I'll eventually be adding a section on the 1979 Worldcon to this site, but the story of how the idea of holding a UK Worldcon in the 1970s emerged, and how things came together and the bid then evolved, is worthy of its own entry. The bid also had its own series of progress reports independent of the eventual convention, all of which are included here.

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1970: First Stirrings -

PETER WESTON:

What I would like to talk about here are several far-reaching decisions that were taken at Heidelberg. The argument about the nature and selection of sites for the World Convention itself was resolved in the only way possible, in my opinion, by recognising that this is essentially a North American event, and reverting to a 3-year rotation plan within that continent. Bids from outside the area can now be made for any year, and to my knowledge there are at present bids for Australia in 1975 and Stockholm in 1976. In the U.S.A. itself the convention goes to Boston in 1971, Los Angeles in 1972, Dallas/Minneapolis/Toronto in 1973, and Washington in 1974. You'll. notice that short of challenging one of these other proposals there is no possibility of Great Britain getting the chance to host the World Convention before 1977.

There have previously been British WorldCons in London in 1957 & 1965, and it is my firm belief that there most certainly ought, to be another one at some time during the 1970's. But it is also my belief that unless plans are made now then we will not be successful.

This country is the ideal and most sensible place for a World Convention outside the United States. Not only is there a large native fandom, although diffuse, who speak English, but there is a long tradition of holding conventions, a thriving community of science fiction writers and publishers, and the virtue of relatively easy communication which can successfully attract considerable numbers of Americans and Europeans to visit a WorldCon in this country. And while London presents well-known problems in finding a suitable large hotel, an ideal site looks like becoming available on the outskirts of Birmingham from around 1973 onwards.

I used to wonder why on Earth anyone should want to take on the job of organising something as demanding and complex as a large convention. I now know the answer to that question - there is a certain feeling, not so much of 'power', which would be ridiculous, but of satisfaction in making arrangements and exploiting opportunities to the best advantage. Even so I am not prepared (at least at the present time) to put forward a personal bid for a British World Convention. What I do suggest is that British fandom as a whole should think about the whole business and in view of the magnitude of the problems that a committee be formed - perhaps sponsored by the BSFA, I don't know - as soon as possible to make a formal bid.

Unfortunately I've not yet finished. From here on in it begins to get complicated, because there is that other decision I mentioned which was made at Heicon. In the absence of plans for a European WorldCon, a number of people present formed a committee and decided that in future there will now be a quite separate, new International series of conventions. These will rotate around the countries of Europe, initially every two years, with the proviso that should a WorldCon be held in Europe then in that year the WorldCon will serve as the International event.

Already there are plans for the 1972 International Convention to be held in Trieste (following on the heels of the famous SF Film Festival), and Brussels and Stockholm are bidding for 1974 & 1976 respectively. (Stockholm, you'll see, are covering their bets in the hope of getting a major international convention in 1976 whatever happens).

So how does England fit into all this? The answer so far is that it doesn't. Perfidious Albion has so far been conspicuous by its silence, and it is my personal opinion that the majority of British fans will probably continue to more-or-less ignore European fandom and their conventions. Nevertheless this is another factor that must bo considered by any bidding committee that is set up in response to my suggestion above. Ideally it would seem that a bid should be made both for a true WorldCon and for the European International Convention in the same year, so that, like Stockholm, at least something will happen!

Now let us consider possibilities. At a risk of making myself extremely unpopular with certain people, it looks to me as if 1975 is the nearest opportunity to make a bid. By that time the Americans will be ripe for the WorldCon to go somewhere overseas again, and there is no competing bid for the International event. If England won a WorldCon that year, Stockholm would still have its alternative in 1976. Conversely, if we didn't get the WorldCon, we would still have the alternative of the International event. The only losers would be the Aussies.

