Prologue (Harry Turner):
During February, Marion passes on news that has reached her of plans for a convention - the Midvention - proposed by the recently formed British Fantasy Society, to be held in Birmingham over Easter. Apparently arrangements have been largely left to Arthur Busby and Tom Hughes, as fans on the spot, and when we next meet I find them despondent over what they regard as unrealistic demands.
"All we've gotta do is find a hall to hold fifty fans for three nights, and accommodation for visitors!" moaned Art, calling down maledictions on the scheme's sponsor. "With this bloody war on it's practically impossible to find any halls available locally".
I sympathise, but as my radio course is nearing its end and I expect to be posted elsewhere by the RAF before the end of the month, there's little by way of practical assistance that I can offer, and I leave Art and Tom with their problems. Right now I have my own preoccupations, with practical tests and assessments at the college, and a big question mark hanging over my future movements.
I guess that deep down I don't hold with the efforts of the BFS to organise fandom at this time. I grant that the Science Fiction Association served a useful function in its day, keeping fans and fan groups in touch all over Britain and providing useful contacts with US fandom, but after its demise when war broke out in Europe, fans continued to maintain those links despite all the inevitable wartime restrictions. And here we are in 1943, and thanks to the efforts of individual fans, several newsletters and fanmags flourish, generous American fans help by donating sf mags and supplies of much-needed usable paper for faneds, and all in all there seems little need to divert time and energy to running an essentially superfluous institution like the BFS.
But right now I have my own preoccupations, with practical tests and assessments at the college; the radio course is nearing its end and I will be posted elsewhere by the RAF before the end of the month. There's little by way of practical assistance that I can offer, so I leave Art and Tom with their problems.
Much later I hear from Arthur that con plans have been scaled down, and the venue moved to Leicester... in the event some fourteen fans get together and make the Midvention a wartime success.
THE REPORT - Roy Rowland Johnson.
Greetings, to everyone from the Midvention!
It's a pity you could not all have been there. (Why should We be the only ones to suffer?!)
The Midvention, be it known, was finally held not in Birmingham -but in Leicester. Despite considerable efforts under difficult conditions on the part of Arthur Busby and Tom Hughes - for which we would like to thank them both sincerely - a convention in Birmingham was found, at the last moment, to be hopeless. The city was immediately changed to Leicester, where the poor unsuspecting Director had to take on the job of sub-committee, and by an equal amount of hard work and good luck, managed to get something ready for Easter. The difficulties which piled in were overcome, and by April 22nd, everything was ready.
Friday the 23rd, was comparatively quiet. Only B.H. Edwards ("Eddie"), from Bristol was expected, but bookleteer Arthur Williams arrived just as I was about to go to the station to meet him, so we both went.
Most of day was spent carrying auction stuff down to the hall, consuming food and, of course, talking. We talked until midnight, in fact, in Eddie's room at the Belmont Hotel (where most of the visitors stayed).
On Saturday I arose at the ghastly hour of 5.15am to receive the day's first arrivals, Bert Lewis and - guess who! - That Man Holmes.
We collected Art and Eddie after breakfast, and made our way to the hall. There, Art showed a considerable interest, and Ron a considerable skill, in the use of the sword - there were two there ready for the ill-fated excerpt from the "Warlord of Mars".
Terry Overton, Arthur Gardner, Don Houston, Peter Knott, Arthur Busby, and Tom Hughes arrived at various times during the morning - or did these last two come after lunch? I'm not quite certain.
We decided to depart somewhat from the programme: preliminary speeches and ceremonies were run together immediately after lunch, followed by the auction - which was definitely the high-spot of the convention. The main donors were Douglas Webster, Michael Rosenblum and Terry Overton. The main buyer was Peter Knott from Northampton, who spent about 30/-.
Ron Holmes, as auctioneer, put up a very good show indeed - he managed to get, for instance, 5/2d for a portfolio of Finlay illustrations given by DWLW, 6/3d for a model duralumin space-ship, given by RRJ.
Tea followed the auction at 5.00 p.m., and with it the first departure - that of Peter Knott.
