Friday, April 15
I slept until 11 am and then went down in the lobby to meet the incoming fans. There weren't too many about, so I strolled about the hotel area for some photographing. Then, the fans seemed to come alive. I have a sheet of paper with some of their names signed: Ethel Lindsay, J. Fairley, Ken Cheslin, Peter 'Tea' Davies, Mike Kilvert, Jim Groves, Jim Cawthorn, J. McGovern, Archie Mercer, and one I can't read. Also got to meet Inchmery Fandom, Joy Clarke and Sandy Sanderson. They said Vin˘ was baby sitting and would be here tomorrow.
By now I was using both cameras and some shots came out good and others crud. I never seem to have too much luck with hurried shots, which is frequently what you have to do at conventions.
Here were lots of familiar names. Names from OMPA, fanzines, con reports, letters, etc. I had a fine time placing faces with the names. Met Ted Tubb again, and his wife Iris; also Arthur Thomson and his wife, Olive.
As Treasurer both of the BSFA in general and of the Convention in particular; I managed to get a word in with Sandra and (when she arrived) Ella, and after a bit of dickering with the manager over a revised price for the hire of the hall when he realised that we needed it all the time, not just for a couple of hours per day, Ethel got hold of me and we moved in and set up office. The office was originally the dais, where I sat collecting money and booking it down while Ethel issued name-tags and programmes. The hall was in the usual pre-Con shambles. Ken Slater was setting up his bookstall in one corner, groups of fans were sticking things on the walls, or standing around looking at things stuck up on the walls, or just stading nattering as fans will. More and more familiar and unfamiliar faces swam briefly into my field of vision as they came to register - young Harry Gilbert from Manchester - another B.S.F.A. member who had hitherto been faceless to me - showed up, and was I m pretty safe in saying the youngest paid attendee, (Nikki Clarke and Deborah Bulmer were allowed in free). There was Sture Sedolin from Sweden - at least he SAYS he's from Sweden, though he speaks with what sounds suspiciously like a Hoddesdon accent, I asked him how he pronounced his name, and he gave me the highly interesting information that it's pronounced Sture Sedolin. In Swedish, anyway, in English phonetic rendering would probably be nearer to Stoora Sedda Leen actually. Ildiko Hayes, one of the editorial staff of the British SF book club and a particularly pretty girl. (I wish I knew where she got that first name from.) These and more that I'll try to remember later on, plus the old regulars such as Norman and Ina Shorrock, Norman Weedall and John Roles (these four representing what must have been the smallest Liverpudlian attendance at a British con for many a year), Cheltenhamites such as Keith Freeman, Eric and Margaret Jones, and Doc Weir, Londoners such as Joy Clarke and Sandy Sanderson, and plenty more.
Friday was the day the fans started moving in to the Kingsley Hotel and discovering where the cafes and restaurants were in the district. I had gone to meet Bill, but the coach was early and I finally rang the hotel to discover that he was already there. When I arrived myself Ella had already done stalwart work introducing people around. As the Convention proper did not start until Saturday the evening was spent in meeting and reunions and getting the geography of the place.
Ron and Daphne drove Joy and I to the Con hotel on Friday evening. Vince was staying with Nicki. There weren't a great many people present when we arrived so I booked in - the other three were returning to Inchmery - and we went to register and pick up copies of the Programme (rather poor on layout and duplication) and the SFCoL Combozine. This 52 page collection of material from some of England's best known faneds, artists, and writers represents the first zine to be turned out by Ella on her new Gestetner - while she was searching for a new Con hotel, and throwing two parties!
Ted and Iris took me out to supper at a Chinese Restaurant. The menu is a bit different from what's available (in the US). About the only things that seem to be the same are sweet and sour pork and egg rolls. I had fun experimenting with different and new dishes. Then Ted and Iris were full and I played Ellis Mills by cleaning up what was left. I thought Christmas came early this year! They seemed fascinated by my capacity. I don't know why. Afterwards I was in the hotel bar until quite late that evening.
Fans were drifting away for the evening meal, so Ina volunteered to hold the fort while I went to eat. My table-companions on this occasion, if I remember aright, were Doc Weir and Jim Groves, and we went to the place just across the road that made the 15 per cent service charge. I heard this place strongly criticised for grabbing this "extra 15%" off us - although, as I pointed out, it s no different from any other place that has no percentage but puts another penny or two on the price of each item. We still ate cheaply and all down there, and with Doc around the conversation usually reckons to be fabulous, too.
