LXICON - THE 1961 EASTERCONLXICON (pronounced 'Lexicon') the 1961 UK National Science Fiction Convention - the third to be run under the aupices of the B.S.F.A. - took place over the weekend of 31st March - 3rd April, 1961. It was held at the New County Hotel in Gloucester. Guest of Honour was Kingsley Amis and fan Guest of Honour was Archie Mercer.
Report below edited together from those written by Joe Patrizio, Ella Parker, Ron Bennett, and Eric Bentcliffe. Comments by me appear in parentheses and are italicised. Source notes and links to complete, unedited versions of those reports can be found here.
It was only after putting this one together I realized that because it draws on the same source material, it is essentially an alternate edit of the original reports to that by Bruce Burn that appeared in RELAPSE #14. Bruce was then a young New Zealander new to these shores and to London fandom. His accounts of his adventures in the UK in earlier issues offer a fascinating view of the fandom of the period. LXICON was his first convention.
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, (el) Ethel Lindsay, (bb) Bruce Burn, (avc) Vince Clarke, (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.
Here are links to pages devoted to the individual days and the Programme Book.
At 6.30 on Friday morning, Ted Forsyth, Bruce Burn and myself set out for the Lexicon. Bruce had managed to hire a nine seater van for the trip, and as it turned out it was just as well that we managed to get one as big as that. Apart from personal stuff the three of us took along a load of synthetic armour for use at the fancy dress party. This took up quite a bit of room, and as we still had to pick up the rest of the London crew, a fervent prayer went up from the Ferndale trinity. All to no avail, We did collect Pat Kearney, with only a minor difficulty; Bruce had to drag him out of the bath, ignoring the screams of protest that we were not due for another hour yet. The Parker Pen was the next stop and, of course, Ella had only just got up, and Was busy ramming breakfast down her guests' throats. While loading operations commenced, any casual observer would have thought that we were going to relieve Gloucester not just attend a convention there. The final blow was struck when Ella, after seeing us load three large hold-alls, said, "Well, now that you've got the food on, you can help me put my own stuff away". Luckily Roy Sheppard, a BSFA member, turned up and offered to help. Thanking him very profusely, we hastily threw some cases into his car, pushed Ella in after them, and roared away into the west before Ella could regain her sense to complain about the set-up.
In the van, in addition to those already mentioned were, Ethel Lindsay (SFCoL Chairman), Jim Groves (SFCoL Hon Sec.) Don Geldart, the club's tame army sergeant, who put in a power of work on the SFCoL display table, It would be a waste of time to say much about the journey as it was uneventful, although surprisingly speedy and pleasant in spite of the cramped conditions. One ironical note though,..after travelling the 105 miles with little in the way of traffic problems, and remember this was Good Friday notorious for hold-ups, we got stuck just two hundred yards from the hotel door, and were held up for half an hour. --
We finally booked into the New County Hotel. Being the first to arrive we proceeded to give the staff a taste of what was to come by hauling in a great quantity of odds and ends, and dragging them into one room, out again, along the corridor, into another room, with a quick dash down to the bar every now and-then. Everything stowed, Ted and I went to find Bruce. Room 18 was where we had tucked him away, so that is where we headed for. Arriving I banged loudly on the door. What looked suspiciously like a half dressed female stuck head and shoulders round the door. In a heartfelt screech she said, "Am I not to have any peace today?" I stood there with my mouth open, about the only time at the con I was to be speechless. This wasn't the hirsute New Zealander we all knew so well. No! by God it wasn't. I recovered enough to mumble an apology, and hastily dispersed from the scene, dragging Ted, still in state of shock, behind me.
Meandering aimlessly we ran into Jim Groves, who it seemed had been given one room only to have it snatched away from him. Another room had been assigned, and he had just got all his luggage in when Brian Alldis arrived. It seems that the hotel had fouled up the bookings and there was no room for Brian. Jim's services were immediately offered (by Ethel Lindsay) and Jim found himself homeless again. Ted and I. helped Jim remove his cases. Brian was very apologetic about all this, and kept saying how sorry he was as he joyfully threw Jim's luggage out into the corridor. They did find Jim a room in the end...it was Audrey Eversfields'. However Jim was bitterly disappointed when he found out that they wouldn't let him stay after Audrey arrived the following day.
Down at the bar we found almost all London fandom trying to explain fandom to Geoff Doherty, a new BSFA member. He seemed pretty impressed and surprised. That such a group existed, and was asking a lot of pertinent questions, the answers to which he was to put to a good use later. We all adjourned to a Chinese restaurant for food, very good it was too. Much refreshed we made out way back to start our hardworking part of the convention. This was the setting up of the SFCoL table. Don Geldart had done most of the hard work already by making posters, models and planning a suitable layout. Ted and I helped with actually putting it together, while Bruce was busy at the OMPA table, and Jim at the BSFA table. The main items on our table were models of a rocket, with launching rig, personnel and transport. The smaller ship and space station were suspended in a frame against a black background, which was very effective. Whilst Don was busy setting these up, I was stringing together letters, which Don had cut out, to form the name of our club. These spanned across about ten feet and when they were up we were all satisfied that anybody who came into the hall would at least know who we were.