The evening session was taken up, mainly, with two items, first of which was a short musical programme. There were some very fine Caruso recordings of Wagnerian operas, besides the three pieces listed on the programme. The swing jazz, or whatever it is, was provided by the versatile Mr Holmes at the piano. Arthur Gardner, at the organ, and RRJ at the piano, also tried the B flat Minor Piano concerto of Tchaikowsky, but since neither could play their respective instruments, the result was not over-encouraging....
Then came the debate. *Mr* Lewis (to drop into the parlance of the debating-room) proposed that "there should be no precise line of demarcation between s-f and Fantasy"; Mr. Overton opposed the motion. Both speakers presented their sides of the question but no-one seemed to have a clear idea even in his own mind as to whether there should be a line of demarcation or not, and we seemed to be arguing at cross-purposes for most of the time.
We all saw Bert Lewis, Arthur Busby, and Tom Hughes to the station, and then the rest of us just killed time.
Ron Holmes, who went to a dance, became involved in an amusing - and almost embarrassing - incident, to which he fleetingly referred in his own sheet last month, and the full story of which will doubtless be told elsewhere, at some time or other.
The first session on Sunday saw quite an amount of fencing, in lieu of the Warlord scene, which could not be produced after all. Ron Holmes - who incidentally is about 6'-1" - is a really good fencer; I wouldn't mind facing him fully armoured and padded, preferably using epees, but we used naked sabres - weapons, not sporting equipment .....
Ron Holmes: Roy Johnson and I had never met, but we were both swordsmen of a sort so it seemed to be a good idea to have a bout. We were to enact a scene from 'Warlord of Mars', he to be John Carter and I Tars Tarkas. The casting being that way because I was taller. In the event, when we came to practice, he produced real sabres for us to use. He was very much smaller than I (I'm over six foot) and wore glasses. I did not think he looked the part very much, but when we practiced I could see that I had the superior weight and strength of arm and eventually I decided not to go on practicing because I thought it was dangerous. He was rather disappointed.
During the rest of the morning, we had the non-stfical Brains Trust. From one question the fact emerged that Ron Holmes is an anarchist, Art Williams socialist, Terry Overton conservative, Don Houston sensible enough to have no definite views yet, and RRJ - see elsewhere!
We managed to squeeze in the second auction before lunch. George Ellis - who with Ron Lane had just arrived from Manchester - then paid 10/6d. for the FFM.
Lunch was taken at 108 Kimberley Road since no cafes were open, and then Ron Holmes departed - or, rather, "made a departure"!. We were sorry to lose him.
Just before lunch, I forgot to mention we took several photographs, some of which we hope to be able to include with this report. 'Nuff said!
The science-fictional Brain Trust - and use I the singular 'Brain' advisedly - came in the afternoon, Don Houston put up a good show, but it was Terry Overton who shone, possessing as he does an almost fantastically, ridiculously detailed knowledge of back-numbers of mags, etc., - and what a memory that must require.
Tea was taken, like lunch, at 108 Kimberley Road, since it was impossible to have it either in the hall or at a cafe, and afterwards we wandered around town, first seeing off the first arrival, Arthur F. Williams. Eventually we all congregated at the Johnson homestead, where cards, darts, etc, became the order of the day.
Monday morning saw the departure of B.H. Edwards, and the remaining few just wandered around Leicester, finally drifting back to the hall where discussions and music soon took up the remaining time before lunch, which, minus Terry Overton who caught the 12-55 train to Cardiff, we took as usual at 108 - necessitating a longish walk which yours truly protested against vigorously. (Being as lazy physically as JFParr says he is morally!)
The afternoon was spent in much the same way, Don Houston and I going into conference over the new mag "Phoenix" (formerly "Colossus") which may or may, not see the light of day. Arthur Gardner left us then, catching the 'bus to Warwick just outside the hall.
With only four of us there, the whole place seemed dead. We had the devil of a time clearing up - Ron Holmes had hidden numerous copies of the FANTAST Reclining Torso! - and, at 5.30p.m, left the hall for the last time.
