THE 1960 EASTERCONThe 1960 UK National Science Fiction Convention - the second to be run under the aupices of the B.S.F.A. - took place over the weekend of 15th - 18th April, 1960. It was held at the Kingsley Hotel in Bloomsbury, London, a venue that had only been found after the previous hotel cancelled the booking two days earlier (see 'The Lost Hotel' - link below). Co-Guests of Honour were Ted Carnell and TAFF-winner Don Ford.
List of known attendees:
Report below edited together from those written by Bobbie Gray (nee Wild) Don Ford, Ella Parker, Ron Bennett, Archie Mercer, and Sandy Sanderson. Comments by me appear in parentheses and are italicised. Source notes and links to complete, unedited versions of those reports can be found here.
The photos presented herein come from the a variety of collections, though this doesn't mean a particular picture was taken by that person. The collection photos are from is noted in parentheses thus: (kf) Keith Freeman, (tj) Terry Jeeves, (ns) Norman Shorrock, (df) Don Ford, (jp) Joe Patrizio. As always, a tip of the hat to Peter Weston for identifying many of the people in these photos and for supplying them in the first place.
In a lot of photos people can be seen wearing round badges. Unfortunately, as with the 1959 Brumcon, there isn't a clear enough photo of one of the badges to be able to determine whether it had a design on it or was merely a card blank on which a name could be scrawled, as per those issued at the 1957 Worldcon.
Here are links to pages devoted to the individual days and the Programme Book.
I understand that the 1960 B.S.F.A. Convention came nearer than most fans ever realised to being held in Harrogate. Harrogate was indeed mentioned at the 1959 Con (held in Birmingham), but shortly afterwards a group of London and Cheltenham fans met in Cheltenham and persuaded the B.S.F.A. Committee (who were all present, if only because most if them WERE London or Cheltenham fans anyway) to agree to the 1960 Con being held in London.
The Cheltenham Plan was for a Con at Whitsun. However, public feeling soon moved it back to Easter again, and from then on things just went haywire. A hotel was selected - announced - and provincial fandom staged a mass howl of protest at the prices charged, The Committee in London, at their wits end, tried to switch to Kettering - which we remember kindly from previous years. Alas, 'twas too late - some blasted football team (may their balls rot) had just got in and booked the hotel ahead of us. So back to London went the Con, Sandra Hall and Bobbie Gray, who together with me comprised the B.S.F.A. Committee, were running the London end of things, and calling in Ella Parker to help, the three of them started tramping the streets of London and the telephone directory to come up with a wonderful hotel - so wonderful that they were all wondering what the hidden snag would be....
The Tuesday before the Convention, I was wondering whether there would be a Convention. The hotel we had booked decided not to have us at the last minute. I am not likely to forget that particular Tuesday.
It started just before midday when Ella rang me and said in a rather strained voice that a crisis had arisen re the hotel. Sandra and I went round to the hotel and discovered what it was and thereafter the three of us spent the afternoon walking around looking for another hotel and wondering if we would end up booking a bed for the TAFF candidate in the crypt of St. Martin-in-the-Fields.
Ella Parker and Bobbie Gray who were in charge of booking arrangements were told that the management would not after all allow alcohol on the premises and that frankly we were considered a bunch of rowdies. A state of emergency existed as Ella contacted the local Chamber of Commerce and thence the Kingsley Hotel, Bloomsbury Way, Holborn. As the standard of the Kingsley is automatically taken to be higher than the majority of the hotels in the district in which the Sandringham is situated, it may be that we were done a favour. BSFA members and those non-members who had made bookings at the Sandringham were hurriedly contacted where possible and word was left with a friendly spy at the Sandringham to direct any would-be con goers to the Kingsley.
The London Chamber of Commerce (Paddington) came to our rescue and got us fixed up at the Kingsley Hotel at special rates for the Con members.
It was that day that my right foot suddenly decided to play me up again and I was wondering how on earth I was going to keep my promise to Don to walk him round the interesting parts of London. Anyway, I went back to the flat and hoped that keeping off my feet for a while would help, but it turned out that I need not have worried when I called at Ted Carnell's office the following morning.
I was late, of course, a bad habit I seem to have acquired over the past few morths. When I arrived at Ted's office a tall, dark chap got up - and up - and up. My first thought on seeing Don Ford was "My God! How am I going to keep up with him? He's a foot taller than I am." But, Don it seemed, had also been having trouble with his feet and what actually happened was that he had a job to keep up with me at times. When my feet aren't bothering me I am a quick walker, though, and anyone I'm with usually ends up asking "Where's the fire?" Don didn't feel like a lot of walking (Neither did I) so after taking him up to Piccadilly and Kingsway - and discovering to my astonishment that he did not drink coffee - we returned to Ted's office to collect Ron Bennett and Brian Jordan and moved on to the Tower of London.