- SPECULATION #27 (September 1970) ed. Weston

1971: Eastercon 22 -

PETER ROBERTS:

A discussion on Sunday morning's con programme failed to settle anything. Support for a British World convention bid in the seventies was apparent, but difficulties arose over the timing of the bid, the likelihood of success, and the staffing of the Worldcon committee. It was agreed that the bid must be made in either 1975 or 1976 in direct competition with Stockholm and Australia, and European delegates stated that Britain would probably receive the Continental convention if a 1975 bid was successful, even though the European cons had been planned in 72, 74, & 76, Argument as to which year would be best was involved and highly theoretical, Pete Weston who had originally suggested the idea was no longer happy with the role of Chairman which was unanimously offered him the work required for Eastercon 22 had effectively soured him, although he allowed for a subsequent change of mind. A good con site had been discovered in Brighton with room for over 800 and plenty of overspill hotels if necessary. The Birmingham con site may not be completed in time, and was therefore dropped. Several volunteers came forward as Worldcon committee members, but the whole matter has still to be discussed further.

My personal view, and that of several others, is that we should admit our lateness in the race and wait until the 1980's for a proper British bid, supporting Stockholm in 1976 as a reasonable alternative. I'll nevertheless wait and see just what finally happens.

- CHECKPOINT #0 (April 1971) ed. Roberts

1973: Son of Egomaniac -

MALCOLM EDWARDS:

At the 1971 Eastercon, Pete Weston (then in the full flood of his not-so Secret Master phase) tried, to interest the assembled multitudes in the possibility of a British Worldcon bid. for 1976. The reaction was, in general, fairly apathetic. There was a body of people who felt that such a bid might work against the Australians' 1975 campaign, and that if the Aussies succeeded (as seemed probable, even then) there was zero chance of the convention being voted, to an overseas site again the following year. There was also the prospective Stockholm bid for 1976. Anyway, with one thing and another, the whole thing was fairly quickly forgotten. And has remained forgotten.

But let's think about this. The first London Worldcon was in 1957, the second in 1965. Since then, we've had the Heicon in 1970. On this kind of schedule -- and, it's none, too crowded -- we should be thinking about another British bid before the end of the decade. And if we want that to come about we should be starting to plan now.

Well, I'm in the middle of an empire-building period right now, and this is one of the main things which has come to mind. When Christine ((Malcolm's then wife)) and I went to stay with the Westons a few weekends ago, I mentioned it to Pete, and he waxed quite enthusiastic. I've mentioned it to one or two other fans since -- Peter Roberts, Ian Williams, etc -- and the reaction has been much the same. It seems to me that, whereas in 1971 the time may not have been ripe, it very clearly is ripe now.

Pete showed me the correspondance he'd had with a promising south coast hotel, and I've glanced around a bit since. It seems there are a number of potential suitable sites ... they aren't inexpensive, of course not, but by American standards they're' dirt-cheap. But at present I think deciding the place is secondary. What is important is to decide -- soon -- if it's something we want to do. And I say 'we' advisedly. I may be an empire-builder, but I wouldn't think of pursuing something like this without a good deal of support.

Why would we want to hold. a Worldcon anyway? Well, I'm not sure I can articulate an answer to that, beyond, something of the 'because it's there' variety. One of my personal motivations is that I want to go to a Worldcon, am never likely to get to the USA for one, and therefore have to resort to bringing the mountain to Mahomet. Otherwise, there is the fact that fandom is an international thing, strong in Britain and Europe, while the Worldcon tends to be primarily American. If there's a suitable bid, it should go overseas at regular intervals; I'm sure almost all American fans would agree about this. But it won't unless we do something about it.

Now I know there's a prospective Antwerp bid for 1978, and it would be foolish for two European contenders to cut each other's throats. However, with the 1974 Eurocon fiasco, how much weight is a Belgian Worldon bid going to carry? I suspect they may have lost too much ground to make up.

At the moment this remains just a proposal. The prospective date is either 1978 or 1979, and I would appreciate your thoughts (particularly you American readers) on which date would fit in better with the usual rotation system. I've reserved some time at the Tynecon for a general discussion of the whole question (this is the item about which the last Progress Report was so reticent). And there now exists, after a fashion, a committee to promote the idea of a British Worldon -- present memberships Peter Roberts, Pete Weston, and me. Expressions of support will be very welcome.

