THE LONDON CIRCLE (1959)
Though London fans had started meeting on Thursday evenings prior to WWII, it was only when those meetings resumed after the war that they dubbed themselves 'the London Circle'. However, by the time the 1950s were drawing to a close the Circle was in decline, so Ted Tubb and Ken Bulmer decided drastic action was needed to stop the rot. At the 18th December 1958 meeting, Bulmer stood up and announced that henceforth...
"...the London Circle would meet officially on the first Thursday in every month, but stressed that the usual Thursday gathering would still continue The idea was obvious; to bring together friends on a night they knew they would meet without the chance that the meeting would be poorly attended.".
Beyond this the idea was to get the Circle organised along the formal lines that had been a successful model for other British SF groups, something first suggested by Ron and Daphne Buckmaster. Tubb called for a shilling a month membership, an idea the assembled fans responded to enthusiastically.
Over the next few months Tubb and Bulmer worked up the following draft consitution, (which has been OCRed from Ted's carbon copy):
THE LONDON CIRCLE|
The name of the organisation shall be THE LONDON CIRCLE.
The objects of the organisation shall be to provide facilities
whereby the Members of the organisation shall have opportunities
for increasing their knowledge and widening their experience of
all aspects of Science-Fiction.
Membership shall be in accordance with regulations which may be
made from time to time. Applicants for membership must be proposed
and seconded by Members of the organisation and if elected
shall pay appropriate subscriptions and generally observe the
rules and regulations of the organisation.
The management of the affairs of the organisation shall be vested
in a General Committee which, for this purpose, shall have power
- to make, revoke and vary regulations consistent with this
- to appoint sub-committees which must consist of Members of the
organisation who need not, however, be members of the General
- to delegate any such sub-committees such of its powers as it may
- to further the objects of the organisation in any other way it
may consider to be desirable within the powers and intentions of
- to fill vacancies on the committee occurring during its tenure
- to consider applications for membership.
- The committee shall consist of a CHAIRMAN, Hon. TREASURER, Hon.
SECRETARY and THREE MEMBERS elected at the Annual General Meeting,
and shall hold office until the next Annual General Meeting.
The CHAIRMAN of the organisation shall not he eligible for
re-election to the Committee, unless there is no new Chairman
proposed, in each case if the current CHAIRMAN is prepared to
take office for a further year, he is proposed, seconded and
voted to the Chair.
- Meetings of the Committee shall he called at seven days' clear
notice (or less if urgent) by the Secretary at the request of
the CHAIRMAN or by any three members of the Committee. Four
Committee members shall form a quorum.
7. Annual General Meeting
- The subscriptions shall be fixed by members at the General Meeting,
- Any member whose subscription shall not have been paid within one
month of election or subsequently not later than one month after
the Annual General Meeting shall cease to be a member of the
organisation; but, may be re-instated on payment of arrears
at the discretion of the Committee.
- If subscription is to be by monthly fee, this will rule out the
complications of 'half-yearly fees' and/or 'if membership after a
certain date' will forfeit any necessary subscription until the
commencement of a new year.
An Annual General Meeting shall be held at a date, to be fixed by the
elected Committee for that year, but for continuity, it is best to make
a fixed date permanently, when the following business shall be transacted:
8. Special General Meetings
- The submission of the Annual Report,
- The presentation of the Audited Accounts by the Treasurer and the
financial status of the organisation.
- The election of the Chairman, Treasurer, Secretary, and
other members of the Society's Committee.
- The consideration of matters placed on the agenda by notice
of the Society's Committee.
- The conducting of any other business as is usual at an
Annual General Meeting.
Special General Meetings shall he convened by the Secretary:
9. Quorum at a General Meeting
The purpose of the Meeting must be clearly defined, and the notice
calling the Meeting shall be issued by the Secretary within a week
of the request. At least seven days clear notice shall be given
of such a Meeting, except in case or emergency. The time and the
place of such a Meeting to be determined by the Chairman or the
- on the instruction of the Committee
- at the request, in writing, of any ten members of the Society.
One third of the Membership shall form a quorum at any General Meeting.
10. Chairman's Casting Vote
At any General or Committee Meeting the Chairman shall have a second
or casting vote, if such circumstances are necessary to settle any
disputes. If such disputes can be settled without the Chairman's
vote this would be more desirable.
11. Ordinary Meetings
Ordinary Meetings shall be held normally once a month, unless through
popularity, it is decided through Clause 8 to amend this rule.
12. Alteration of Constitution
No alteration or addition to this Constitution shall be made except
by a two—thirds majority of those attending and voting at a Special
General Meeting called for the purpose.
The affairs of the society may be wound up only by a three-quarters
majority vote for those voting at a Special General Meeting called
for the purpose, in which case any funds or other assets which are
the property of the Society shall be realised as soon as practicable
and the net proceeds to be devoted to any such purpose or cause to
be selected at such Meeting.
CERTIFICATE OF ADOPTION
The foregoing Constitution is prepared for adoption at a Special
General Meeting of the Members of the Society held 2nd April 1959.
At the 2nd April meeting at The Globe, seven committee members were elected (not the six envisioned in the draft constitution). These were Ken Bulmer, Vince Clarke and Ella Parker with Ted Tubb as Chairman, Charlie Duncombe as Treasurer, Sandra Hall as Secretary and Pete Taylor as Publicity Officer. George Locke was charged with editing an official news sheet. Annual subs were set at five shillings and printed yellow membership cards were distributed (see top of page).
Alas, tensions in the group would soon spill over into open conflict. A schism developed in May over business conducted in Cheltenham when a contingent of London Circle members travelled to that city to engage in a joust with its fan group (seriously!) and then in October, following the London Symposium. Vince Clarke wrote a scathing letter to Ted Tubb announcing his resignation from the Committee, which led in turn to Tubb resigning eight days later (see THEN for details of all this and a full transcript of the letter). Nor was that the end of the matter. Before the month was out a splinter group of fans led by Vince Clarke and Ella announced the formation of an alternative to the London Circle, one called the Science Fiction Club of London.
That was pretty much it for the London Circle as a formally organised SF fan group. Whether they formally dissolved the organisation as per article 13 of the constitution is unknown, but no membership cards were issued for subsequent years and London fans soon slipped back into their habit of informal meetings. In the eight decades we've been meeting, 1959 was the only year we were ever a formally organised group. The experiment collapsed amid recriminations, yet it left behind one lasting legacy. Because of it we still meet on the first-Thursday of the month rather than every Thursday, and who's to say whether if not for that innovation we'd still be meeting regularly at all?
- Rob Hansen, May 2018.