Inside the Tower there was such a queue for the Crown Jewels that we decided to give it a miss. In any case, no cameras were allowed in there at all, whereas permission could be obtained to take photographs in the White Tower. Now it was the first time that I had been in the armoury section of the tower and all the boys got from me was "But where's the fifteenth century plate armour?" We reached it eventually, but just beforehand Ron came up to me and said "Have you seen the obscene suit of armour in the glass case?" I hadn't, but I got over to see it with in- decent haste. The armour had belonged to Henry VIII for use in foot combats and it had been made so that there was not a crack or crevice where a weapon could enter. But egad! The steel codpiece. Henry was a hefty character, but I still think he was bragging. Don of course, took a photograph of it, helped by Ron, accompanied by scandalised looks from several of the visitors who were probably wishing they had the nerve to ask Don to send them a copy of the photo when developed.
The Yeoman of the Guard eventually persuaded us they were closing down for the night and back we went to Ted's office to pick up some gear. From there we went on to Ella's place where a number of fen were waiting to say hello to Don. I had to leave fairly early.
We arrived at Ella's and when we were introduced she said, "Christ, they told me you were tall, but you're a giant!" Present that evening were: Bobbie Gray, Brian Jordan, Bill Temple, Sture Sedolin, Ted Forsyth, Ron Bennett, Alan Dodd and Alan Rispin, and Ella's brother, Fred.
Big topic of discussion was the fact that the convention hotel had cancelled out only two days ago. Bobbie had told me about this early that morning and I was now hearing Ella's version. Between the two of them they had managed to secure another hotel on such short notice and things were now booked into the Kingsley Hotel on Bloomsbury Way. Notices were being mailed out of the change of hotel.
Chief reason for the change was the fact that the owner balked at the idea of us bringing liquor into the hotel and had then nullified the agreement made by the manager. The owner was a woman active in politics and on the council. I gathered from the lucid descriptions of her that she thought the sun rose and set on her ass.
We went out to find a telephone booth for me to call Ted Carnell. I also called the Kingsley Hotel and told them that I was now at a party and for them to hold a room for my arrival later in the evening and one that I wouldn't have to change from when the convention came up two days later. I explained that I was from America to attend this convention and that had the effect of clarifying to them my "impossible" demands.
Ted Carnell, then, told me to relay on to the gang the news that the original con hotel was not informing people that the convention had moved. Ken Bulmer had called them to make a reservation and was told the convention had been cancelled. He'd been somewhat upset when he telephoned Ted.
Bill Temple and I rejoined the party and things began to hum with conversation. There were tables loaded with drinks and mixers and anyone who couldn't have quenched his thirst that evening wasn't human.
Ella looked to be about 30 to me and this'll no doubt get me shot next time we meet. She wears glasses and from the cartoons Atom had drawn of her, I was prepared to see a woman of 160-180lbs in weight. Far from it. She is a person very much alive with energy, drive and personality. Her voice reminds me a bit of Tallulah Bankhead's and her hearty booming laugh can over-ride the din of such gatherings. She is blunt in her talk and one always knows where one stands with Ella...a trait I much admire in people as I hate mealy mouthed individuals. In short, I liked Ella Parker very much from our first meeting.
I've heard it said that anticipation is the best part of any treat. Looking forward one is apt to over emphasis the pleasures to come so that when the Big Day arrives, events fall flat on their face and turn out something of an anti-climax.
When I heard that Don Ford had won TAFF I'll admit to having lost some sleep through excitement. I'd plugged Don in my fnz but this was a public expression of a personal wish. I wanted to meet Don Ford. Now I knew I was to have my wish granted I began wondering what he'd be like. The best place to make an assessment of anybody is in your own home and among your friends. Also, too often one hears the complaint after a convention attended by a BNF that he - the BNF - had been monopolised by his friends and the newcomers didn't get a chance to meet him. This seemed a good oportunity to introduce some newcomers in fandom to Don before the con as well as meeting him for myself and judging whether I'd voted right or not.
I planned a party for him with this in mind and so he wouldn't feel overwhelmed by a lot of strangers I invited Ron Bennett whom Don had already met. Some of the other guests arrived before Don and his escort- Bobbie Gray, nee Wild, Ron Bennett and Brian Jordan put in an appearance. I was in the middle of brewing tea and making coffee for them when the door opened and what seemed like a horde of people streamed into the room. Actually there were only four but to those of you that know him, when Don is one of the four it is apt to look like a crowd. I'd heard he was tall (he had to duck his head as he came into the door) but, somewhere along the line someone had neglected to mention he was LARGE with it! Don is the only person I know who can vacate a room holding 50 other people and leave it looking half empty.