- MAGIC PUDDING #1 (November 1973) ed. Edwards

***

PETER ROBERTS:

Some time ago, just before Christmas, Malcolm Edwards came up to me at the Globe and said "How about a British Worldcon, then?" Choking quietly on my Guinness, I managed a casual nod of agreement and produced a likely date.

So, let it be known that Great Britain intends to bid for the 1979 World Sf Convention. Why such a long time off? Well, for a start we'd like to keep it at a good distance and, more seriously, 1979 looks like being the first available year. 1975, as you all know, is the Aussiecon; 1976 and 1977 bids are already in operation. We'd be very late starters for either of these years and would have the added disadvantage of bidding shortly after a foreign Worldcon. 1978 was Malcolm's first choice; but, as far as I can see from the present rotation rules, the Worldcon should return to the West Coast area in that year. Since they will miss out in 1975, having lost to Australia, they would have a strong bid in 1978 against another foreign Worldcon (if we were to win a bid for 1978, the West Coast wouldn't have had a World convention for nine years (1972-81)). This really leaves 1979 as first reasonable year for a British Worldcon.

Obviously at the moment nothing very much has been accomplished. Malcolm Edwards, Pete Weston, and myself have formed some sort of committee to promote the idea and Malcolm has booked a spot at the Tynecon to present and discuss the bid. Pete Weston, you may recall, wanted to make a Worldcon bid for 1975 (just before the 1971 Eastercon where he dropped the idea); he still has some useful correspondence with hotels on the South Coast and that may prove to be the most suitable spot for 1979.

Anyway, the bid is in an early stage, so ideas, general expressions of support, dire warnings, money, or what have you, will be most welcome.

- CHECKPOINT 44 (December 1973) ed. Roberts

April 1974: Tynecon '74 -

PETER WESTON:

In late 1973, my alter ego Malcolm Edwards had revived the idea of running a world convention in Britain before the end of the decade. Inadvertently echoing Eileen he had said, "I want to go to a Worldcon, am never likely to get to the USA for one, and therefore have to resort to bringing the mountain to Mahomet." We got together, and with Peter Roberts formed a provisional committee and made our move at Tynecon, the three of us going up onto the platform at the end of the Sunday-morning business meeting to outline our plans.


Peter Roberts, Peter Weston, Malcolm Edwards announce the bid (l-o)

We had no very clear idea where to hold it and we didn't know when. I stumbled through an analysis of current and likely bids, explained the infamous 3-year rotation system and why we should aim to take on the supposedly weaker Midwestern zone, and urged the need for a massive, pre-emptive strike before any serious American opposition could get off the ground.

I was cut short in mid-flow. An attractive (American) lady with red hair stood up in the front row. It was Ruth Kyle.

"Peter, Britain's fine in '79," she said, to thunderous applause.

And it was. In one brilliant stroke of inspiration, Ruth gave us our year, our slogan, and our momentum. That morning almost the whole membership of Tynecon (one of the most successful of British Eastercons) signed up as supporters, and Peter and I agreed that whichever one of us won TAFF, we would put our case at Discon and stake an early claim to 1979.

- WITH STARS IN MY EYES (p.226) - Peter Weston (NESFA Press, 2004)

August 1974: Discon -

PETER WESTON:

Yippee! I had won TAFF - on the third attempt! They gave me the good news just after Tynecon and I was delighted. It isn't usual to stand more than twice but because the last contest had been a bit exceptional, to say the least, my nominators had persuaded me to try again, up against my friend Peter Roberts, and winning this time by a convincing majority, 154/65. So I was going to a Worldcon after all, to the 1974 Discon in Washington, D.C. What an adventure!

So now in my luggage I was carrying a thousand flyers ((actually Progress Report 01)) and campaign badges and I was going to have to talk up our bid at every opportunity.