It was now time to start our advertising campaign. This year the club made an all out drive to sell the Combozine, which had been specially produced for the occasion. We had adverts which were parodies of current mundane ads such as "Top people read the Combozine", "Unzip a Combozine" and "You're never alone with the SFCoL Combozine". Don had printed over a hundred cards with the inscription 'Get the SFCoL Combozine Now' and these were liberally sprinkled round the hall, into people's pockets, and many other likely and unlikely places. Anyone looking at someone else's display was likely to be confronted with one of the cards. Our greatest success was with Norman Shorrock who after removing cards from the Liverpool stand about a dozen times without ever seeing anybody put one there, came and begged to be allowed to buy a copy, whereupon we presented him with a free copy as he was an honorary member. Ted proved just how unbiased we were by writing on Norman's little card 'We also recommend Bastion'; a little gesture that left Norman obviously unmoved.
We set off with Ron Bennett to find something to eat, and just when we were about to order, in walked Dave Kyle.
Dave and Ruth Kyle were welcome visitors to the convention and are based in this country until the end of May. They will probably be taking a side trip over to Continent. Dave was last at a convention in this country only last year but we havenít seen Ruth since the London WorldCon in 1957. Ruth searched diligently for matzoball soup and Dave showed, at a room party, the cine shots he took at last yearís London Convention, shots which had improved several thousand percent over the films he showed at last yearís con and which are now only 100% perfect.
Those who have met Dave will know what sort of a sense of humour he has. I think 'sharp' is the word. Bennett is no slouch in the art of wise-cracking either. By unvoiced mutual consent Dave and Ron started a bait-the-waitress campaign, as a substitute, I suppose, for the lack of a floor show. Unfortunately they had picked on the wrong person, and soon they were hard put to it to keep up with her, much less get the better of her in high-powered cross-talk. I was all for hurrying back to catch the official opening, but Ron kept on saying that never in the history of the world had a con started on time. Nevertheless I made my way to the con hall, where in spite of Ron's assurances that no con had ever started on time, this one had.
When I got into the con hotel, Eric Jones was introducing interesting con attendees. He then said as there was nobody else to introduce he would get on with the programme. Dead on cue the door opened and Eric added "Except for our Guest of Honour, Kingsley Amis". A really wonderful entrance, which couldn't have been improved upon even with rehearsal, Originally the programme was to start with three films, which the committee thought would help non-fans get into the mood of things quicker. Unfortunately the projectionist went somewhat berserk and kept on showing an almost unending stream of pretty poor films, except for a good one, which no-one understood. Hours later, or so it seemed, the lights went up and everyone heaved a sigh of relief, and made preparations to enjoy themselves.
Things started quietly for me, in the lounge talking with Ron and Norman Shorrock, we were joined by Ian McAulay, carrying the inevitable glass of lager. Norman and Ron had a duel with stamp tweezers, but other than this everybody seemed content to gather their energies in readiness for the long night ahead. We went to a party in Peter Mabey's room, about ten others were already there. All pretty quiet, as they were listening to Paddy Roberts on tape. Dave Hale was on the bed with about six others, trying to seduce Alan Rispin's girl, Diane, who was dropping hints (like kicking him in the ribs) that she wasn't too keen on the idea. Alan was lying there with a silly grin on his face, and a hat of the type worn by men who want to get ahead, on the back of his head.
The series of parties began in the room of Alan Rispin. We were having the whale of a time when someone knocked for admission - or so we thought. Our first impulse was to shout: "drop dead", it's as well we didn't because on being told to enter, the countenance of an irate tenant was disclosed demanding that we allow his 2 yrs old child to get some sleep that night. No sense of the fitness of things, some people. Being our first night in the hotel it was obvious that if we didn't want the party atmosphere to dissipate entirely we would have to move to another room. Among the assembled crowd I canít remember who it was called out the number of the next room we should grace with our company, but the room turned out to belong to Eddie Jones.
Eddie was lodged in a single, single room, if you know what I mean. It was already quite crowded when I arrived but still plenty of room for more as we gauge these things. Ian McAulay had seated himself on a piece of the furniture which ensured him of space to breathe if not of comfort and as I was standing next to him it meant that each time the door opened to admit even more fen I had to lean far over him to allow them in. A little of this was too much for Ian and he gave up his seat in favour of standing and taking his chance in the melee. I didnít waste any time. Before heíd had the chance to decide the best place to stand I had occupied his vacanted place on the furniture. It was now Bob Parkinsonís turn to do the leaning act every time the door opened which was frequently.