There was no official programme that first Friday, of course, so eventually I packed up the office and for the night and adjourned to the bar lounge where most of the rest of the survivors were. The place was crowded, mainly with fans, though a few mundanes huddled in corners looked a bit bewildered by it all. Scrvice tended to be slow, so eventually I joined an expedition to get in stocks. Norman Shorrock in the lead like an alcoholic divining-rod, wandered down the Upper reaches of Shaftesbury Avenue and into the fringes of Soho before finding a suitable off-licence. There we made sundry purchases, I myself investing in some Drambuie (mainly because I'd heard so much about it that I as wondering what it was like - I like it.) and some rum.
There was, of course, a vague idea that all this stuff would come in useful for room parties. However, a fair number of the attendees were not staying at the Kingsley, and as they remained talking downstairs long after the bar had officially closed, the incentive to room-partying was not forthcoming. These non-residents included besides many native London fans, such traditional Convention stalwarts as Jill Adams, who had thought she was being clever by booking in at a cheaper place just round the corner from the hotel we were SUPPOSED to be going to - before it cancelled on us.
When it came to the point, and the last non-resident had gone his or her way, the usual time for room-parties to get going was long past and the night suffered as a consequence, I was one of the last to leave the lounge - I always am when there are fans around, unless there are fans somewhere else at the time. When I DID leave it just about everybody else had gone to bed. Reluctantly, I did likewise.
About 2.00 am on Saturday morning, after Ron, Joy and I had spent a couple of hours with Brian Aldiss, Don Ford and Ted Carnell, talking over old prozines (and getting on to 'Flying Aces' and the like) the party broke up and we each went our different ways - me, to bed.
Up at eight. Met Ted Carnell and we walked down to the American Express office, where I got my tickets to Paris. Then, we went to see about renting a projector. I got a projector, magazines, screen and spare bulb. Had to put up a £26 deposit, plus the rental of another £3, I think it was. Since they would not be open Monday and I'd probably be gone by then, the problem was how to get my deposit back. I suggested they call the hotel, where I'd previously told the manager I wanted to rent a projector and had inquired as to the current available. The camera shop proprietor hemmed and hawed. Finally, I said, "Do you have a telephone?" as I walked behind the counter and into his office with him behind me. Sensing his still further indecision, I picked up the phone and handed it to him and said, "Call the Kingsley Hotel and ask for the manager, Mr. Edgar." He did and everything was worked out smoothly. During the conversation I flipped out my passport to him so he could double check my identity with the hotel. He sort of gave a half-sigh and half-wince when he saw the U.S., passport.
Parking the projector temporarily at Les Flood's shop, I had lunch with Ted, Les, Brian Aldis and Ildeko Hayes, along with a stop at their favorite pub. Miss Hayes used to work for Ted, but now worked for a record company, I believe. Quite attractive and charming and intelligent to talk to, I can't recall what all we talked about, but the group reminded me of when we get Marty Greenberg, Phyllis Economou, Lou (Tabokow), etc. together for lunch at a Midwestcon.
We got back to the hotel and were ready when the con opened at 2 pm. I got to meet Vin˘ Clarke today, having met his better half yesterday. Doc Weir opened with a general hell raising speech about fans taking unwarranted quantities of Hotel Notepaper from the lobby, etc. Since I had about eight in my coat pocket, I tried to slump down in my chair and pass unnoticed.
By this time I had found that Don could keep an extremely straight face when he was kidding one along and I was prepared, but the audience had found out, too, and his speech went down very well.
I may add at this point that the British fen were wondering if Don were an American. He didn't drink coffee, he didn't smoke, he didn't drink whisky and he didn't hustle. Nevertheless, I noticed that what Don had planned to do during his visit did get done.
Later on, after circulating about and trying to meet everyone I could, I ate supper with Ron and Daphne Buckmaster, Lawrence Sandfield, Norman Ashfield, and Brian Burgess. I had a gag item I'd stolen from Doc Barrett when he used it on me at our birthday party (Lou and I) in January. It's a piece of rubber that looks like someone vomited. Pretty gruesome when you lay it on a chair or table. Daphne wouldn't sit in a certain chair. Back at the convention hall it created quite a stir when I'd toss it into the lap of Ella or Ethel, etc. Pamela didn't appreciate it when I put in the bassinet with Debra. I got a frown over this from a lady, who was later identified as being Dorothy Rattigan, fellow OMPAn. So, I guess I'm now on her "list".