As more people arrived and the talk grew in volume you could hear Don's voice easily only because of the accent. He speaks very quietly but his opinions are expressed in such a way you know he's saying what he thinks and not what he thinks you want to hear. There was no anti- climax to my meeting with Don. He was every bit as nice as I'd hoped he'd be and if he stood for TAFF tomorrow I'd vote for him again.
Alan Dodd and Sture Sedolin sat off in the corner of the room from the rest of us and I was introduced to Ella's brother, Fred. He said he wasn't a fan and was going to leave, but I asked him to stay and found myself talking about farming with him. He had been in Canada on a farm for quite a few years. He eventually went to his room to watch the dog races on TV.
Alan Dodd was rather quiet and left a bit early. He never took off his overcoat and always seemed poised on his chair ready to leave instantly. Sture Sedolin is a fan from Sweden who has been active in fanzine publishing, but I never could get much conversation out of him. In fact, after Alan Dodd left, Sture sat off by himself, apart from the group. I thought he was simply shy, but was told a few days later that he seemed to get that way when the group he was with didn't do just whatever he wanted to do. On those occasions he played the part of a 'dumb Swede'. Not having much conversation with him or seeing him too much, I didn't have much impression of him one way or the other. He seemed to blend into the walls and since there was life and activity going on elsewhere, I didn't make the supreme effort of dragging conversation or replies out of him.
Bennett, Jordan and Rispin were playing Brag in the center of the room and Ted Forsyth and I got active with our respective cameras. The evening seemed to pass quickly and I got ready to leave for my hotel. Bill Temple made sure I got on the right train and we said goodbye until convention time. The party was quite a blast and it made a pleasant thing to attend as a pre-convention warmup.
Ron Bennett met me at six. After a bite to eat we arrived at the Globe, where I met: Mike Moorcock, Sandra Hall, Ella Parker, Brian Jordan, Ken Cheslin, Mal and Sheila Ashworth, Ken and Irene Potter and Lawrence Sandfield, Brian Burgess, and some others I've forgotten. One, I know, worked for a Book Club.
They all kept buying me drinks throughout the evening. I don't like beer, scotch, wine or ale. I chose Gin and orange with ice and found it a good standard drink to stay with. The orange is a concentrate and can be diluted down a bit with water to make a highball. The ice usually presented a problem. Two half cubes of ice was thought to be sufficient for any man, but I demanded more. I like a drink so cold you can hardly hold it in your hand so drink it instead.
Sandfield related his romantic adventures, which were brought on by his guitar and irresistable charm with women. Mike and Sandra seemed interested only in each other and exchanged soulful looks all evening long. Later on, it was announced that they were engaged to be married. Ken Cheslin is one of the new crop of budding British fans. I'd been getting copies of LES SPINGE and it was a pleasure to meet him. He's quiet, smokes a pipe and strikes me as being a fun loving chap.
The Ashworths and the Potters related that they were not staying at the convention hotel and wherever they were staying there wasn't enough beds for all, so it was their turn (Ashworth's) to sleep on the floor that night. Mal is sort of quiet and as a TAFF candidate for the Pittsburgh run, I was anxious to meet him. He's taller than average and somewhat on the serious side, as compared to his effervescent companion. Ken Potter. I rate Mal as a nice guy. His wife, Sheila, has that rare facial quality which made me wish for time to do some portraits of her. There's a look of wide eyed innocence about her which is reflected in her eyes. Those eyes could make a lot of men forget many things. I'm not kidding when I say she would make an extremely good portrait model.
The Potters are a lively couple. Ken has written some articles about his selling jobs in London and his stories in person were even funnier. Each one is so true to life, and if you've ever done any selling at all, you get an even greater kick out of them. He's a bit short and shall we say chunky? Not fat.
So with fourteen conversations going on and with drinks flowing freely, the evening passed all too quickly. I was just unzipping my gadget bag, in preparation to getting out my flash unit and cameras when a loud buzzer scared the hell out of me. "What's that?", I asked. The five minute warning I was told. Warning for what? Closing time. So, at the ridiculous hour of 11 pm we were kicked out of the Globe. That's just when things start to liven up back home.
Where to go, now? Finally they suggested a party at Ella's. I was all set to go until I found out that the bus and subway transportation dies at Midnight. Nothing runs until 6 am except taxis. Medieval times must have been more gay. Deciding that an all night party wouldn't be particularly wise to start out the convention with, I chose to return to my hotel. I'd figured that perhaps I'd go to the party until 2:30 or 3, but with no way of getting back, I couldn't see it. Besides I was a bit tired from all the walking I'd done that day. Brian Burgess saw me back to my hotel room and by the time he left it was about 2 am. I made a few notes of my daily events and hit the sack.