Bug-eyed monsters, and Weird Tales, came up, I remember, during and after tea. Ron and George left just after eight. Don departed next morning - Tuesday, 27th. - and I came back to the station feeling somehow depressed. I went into a fit of melancholy for about three hours.
I don't know whether to call the convention a success or not. There were only about fourteen visitors, and that naturally seriously hampered our activities. The programme wasn't strictly adhered to either. Moreover, several of the visitors could only stay a short time. But everyone seemed to have an enjoyable time ; all had the pleasure of meeting others of their ilk, too, and for this alone, the convention was worth-while for whatever "Radcliffe" may say, fans are darned good fellows, and meeting them is a very great pleasure.
Farewell, then, to everyone, from the Midvention.
- MIDVENTION REPORT (1943, d/w FUTURIAN WAR DIGEST #?)
Postscript (2003) - Roy (Rowland) Johnson:
I have just had an amazing, and perhaps a disturbing experience. Surfing idly through e-bay last evening, I came across some offers of Astounding Science Fiction. I did not bid, but it set my mind back to long ago when I used to read s-f, and on impulse, not expecting anything, I asked Google for "Midvention". You can imagine my surprise when the very first item referred to the 1943 Leicester Midvention I organised, along with my own name (R. Rowland Johnson in those days - an affectation which amused me at the time, I can't imagine why).
Damme, anyone in the world can now discover, utterly obscure though I was and am, that in the middle years of WWII I was in Leicester, and Manchester, and Leeds, and climbing Pendle Hill. Perhaps more embarrassing (though it amused my wife) was the account of the little swashbuckling Ron Holmes and I indulged in at the Midvention. (For the record: I went on to captain my college fencing team, and I believe that by that time I would have caused friend Ron some problems, strong wrist or not. It is true that I produced real sabres: fencing equipment was very difficult to come by during the war, and friends and I used to go to junk shops to buy old army sabres, bayonets, whatever, with which we practiced enthusiastically. This explains why I still have a scar on my right thumb, the result of using an old French bayonet with no guard, and another near the bottom of the thumb, the result of making a pig-awful attempt at a stop-hit.)
An unrelated point: at the time of the Midvention I was busy working (though not much) for my School Certificate (approx. = G.C.E.), at the then Wyggeston Grammar School. One of my contemporaries - as, later, at University College, Leicester, for a year before he went up to Cambridge - was David Attenborough.
I am amused to recall, from those schooldays, that a physics master predicted with some irritation the career I would have ahead of me. He had some cause for being irritated, since instead of attending to his waffling about gold-leaf electroscopes or whatever, I was sitting at the back of the lab reading - the Futurian War Digest. It was when he saw the title that he said he could give me a digest of my future - as a road-sweeper. I took some satisfaction from eventually gaining more, and better degrees than he had ever thought of.
 "How I Missed the 1943 Midvention", 1998 (his website)
Scans and OCR/copyediting by Greg Pickersgill.
extends it's fraternal salutations to it's sister fantasy organisations ;
The NATIONAL FANTASY FAN FEDERATION (of the US.), and it's regional sections ;
The ILLINOIS FANTASY FAN FEDERATION,
On behalf of British Fandom,
T H EB R I T I S H F A N T A S Y S O C y.,wishes to emphasize it's great debt of gratitude to those American fellow spirits who have been so kindly sending material for our enjoyment.
And in particular to those generous souls -
for the many favours we have recieved at their hands. We are most grateful for this proof of solidarity within the fantasy movement and consider that it strongly stresses the closely-knit, intimate and friendly atmosphere existing between fellow fantasts all over the globe, mebbe soon throughout the Galaxy !
SUNDAY. APRIL 25th:
A.M. 9-30 - 10-00;MONDAY. APRIL 26TH;
Irregular departures, informal discussions, etc, but Farewell Lunch in the Convention Hall from twelve-thirty to two-thirty.
BRITISH FANTASY SOCIETY
MEMBERS UP TO APRIL THE FIRST, 1943;
MIDVENTION COMMITTEE ;
R. R. Johnson (Director)