The first general item (TAFF Candidates Quiz) had to be postponed because, due to work commitments, Eric Benicliffe wasn't able to turn up until the evening. Since Eric usually finds himself in this position every year I didn't quite see why the Quiz had been scheduled so early but, for a change, at this London Convention it was a case of 'Ours not to reason why...' Actually, not being involved in the programme or anything like that did make a change, and a pleasant one at that. The first item proper, then, was a talk by Ted Carnell on the current state of sf. This turned out to be one of those things that could have gone on for ever - everyone had something to say.
Following Saturday's auction by Ken Slater, Ted Carnell took the platform to speak on the present position of SF and the writer’s part in this situation. First, however, he called the attention of the gathering to the doors at the back of the hall, and announced "Dave Kyle." And Dave walked in! Amid gasps and applause he walked to the front of the hall and said that he was pleased to be in London once again but that he had already made a speech. "I’ve said everything I have to say, and no-one applauded." Having drawn blank looks from the audience, he added, "At the Sandringham."
Science Fiction as a name is becoming less known, said Carnell, adding that he felt Astounding’s change of title to be a bad move, ASF having been a household word for over 25 years. Ted said that he was looking for new writers, a second string to be groomed for stardom in two or three years time. This discussion sidetracked to whether fact has caught up with SF prophecy and questions and discussion from the floor in the shape of Dave Kyle, Arthur Thomson and Ted Tubb followed. Kyle said that similar points had been raised in Detroit and at a recent Los Angeles meeting.
Meals at the hotel were somewhat highly priced and at mealtimes most fans could be found at the Moulin Rouge Restaurant on Holborn, practically opposite the restaurant where the original forerunner of the London Circle would meet and. people like Bill Temple and Arthur Clarke would discuss SF. The blonde Irish waitress at the Moulin Rouge was run off her feet and was invited to the evening parties by several fans. She declined.
The best item of the programme, and the thing that really saved the day, was Don Ford's slide show. Don turned out to be a very nice person who went over well with his audience, and his photography was brilliant - none of us could think of a UK professional that could match his night scenes.
With the aid of Ron Buckmaster, Norman Shorrock and the expert assistance of Peter West we got ready to get the show on the road. During the necessary confusion of getting the screen up, projector set up and focus slide put in, etc., Charlie Duncombe came up and introduced himself. I tried to talk to him while I was working, but it wasn't too successful. I never saw him afterward and hated that I didn't get to talk to him in a more lengthy conversation. I've thought a hundred times since the convention, "I wonder if Charlie thinks I'm a no good s.o.b.?"
I'd prepared a slide show of previous World cons and Midwestcons, trying to avoid showing too many of the fans who'd been over to London in '57, and concentrating on some of the lesser known or shall we say lesser travelled fans than they'd previously seen. Also, I'd been warned to cut to the bone; that fans were a bit tired of convention slides, etc. In addition, I'd included photos of the CFG, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati and the start of my TAFF Trip from Loveland to London, which was why I had to get the roll of films processed earlier in the week.
I stood near the screen to point out and identify fans, while the other three worked the projector and changed the magazines for me. This particular ARGUS model wasn't working so good and the magazine kept sticking or else would advance. However, despite these obstacles we managed it fairly well. I'd included a number of night scenes of Cincinnati into the show, remembering these had drawn favorable comment at the Midwestcons. They also look pretty to the average person who is not particularly a camera fan. After the show was over, they commented more on these than they did the fannish slides.
The TAFF Candidates Quiz went on in the evening but unfortunately it started with a set of questions set by Doc Weir on sf and it wasn't until the audience had been bored for 10-15 minutes that Quizmaster Eric Jones switched to fan stuff. (It was afterwards suggested that Doc should be put on the stage and asked questions like "Who sawed Courtney's boat?").
This developed into questions set the candidates by the floor on such topics as "Should fanzines accept anonymous contributions?" and "What does each candidate think is the most outstanding achievement of the other candidates in fandom?"