I am bound to miss someone out as it was difficult to see exactly who was there, but from where I was sitting I could see Tony Walsh and Audrey Eversfield standing as near to the window as they could get without actually going out of it. The crush later became so bad that Audrey passed out, more from the crush of people than from anything she'd had to drink. Going round the room from the right-hand side and sitting on the floor next to the wash basin there was Peter Mabey. Peter was next to the foot of the bed sitting on which we had: Ina Shorrock, Ted Tubb, Sandra Hall, and the room on the bed immediately in front of them was occupied at different times by various people. At the head of the bed and immediately in front of the door was standing: Ian McAulay, Joe Patrizio and Bob Parkinson. On the floor just in front of me was a higgledy-piggledy of bodies inextricably mixed. The heads I saw belonged to Don Geldart, Ethel Lindsay, who had been pushed into the room with such force that she'd landed among the crowd on the floor without a hope of getting up again without a major operation being performed on her and some of the others holding her down, and Brian Jordan. This little lot were sitting on the legs of Jhim Linwood, Alan Rispin and his girl friend Diane - I never did discover her surname.
So far I have only mentioned a few of those who were at that particular party as the crowd kept ebbing and flowing. I do know that at one point in the evening someone counted noses and discovered there were 40 fen in the room! Through it all Eddie sat on part of the bed looking so forlorn; all he wanted was the chance to go to bed and sleep. I gave up fairly early in the proceedings going to my room about 2-30a.m. I know there were parties on the go for much longer than that, but there was the rest of the weekend to go.
I sat next to Brian Jordan, who offered an almost empty bottle of Brandy. I, of course, refused and delivered my speech on the evils of alcohol...I don't like Brandy. I was then shown a glass with a ľ inch of liquid, and told "That's all the Drambhuie there is". Not liking this either, I poured it on Dave Hale's head. I got the impression he was not too keen on the stuff either. Things seemed to go with a swing after this, everybody indulging in high quality fan-talk. I then took an intense dislike to Alan's hat. I grabbed it, dropped it on the floor and stood on it. Soon there was a queue of people waiting to stand on Alan's hat, much to his complete disinterest. The idea grew that it would be a good thing to auction it for TAFF. Ron immediately took this up and called for bids. These were a bit slow in coming, and 1/- was the highest anybody was prepared to go for the monstrosity. Ron was trying everything in the book to get the bidding up, he turned to me and said, "I will even accept postal bids". Reaching for the nearest typewriter I hurriedly typed a note to say I had no intention of bidding. Ron was a bit peeved at the wasted time. Then came his most brilliant idea - group bids. The hat was passed round and everybody contributed to the total, even Alan, we found that TAFF was richer by 12/-! Now came the tricky part, who was to get the hat? Dianne made some silly suggestion about giving it back to Alan, but was shouted down, when I made the obvious suggestion that we each have a piece. Scissors appeared from nowhere, and Ron divided it up. I managed to snatch the hat band which hangs proudly on the wall before me as I write. Even Alan got a bit...
It was rather noisy by now, and made noisier by a banging on the door. It was the harbinger of our first complaint. One of the permanent guests had seemingly had enough of the racket, and' started laying down the law about the right to get some sleep etc. Mumbling curses quietly under our breath, we departed for more sociable parts. Ella decided. to get some sleep, as did Ted and some others, even though, it was only 1.30 am, but the rest of us did not go for that. As we wandered down the corridor, we bumped into Norman Shorrock, who waved a bottle of something at us and said there was a party in his room.
There were quite a few people there, most of the Liverpool Group, Ruth and Dave Kyle, and lots more too blurred to be seen properly. Dave was preparing to show the film he had taken of the London con of the year before. Dave and Norman did a great job of showing it under conditions far from ideal, the room was small and there was no screen. Everyone enjoyed it and were disappointed when it finished. Then Ina decided that she wasn't as comfortable as she might be, and that she would feel better in slacks. The assembled male faction could see no reason for her not changing into them, and made their findings clear to Ina. Accepting the roars as a challenge, Ina said "Oh, so you think I can't!", and jumping up on the bed which was holding about ten of us, proceeded to do so, by the simple expedient of pulling them up under her skirt. Eddie Jones and Phil Rogers led the howls of protest.
The room was pretty crowded by now, Ina must have thought the air needed freshening or something, because she started to spray people, with scent. I did a stupid thing by indicating that this, sort of thing did not appeal to me. Of course I ended up being held down while Ina sprayed scent down my neck, up my nose and in my mouth when I opened it to protest. It's just as well that I knew everybody there, or it could have: been very embarrassing for me. I cannot remember much after that, except that Norman kept handing round glasses of coffee, which turned out to be coffee flavoured wine, with drastic after effects. About 4.30 I decided I'd had enough and bidding farewell to all and sundry, wandered happily down the corridor to room, bed and four hours sleep.