Official letterhead

I know that you have to limit the amount of space given any special subject, but I think the 1957 World Science Fiction Convention in London was so pivotally important that it should have been an exception to the rule. Here was the first Worldcon to be held in Europe. The problems were somewhat different than those in the United States, and there was the unusual aspect that the president of the convention committee, John Wyndham, and the chairman of the committee, John Carnell, were full-time professional writers and editors, something, rare even to the present in the United States when it comes to a world convention.
.....Sam Moskowitz (letter of comment on THEN #2)

The 1957 World SF Convention, the first outside North America, was held at the King's Court Hotel, located on the corner of Leinster Gardens and Queen's Gardens in London's Bayswater area, over the weekend of Friday 6th - Monday 9th September. It did not officially start until Friday, but many fans turned up the day before for a gathering in the Globe pub that evening. The hotel is still there today but is now called 'The Caesar'and the main entrance is no longer on Leinster Gardens but on Queen's Gardens.


The King's Court Hotel in 1957.

The Caesar in 2010. (photo by Rob Hansen)

In September 1957, Eisenhower was in the White House and Harold Macmillan was in 10 Downing Street. On Saturday 4th October, four weeks after the convention ended, the Russians would launch Sputnik into orbit and the Space Age would begin.

The following report has been edited together from those written by Walt Willis and James White with a couple of minor bits from other places, in an effort to give as complete a picture of the convention as possible. After the prologue, my own notes and bridging pieces are in italics. Source notes can be found here.

Most of the photos presented here come from the collection of Norman Shorrock, though this doesn't mean a particular picture was taken by him. Where recorded, the collection others are from is noted in parentheses thus: (ejc) Ted Carnell, (tj) Terry Jeeves, (el) Ethel Lindsay, (avc) Vince Clarke, (ww) Wally Weber. Because of the sheer number of photos there are of this convention I have created a number of mini-galleries in the text that will take you to more photos of a particular part of the proceedings. Even so, I think I've used barely half the available pictures. As always, a tip of the hat to Peter Weston for identifying many of the people in these photos and for supplying most of them in the first place. Unlike those at modern conventions, the badges used at LONCON were simple cardboard blanks on which the name of the attendee was written (see opposite). They carried no artwork or other convention identifiers at all.

John Beynon Harris has gone by that name in earlier reports but is referred to throughout here as 'John Wyndham' since as Convention President that is how he was identifed.

Here are links to pages devoted to the individual days and also to 'sidebar' material connected with the convention.

Minutes of final, pre-convention Committee meeting.

Prologue

On Saturday 31st August 1957 - the weekend before the Worldcon - Eric Bentcliffe travelled by train from Manchester down to London, where he met up with his fellow Northerner and TRIODE co-editor Terry Jeeves, who had travelled down earlier that same day. The two then made their way across town to the home of Arthur Thomson, who had agreed to put them up for the night. When they arrived they found Mike Moorcock and visiting Swedish fan Lars Helander were also there to greet them. (At only 17 years old, Moorcock was then the editor of 'Tarzan Adventures'.)


Mike Moorcock

Lars Helander (ww)

As Bentcliffe reported:

I hadn't met either Mike or Lars before, although I knew them both from correspondence, but was pleased to see their fine, sensitive fannish faces. Lars was much younger than I expected. I knew that he was still at school but had got the impression from somewhere that he was in his early twenties. We nattered about this and that whilst Olive, Art's charming wife, plied us with sandwiches. After a considerable amount of persuasion Mike decided not to play his guitar!

Somewhere around twelvish, Arthur locked us in for the night, and after I'd gagged Terry's snores with a pillow I got some sleep.

The reason for the TRIODE duo's trip was that they were on their way to Belgium for a few days, from where they would travel on to Holland to greet the arrival in Amsterdam of the KLM charter plane that would be setting out from the US with a cargo of American fans and pros including TAFF-winner Bob Madle, Forrest J Ackerman, Steve Schultheis, Val Anjoonian, Robert Abernathy, Will Jenkins, Shel Deretchin, Fred Prophet, Sam & Christine Moskowitz, and the honeymooning Dave and Ruth Kyle along with Dave's brother and his wife. Also aboard were Harry Harrison and wife Joan who were moving to England. And so the following morning Bentcliffe and Jeeves took Tube, train, and bus to Southend for their flight to Middlekerke Airport, just outside Ostend. Here they were met by local fan Jan Jansen (editor of newszine CONTACT) and his wife Rosa. In their tiny Citroen, the Jansens drove their visitors back to Antwerp, their home town, and booked them into the Cecil Hotel, where fans visiting the city usually stayed.


Eric Bentcliffe and Terry Jeeves in Belgium

On Tuesday, Jansen drove Jeeves and Bentcliffe to Amsterdam to greet their American visitors, killing some time in a hotel before heading for the aiport. The KLM charter had first landed in London where it had disgorged many of its passengers to be met at the airport by Ted Carnell, Ken Bulmer, Brian Lewis, and Sandy Sanderson then whisked off by hired bus to the convention hotel. The remaining passengers had then flown on to Holland. Here's Terry Jeeves:

The point of the trip was to meet Dave Kyle and his flock. They were due to arrive on the 9pm plane at Schipol Airport. By 10.30, we had seen people arrive from Persia, Blackpool, South Africa, and all points East, but still no Dave Kyle. Our coat lapels were worn down to the padding through thumbing our Worldcon badges in the faces of people who looked like Kyle, looked like Americans, or just looked. After another three trips to the enquiry desk, Jan found that they had been holding a message for a 'Mr Jansen'... The staff were amazed to find that he was Mr Jansen. Apparently, Kyle & Co. had arrived at 7.30 and were sitting waiting for us at the KLM offices in Amsterdam...five minutes from our starting point. We set off back and found them busily chewing lumps out of KLM's polished floors. Gear was loaded into taxis, and the giant fleet swung off in impressive array. People gaped at the impressive parade, but the effect was slightly spoiled by the little Citroen gamely struggling to keep up at the back. However, we gave the royal salute to all and sundry, took a wrong turning, just missed parking in a canal, and got to the hotel in time to save the flock from being turned away. The manager finally bedded down the 20 odd fen and near-fen, we had the pleasure of sampling some of the Kyles' lovely wedding cake after we had rescued Ruth Kyle from the clutches of Bentcliffe (apparently no one had warned her) and set off back to Antwerp just after midnight.

Jan Jansen, Eric Bentcliffe, Sonja Jansen, Ruth Kyle, Dave Kyle, and Terry Jeeves outside the Cecil Hotel.

The Americans would be joining them in Antwerp the following day and booking into the same hotel. They would barely have time to squeeze in a day or so of sightseeing because on Thursday it would be time to travel back to London for Worldcon, and the pre-convention meeting at the Globe....

HOME THURSDAY >