We hastily sorted ourselves out whilst the three candidates for the Pittsburgh trip this autumn - Mal Ashworth, Eric Bentcliffe and Sandy Sanderson - took the stage, Quiz-master was Eric Jones. When I later asked Ron Bennett why he, as the current TAFF administrator, hadn t been doing it he shrugged one of his shoulders and said it had simply been planned that way, and that was that. Which does at least go to prove that something HAD been planned, if nothing else. The three victims were first of all given a sort of SF test paper to answer verbally - who said so-and-so in what story by whom? sort of thing - after which they were asked to state their views on various topics of interest to fandom and themselves. It was generally conceded that the three candidates deserved the attention of the audience, and there was no microphone, so absolute hush was the order of the day, and I stared in frustration at what seemed like a small sea of unpaid faces that kept coming in. With this coming-in and other things there was enough noise round the back of the hall to make me miss most of, the programme anyway, so I might just as well have been boozing in the lounge. Ethel kept going "Sssssh" as loud as she could hiss, and Alan Bale, who was sitting in front of me, started making a deliberate noise in return. As the programme cannot have been of much interest to fringe-fans I can t really blame him. And he DID pay his subscription. Didn't collect his programme, either.
Among the incoming fans was one about seven feet tall. Actually I think he'd come in before, but this is as good a point as any to bring him up. His name was Peter Hitchin, he d just blown in on spec, and said he rather liked what he found. I hope he investigates further. Actually he says he six foot six, as against Don Ford's six foot three. So next time I saw Don, I greeted him "Hi-ya, Shorty".
It was now pretty late, so by the time the TAFF quiz was over there were suggestions that it might be best to postpone the fancy-dress party till the next night. This proved impractical, however, so the parade was dismissed to go and put on its fancy dress if it had any. Having suffered enough from the slow bar service, I slung my haversack and set forth in search of bottled bheer, returning triuphant to find Sandra Hall, arrayed in a sort of exotically regal-costume, frantically asking everybody she met if they could somehow, anyhow, conjure up some dance-music suitable for the occasion, It seemed that in this one specific department, nothing was available. There were tapes, and there was a tape-recorder - but they were four-track tapes with only a twin-track machine or something. I had grammophone records - but nobody had a grammophone, (I could've brought my record-player, too - instead'I d lugged down a spare lantern that turned out not to be required.) The hotel had a loudspeaker in every room - but there was no dance-music on the air at that particular time, There WAS Sandy (or Laurence) Sandfield with his guitar - but it seemed that that was not quite the kind of music Sandra had in mind.
Still, it was a party.
Let's see - over in one corner there was a gathering of the youner element, such as the three Stourbridge stalwarts (Peter Tea Davies, Ken Cheslin and Mike Kilvert) who first learned about fanning at Birmingham last year. And Jhim Linwood, from Nottingham, who is my nearest effective trufannish neighbour. And Rispin and Jordan, or possibly Rispin OR Jordan in case I was seeing double. John Newman was there, with his wife Joan - a jolly red- head whom I was very pleased to meet after all these years - she was once cover-girl on SCIENCE-FANTASY. Her daughter Penny Chandler was along too, who denies knowing anything whatsoever about her Fandergaste namesake. Tikki Hall, Sandra's sister, was there - well, she was there SOME time during the week-end and this is as good an occasion as any to mention her. Likewise Peter McIntyre, who acted as her escort - he's a cousin or something of the Halls. In fact, I take the credit for having introduced Peter to Ken McIntyre - they were sitting a few feet apart, and I asked them if they d met each other yet. They moved up to look at each other's nametag... Charlie Duncombe and his wife were there, or had only just left, having shown up during the afternoon, Unfortunately Charlie's talents as orator with built-in megaphone were never called upon to be put to constructive use. There was a young Austrian fan called Gunther Loth, whom I would have liked to have seen a bit more of, if only to get the lowdown on the German speaking fannish situation these days. And a lot of the people I've mentioned already or haven't mentioned yet besides.