First badge - 30mm diameter

(Wednesday) was the night I went out with DUFF-winner Leigh Edmonds and his girlfriend Valma Brown from Australia, with a crowd of their friends to a restaurant a few blocks away. We seemed to get on well together, and I made a start on the important business of telling people about the British Worldcon bid. As luck would have it, a number of the other diners were from the Chicago area and they said they had been thinking of mounting their own bid for 1979. "Nah, you don't want to do that," I assured them, quickly signing them up as pre-supporters and giving them our little blue badges. It was a good beginning. Then, back at the hotel I rang home and had some wonderful news; now I had another daughter, and mother and baby were both well!

- WITH STARS IN MY EYES (p.224 - 229)

1975: New Orleans bid -

IAN MAULE:

Brighton has been chosen as the site for the 79 Worldcon if we get the bid at Orlando. Pre-supporting membership is 50p to, Peter Roberts, Flat 4, 6 Westbourne Park Villas, London W2. The New Orleans counter bid which has been mentioned recently is apparently not fully supported by the local group in the area, so it looks as if we should be unopposed in our bid.

- CHECKPOINT #63 (December 1975) ed. Maule

July 1976: Progress Report 02 published -

The bid committee grows to six with the addition of John Steward, Leroy Kettle, and Rob Jackson. Also the 1977 Worldcon, where the bid must be made, will no longer be held in Orlando.

PETER WESTON:

After eighteen months of referring to ourselves as "the British Worldcon," we thought it was about time we had a name, and the same PR announced that we were now Seacon '79, a title chosen after a certain amount of anguish and smiting of foreheads. The problem was that we simply couldn't make a catchy name out of any combinations of Brighton, Britain and con. In desperation we circled round and round the obvious title of Seacon, but were put off by two reasons; first, that it had been used for the 1975 Easter convention, even though that actually took place in Coventry! (Originally the bid had been for a seaside hotel; the committee simply couldn't find one.) Second, and more serious, Seacon had been previously used by a Seattle Worldcon, and in some ways it was their intellectual property, should they ever wish to bid again at some future date. We debated the matter endlessly, and in the end decided it was the only possible name, completely missing the obvious alternative of Channelcon, which didn't occur to anyone until the Eastercon returned to the Metropole in 1982.

- WITH STARS IN MY EYES (p.263)

April 1977: Progress Report 03 published (with a new piece by Bob Shaw) -

MALCOLM EDWARDS:

Our committee still continues to grow. We felt the need of a man of mature years and a receding hairline to cope with advertising and publicity, and soon hit upon the ideal victim in Graham Charnock, a man of vast experience in the advertising world and in fandom. Fans with very long memories still recall nostalgically his fanzine PHILE. Lovers of incomprehensible New Wave writing still remember affectionately his stories in NEW WORLDS (of which he later became Associate Editor), where he appeared in the famous new-writers issue alongside the vast festering foot of Robert P. Holdstock -- an experience which haunts him to this day. Later, he became (in no particular order) a bookseller and rock-and-roll star (playing in a punk rock group, The Burlingtons, and featuring on Mike Moorcock's still-to-be-deleted album "New Worlds Fair"), was on the committee of Seacon '75, and assisted (as he does to this day) the lovely and talented Pat Charnock (no relation) with her fanzine 'The Wrinkled Shrew'.

Graham Charnock was among the seven listed as a committee member on the flyer that appears to have been published almost simultaneously. The header by Harry Bell at the top of this webpage is scanned from the flyer, a cut-down version of which features on the cover of Progress Report 03. The central image would also be used on the second bid badge:


Second badge - 60mm diameter

It would also be used that same month in the two-page ad in the Eastercon 77 Programme Book (yes, UK fandom did indeed go from Eastercon 22 to Eastercon 77 in a mere six years).



PETER WESTON:

A little later, Pat herself came onto the Steering Committee, along with Eve Harvey and North-East fan Kevin Williams, making a total of ten people in the inner core of decision-making, all of them among the most active and influential British fans of the decade. I had also been keen to involve Greg Pickersgill, but through an unfortunate misunderstanding at a One Tun meeting, this never happened.

- WITH STARS IN MY EYES (p.264)

May 1977: Roberts Wins TAFF Race -

PETER ROBERTS:

When I stumbled home from work yesterday I found three letters waiting for me, telling me that I'd just won TAFF. I still feel rather stunned. I mean, well what can I say? Knockout. Amazing. Bloody hell. Far out.

