SCI-CON - THE 1970 EASTERCON

SCI-CON the 1970 UK National Science Fiction Convention took place over the weekend of Friday, 27th March to Monday, 30th March. It was held in London at the Royal Hotel, Russell Square (located a hundred yards or so from Russell Square Underground station). It's widely regarded as being the worst Eastercon ever held.

The Royal Hotel was also the venue for the 1951 and 1952 UK national conventions. It was demolished soon after SCI-CON and on the site now stands the Royal National Hotel, currently (2020) the venue for the bi-monthly comic mart and national collectors market place.


The Royal Hotel in 1970.

Report below edited together from those written by Peter Roberts and Archie Mercer. Peter Weston and Ian Williams wrote brief round-ups that have been added at the end, and back in 2012 when I announced I'd be adding this section to the site, members of the timegoggles newsgroup shared memories of the con when I complained about how little had been written about the con. Their comments have been added in too. Thanks, guys. Comments by me appear in parentheses and are italicised. Source notes can be found here.

The photos presented herein come from a variety of collections, though this doesn't mean a particular picture was taken by that person. The collection photos are from, where known, is noted in parentheses thus: (ns) Norman Shorrock, (lo) Lars-Olov Strandberg, (mb) Merv Barrett, (bb) Bill Burns, (gh) taken by 'D. Letts' for George Hay. 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.

The convention badge:

Here are links to pages devoted to the individual days and to convention literature.

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Prologue

BILL BURNS:

A little background on Scicon 70. The first thing to know is that Eastercons (until a few years after that) were organized and run by just a small committee, and no staff. It was expected that fans would step up to help at the con itself, but there was no formal mechanism for this.

At the Oxford Eastercon in 1969, George Hay proposed with his then-usual enthusiasm that the 1970 convention should be held in London - without having done any prep work on finding a hotel (or indeed on anything else). In the absence of any other bids, George was awarded the con. At the time he was also starting something called "The Environmental Consortium" with an office in central London, whose aims were never quite clear to me, but which an on-line reference notes was one of George's organisations to promote "applied science fiction".

Despite winning the bid, George had no hotel, no committee, and no idea how to run a con. Derek Stokes and I looked at each other in dismay, and volunteered for the committee in the hope of steering the con at least partially along traditional lines, but George had his own agenda and couldn't be restrained.

Derek and I spent weeks going around all the London hotels trying to find one that could fit the con and was reasonably priced, but the only thing available was the dreadful Royal, a very large and very seedy transient hotel, which as noted earlier was demolished shortly after the con.

George appointed himself sole director of programming, while Derek and I took care of memberships, treasury, and all the other things that had to be done. In retrospect, the convention was doomed from the start, but it could have been even worse.


George Hay, Derek 'Bram' Stokes

PETER ROBERTS:

Sitting by the fire one night, indulging in a myriad miseries, it suddenly occurs to me that there is a convention next weekend, Fair enough, think I, people will be there and I can raise £15 which needs must prove sufficient - I skip ahead and tell with pride that £14 12s 4d was my final burden, but meanwhile, back at the fireside....

I fill forms, lick stamps, and book a room.

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