Eventually the call went for the fancy dresses to be judged. There were maybe ten or a dozen fancily-dressed people there, who dutifully trooped along to the front. Ethel and Ina were twinning it as witches - Ethel was the more witchily dressed of the two, Ina was just sort of sitting in with "neutral" fancy dress and the spare witch's hat. On the other hand, though Ethel was readily recognisable as Ethel through the exaggerateq makeup, Ina was so cunningly disguised that at first I couldn t tell WHO it was. Even when I got up close to her I was by no means sure, Then Bob Parkinson was a werewolf - an interplanetary werewolf what's more, or at least a werewolf in a spacehelmet. Laurence (or Sandy) Sandfield was a futuristic minstrel, complete with the inevitable guitar. When I protested that he'd worn the same costume at the Cheltenham party last Whitsun, he indicated a mask over the top part of his face and said that this time he was Rhysling. Gerry Mosdell and his mate Susan Ellam wear ultra-bohemian layabout-type clothing at the best of times, and they had converted theirs to fancy dress by (in his case) putting on a hat, and (in hers) draping some filmy fabric over the top of what she'd been wearing to start with. And a few more I can't recollect - and Sandra of course, dressed as listed a few paragraphs back.
These were all now lined up along the front of the stage; where they were photographed from all conceivable angles. Bobbie had buttonholed me about the prizes to be awarded, which we agreed would consist of certificates redeemable in literature from Ken Slater's stall at BSFA expense. Bobbie thought that a first prize worth £1 and a second prize worth ten shillings should serve, and I agreed, and that (I fondly thought) was that. So when at long last the contestants come down off the stage on to the floor again with no announcement being made, I got hold of Don Ford (who was one of the judges) and asked him who'd won.
Nobody, he told me. The judging hadn't started yet.
It happened in due course, of course. I wandered into the Con hall after having left it for some long-forgotten purpose to be blandly informed that the first prize had been awarded jointly to the witches, with the futuristic werewolf as second.
I had to round up Bobbie for another hasty consultation. If we awarded TWO first prizes, that would be an extra £1, On the other hand, if we split the first price in half, that would mean that a first prize-winner would get no more than the second. It was agreed to compromise with joint first prices of fifteen shillings each, and ten for the second as before. Now came another hitch - the werewolf had left the hall to disrobe, and I hadn't a clue who'd been inside the thing, nor it seemed had anybody else. That's why Bob's Certificate, when he eventually got it, was inscribed in the name of "Mr. W, Wolf".
Following the Fancy Dress Party...Don Ford was presented with an orange box by Norman Shorrock on behalf of the Liverpool Group. Don said that being a completist he would now have to try to collect orange boxes from all over the world.
The Fancy Dress Party in the evening was small but there were some good costumes and first prize was deservedly won by Ethel Lindsay and Ina Shorrock as two of the Witches of Karres. Vince had put in an appearance during the day, and Ron had run him back home - this time the Buckmasters and Joy had booked in. Once again we ended the day with a party - this time a small one in Ken Slater's bedroom.
After a short session in the Shorrock bedroom with about half a dozen of us at the outside, we moved up to Dave Kyle's, where it seemed there was a genuine smokefilled room-party. There was, the difference between this and other fannish smoke-filled room parties being that here Dave Kyle was in bed, apparently stark naked. The original wave of immigrants had caught him on the hop, and he d been marooned in bed ever since as a consequence, As Dapne Buckmaster was one of the immigrants, there wasn't much Dave could do about it.
The situation didn't last, though. Everybody was sorely afraid that if anybody spoke above a whisper the mice would complain to the management. Soon after Ron Buckmaster had turned up to participate in the proceedings, we agreed to break it up. And so, as the saying says, to bed.
Room parties were going full swing, of course, but on Saturday night I gave them a miss. Don wanted to do some night photography and Bill and I took him up to Piccadilly, but after midnight the lights were going out on the signs fairly rapidly. We went through Leicester Square and Trafalger Square and thence back to the hotel, but Don did get some shots of London side streets that had not caught up with the mid twentieth century including a little street that was sheer Regency.
Bill and Roberta Gray suggested that I really should get some night shots of London while I was there. That suited me fine! We went to Picadilly Circus and Trafalgar Square. I got some good ones that night. Things were a bit quiet in the hotel when we got back. Bill and Bobbie retired, so I collected a couple of fans or so and we went to Dave Kyle's room and got him out of bed. I tried to talk him into going over to Paris with me and he was quite tempted. It was about 5 am by the time I got to sleep.