THE 1967 LONDON MINICON
Ella Parker turned up at a Globe meeting in London early in 1958 and was soon in the thick of things. Arguably the most important fan of the decade that followed it's almost impossible to imagine that period without her. Her council flat on Canterbury Road, West Kilburn - the 'Parker Penitentiary' - hosted meetings of SFCoL (the SF Club of London) from March 1960 and 'Friday Night at Ella's' from August that same year.
The latter was an open house for any BSFA member who wanted to drop by. However, the 'Pen' was already earmarked for demolition and in late January 1963 the council moved her to a new home: Flat 43, William Dunbar House, West Kilburn. The meetings moved with her, though 'Friday Night at Ella's' ceased in December 1964. SFCoL organised the 1965 London Worldcon - our second - and Ella was the Chairman (her listed title).
At the base of William Dunbar House was a small hall that could be hired by residents for events for a nominal fee. This being so, eventual use by fans was inevitable, as Ian Peters recounts:
The Science Fiction Club of London (S.F.CoL) in an attempt to boost membership and at the same time contribute something to London fandom in general, has started, as an experiment, a series of monthly open meetings consisting of a talk followed by a discussion, refreshments being provided. We have planned three for a start but these can be extended according to degree of success. This has only been possible because of Ella Parker's particular situation. She now lives in one of the multi-storey "matchbox" flats which are replacing the dreary rows of crumbling 19th century terraced houses in most London suburbs. While the flats themselves tend to make me feel slightly claustrophobic (I am 5'-11 ½" on the rare occasions I stand up straight) yet the extra amenities laid on are really tremendous e.g. central heating, waste disposal etc (good old G.L.C.!) On the ground level is a hall which can be hired for weddings, parties etc. at a nominal rent and this is just ideal for our purpose. We put the first meeting on free since we have a little bit in the bank due to the fact that, much to our surprise we got back in full the money we lent to finance Loncon II.
The first meeting took place on Sunday 9th January 1966. Some 25 people turned up and the speaker was John Brunner. In 1967 the hall was host to what, in November, would be the first of two annual one-day Minicons.
Photos by Rob Hansen (rh), Merv Barrett (mb), and Peter Cooper (pc). Jean Muggoch's report in her LONDON NEWSLETTER #5 is the only account of the event that could be located.
I arrived in time to hear John Brunner's talk, "Divided we stand provided we prop each other up". John's "room for all of us" views on the current S.F. scene from the traditional to the way-far-out. His reasoning was most interesting, his preview of his next book frightening: His talk sprinkled with enjoyable reminiscences of N.Y.Con.
After lunch the audience had increased in numbers and exuberance and Ted Carnell, the Guest of Honour, had a rougher passage through his speech, which gave a review of SF publishing & selling. Lots of interesting facts about developments in Europe, the effect on sales during credit squeeze, American publishers expecting the film 2001 (Premiere next Easter) to trigger a boom in SF, etc. Background noise provided mainly by Arthur Sellings.
A panel next, Gerry Webb, Jim Linwood, Norman Sherlock, Dick Howett talking about Flying Saucers, a not very promising subject which became very entertaining. Gerry started with calm reason, was opposed, Mike Moorcock as an excellent Chairman managed to keep the audience under control for a short time but was soon overwhelmed. After a discussion en masse and a piece of impassioned rhetoric from Ted Tubb on the state of society, Mike brought the Panel to a disorderly but neat close.
Next came a comprehensive talk by George Locke on book and magazine collecting. This appeared to be of interest to many but as I am not a collector I retired to the quiet room where Mike moaned about approaching senility and Arthur Cruttenden wandered around looking for a bottle-opener.
The Mystery Guest proved to be Earl Kemp who started to give a talk on Fandom.
This soon developed into a conversation with various members of the audience on various subjects and a chummy chat ensued.
All in all, an extremely good Con. The catering was efficient and the people who served the food and coffee were both pleasant and fast.
We are very lucky in London to have so many of the professionals who are willing to come along to a function of this kind for this, I feel, was the keynote of the success of this Minicon.