The thing is, I haven't been able to tell anyone yet, so I'm not yet sure if I'm merely fantasizing. I rushed outside and gave the news to my beetroots immediately, of course; but though they're good listeners, they don't react much. The same goes for my china piggy-bank.

Anyway, I do have the letters to reassure me, so without further ado I'll give you the provisional results of the TAFF voting as I have them:

UK &
Europe
America Total
Peter Roberts 43 61 104
Terry Jeeves 34 54 88
Peter Presford 2 10 12
Hold Over Funds - 1 1
205

Those figures are via the American TAFF Administrator, Roy Tackett; Pete Weston's figures are marginally different, but are unconfirmed. A circular will, in any event, be sent out shortly with full details on the race. Meanwhile, all I can say is thanks sincere thanks for voting. Thanks too to Terry Jeeves & Pete Presford I hope I won't disappoint your voters too much. And well, see you at the Worldcon if you're going. I haven't thought up any plans yet, except that I'd like to spend as long as I possibly can in America while I have the chance. More concrete proposals will have to wait till I recover; but one thing I've done today is to order a pair of sunglasses...

Hot damn. Surf City, here I come. Good on you all.

- CHECKPOINT #81 (May 1977) ed. Roberts

August 1977: Suncon -

PETER ROBERTS:

At one time a whole bunch of British fans had planned to go over to Suncon and a charter flight had been arranged. In the event only Rob Jackson and myself ended up on the flight: Peter Mabey, who'd also booked, got put on another plane, the other travelling fans made separate plans, and a large number had just abandoned the trip altogether as dreams and designs crumbled in the face of a mercenary and mundane world. All this didn't unfortunately mean that Rob and I would have the plane to ourselves; the flight was a regular charter, the kind that has to be booked long in advance.

We reached New York at dawn.

Airports are not distinctive places and John F. Kennedy airport in New York is no exception. If the pilot had told us that we'd been forced to turn back and make a landing at Manchester, Milan, or Moscow, we would probably have believed him. Anyway I was glad to be off the plane and delighted to be in America. 6.00 am Eastern time, 11.00 am British Summer Time.

We arrived at the Suncon on Wednesday evening after a day on the road.


- photo Mike Meara

A Britain in Seventy-Nine bidding party was planned for (Friday) evening, Suncon being the place where the winning bid was to be chosen. During the day, in fact, I'd helped man the voting desk along with a representative from the New Orleans opposition. Several of the visiting British fans lent a hand and between us we had a bunch of publicity -- badges, T-shirts, and so on -- since that seemed the thing to do. The bona fide New Orleans fans were actively helping us, leaving the 1979 bidders a little at a loss. They were certainly out on the fringe -- one of the blokes standing next to me struck up a conversation by asking, "What is this 'fandom' thing, anyway?"


Dan Steffan, Mike Glicksohn, Ted White

Thanks to Gary Farber, we had a committee room for the party, which wasn't too bad even though the Fontainebleau had thoughtfully provided free cockroaches in the bathroom (I was quite pleased about that -- first time in my life I'd ever seen a cockroach). Rob, Pete (Weston), Tom Perry and others had clinked in guiltily with several cases of drinks, much of it soft as a concession to our electorate, and we'd got a few items planned -- just so's the party-goers would remember why they were there. We had some slides to show; Vera Johnson was going to sing the Seacon song; and we'd arranged a knurdling contest, with the help of several beer tins and Bill Burns (Champion Knurdler of 1971). Pete was also anxious to stage the mystical Hum & Sway, but it turned out that nobody had ever witnessed the event. He finally decided to bluff his way through with the aid of much alcohol.

Anyway, the party seemed to go off pretty well. A startling number of people packed their way in, sang lustily, competed at knurdling, drank all the fizzy pop, and generally had a good time. We awarded the Champion Knurdler a bottle of whisky (which I generously helped finish) and, since Pete turned off the lights, the mysteries of the Hum & Sway remained mysteries.


