move faster and faster towards your target, trying not to trip, until you’re racing along breathlessly. At first the target is out of sight over the horizon and seems a little mysterious. But when you look back at where you came from, it too seems strange to you now. As you get closer to the target you see it more clearly, and the details become visible. What does it mean?
Now we are there, we’ve entered into the singularity and we are about to emerge from the other side into … the Francis Crick Institute.
We’re no longer owned by the MRC, though we’re still supported by them. We feel free: no more crazy civil service mentality, “bureaucracy rules OK”. But we also feel afraid: no more public sector protection and positive staff spirit. What will this new, third sector, world mean for our lives, our careers, our science?
On the stroke of midnight a thousand huge removal vans will arrive on site and an army of removal technicians will load them up with every piece of equipment, large and small, on site. Acres of bubble wrap will enfold the hundreds of thousands of pieces of lab kit. Furniture will be manhandled along the corridors and down the stairs or down the goods lift and into the waiting vehicles. Freezers will be packed with padding to protect their valuable contents and carefully carried away.Computers will be unplugged and encased in protective boxes ready for the move. Paperwork will be filed; desks locked shut; books crated up. Everything will be labelled with a lab number and crammed into one of the vans.
The long convoy of removals vans will snake its way carefully down the hill, onto the North Circular Road then down the A1 through Archway, Holloway and onto the Caledonian Road towards St Pancras. Similar convoys will make their way from the Clare Hall and Lincolns Inn Fields sites of our sister institute.
Once they all arrive in Brill Place the removal fairies swing into action again, carrying multiple loads to their new destinations – “3rd floor, northwest quadrant! 1st floor! 2nd floor, southeast quadrant! basement level 1! 4th floor, southwest quadrant!”. Faster and faster they work so that every piece will reach its appointed location, be it general lab space, shared secondary space, the BRF, the admin floor, or a technology platform.
The unloading should be completed by 6 in the morning, everything checked over and powered up. Every lab and office in the new institute will be ready for occupation by the early birds coming in to start work at 7.30am. The research gets underway, ready to fire off hot new discoveries.
So, one hundred and three-quarters years of our institute history have drawn to a close, and another era of institutional history begins. Goodbye Mill Hill, hello Brill Place.
Some of the details above were not entirely accurate (note the date).
True: NIMR has ceased to be. It has transferred to become part of the Francis Crick Institute, as the ‘Mill Hill Laboratory’. Other Crick sites include the Lincoln’s Inn Fields Laboratory, the Clare Hall Laboratory, and the project team offices on Euston Road.
False: there was no convoy of vans at midnight. The Crick will take possession of its new building in November 2015 and the physical transfer from the laboratory sites will start soon after that, taking about 6 months to complete. The thought of doing it all in one night would probably give the migration manager apoplexy. It is a huge and complex task.
True: I was onsite today just after 7am and there certainly were early birds coming in to work. Research keeps going forward.
See the welcome video on YouTube, with some great shots of the interior of the new building.