Peter Weston, unknown, Peter Roberts

Peter, unknown, Linda (Krawecke) Karrh (mm)

By the end of the party (and the whisky) I was no longer in a state of clear-minded sobriety. I think I may have been enticed away by wicked hippies and forced, entirely against my will, to indulge in certain substances; at any rate I can only vaguely recall talking to someone at a party and suddenly, in the middle of the conversation, accusing him of being well over seven feet tall. Actually he agreed with me and was only surprised I hadn't noticed earlier. I have my doubts about that incident.

There was a policeman, though. I don't think I made him up. He was shorter than me and was trying to quieten down a room party I was at, or near, or about to go to.

There was also Jon Singer, an ebullient, long-haired bloke with his own personal fan club and more knowledge about moose than most people have ever needed. I met him in a corridor and we had a long conversation before I found out it wasn't him.

I think I wisely decided to go to bed at this point. Jon told me the next day that there was someone at Suncon who looked exactly like him, but I think he was just trying to comfort me. Anyway, I enjoyed myself and didn't piss on anyone's shoes.

LINDA BUSHYAGER:

There were more parties than usual, especially bid parties. An erroneous rumour said that New Orleans and Britain were running close according to mail site selection ballots, so a lot of last minute campaigning was done. The final result was so heavily in Britain's favor that the business meeting made the vote unanimous to spare N.O. embarrassment. Then N.O. decided not to bid for the NASFIC and Louisville quickly won the bid for the National Convention. There was also a "Happy Gays Are Here Again" party.

LOCUS #204:

Brighton, England was the overwhelming winner over New Orleans for the site of the 1979 World Convention. 884 votes were cast. The convention, to be called SEACON '79, will be held at the Metropole Hotel, Brighton, England, August 23 to August 27, 1979. American Guest of Honour will be Fritz Leiber, British Guest of Honour will be Brian Aldiss, Fan Guest of Honour will be Harry Bell, Toastmaster will be Bob Shaw.

PETER ROBERTS:

On Sunday morning, Brighton officially won the 1979 bid and Rob Jackson, our Official Worrier, was at last able to relax and enjoy himself. We decided to go down to the beach with Pete Weston. This may not be everyone's idea of a treat, but it was a nice day and the sun was shining.

We sat on the beach. "Isn't it good just to sit down and not work on the bid," said Rob, luxuriating. Pete and I nodded guiltily, as if we'd never dreamt of leaving the registration desk before now. I tried to hide my sunburnt legs in some convenient sand. Seacon seemed a long way off.

(That evening was) the Seacon celebration party. Pete was particularly looking forward to this since he'd found a professional belly-dancer to give an authentic British flavour to the party. "Noice girl," he told me confidentially.


Pete Weston, belly dancer, fans (mm)

Anyway, she turned up at the party, as did several hundred other people, and I reckon we enjoyed ourselves. I probably went to bed after. I certainly should have done, even if I didn't. Let's say I did.

Tuesday morning, as the throngs of Baptists milled and grimaced in the Fontainebleau lobbies, Rob Jackson, Joyce Scrivner and I made our departure from Suncon and the tinsel wonders of Miami Beach.

It had been touch and go. Not having planned anything as sensible as an itinerary, I'd been humming and hawing and changing my mind about what I was going to do next. However, my own display of indecision was completely overshadowed by Rob's, who was out-dithering me at every step. Was he flying north to Ohio or travelling south with the Mearas to the Everglades? The Mearas and the Ohio fans said yes, and so did Rob. So, was he catching a lift to Cincinnati or visiting Disneyworld? Yes, said Rob, definitely yes, though maybe ... or possibly ... or ...

In the end we just grabbed him and bundled him into the car. Weighed down with the last of the Mayas, he didn't put up much of a fight.

After that, we hit the road and sped off into the morning sunshine, singing happily and heading for the distant delights of Disneyworld.

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  • Extracts are from Peter's TAFF report NEW ROOTS IN AMERICA (free ebook)
  • Linda Bushyager from her SUNCON report in KARASS #33 (September 1977) ed. Bushyager

Bid publications:

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