*** The Official Programme ***
Next day, Sunday, everyone was awakened at some godly hour by an unearthly din from the bells of the cathedral across the road. Indignation was widespread, and Vince Clarke was heard to complain "Can't these bloody Mancunians afford alarm clocks?"
At an early hour we were wakened by the cathedral bells and were trying to ignore them and go back to sleep when a peculiar noise made itself heard. There was a dripping sound coming from near the window and I found that this was caused by a stream of water which was pouring from the electric light bulb.
This, I thought, just wasn't true. I summoned up the last vestiges of my Pelman training and pretended that I hadn't seen anything. Much later we all decided that breakfast would be a good thing and arose groaning to do something about it. We discovered a very wet patch on the carpet under the light fitting, and as this turned out to be water, decided that the occupants of the room couldn't have had anything to do with its presence there. The only satisfactory solution was that I had, fact, seen what I thought I has seen.... Relief!
Typical of this locality in the heart of the industrial area rain is gently falling making concentric circles on the dark muddy water of the River Irwell flowing outside my window, but weather traditions were broken yesterday when Manchester put on a beautiful warm sunny day for the opening sessions at the Grosvenor Hotel in the City centre while the rest of the country was deluged with heavy thunderstorms.
I have experienced what can only be termed the strangest and most inexplicable coincidence of a life which has been more than full of such happenings. During the morning, quite by chance, a Canadian booked into the hotel for a one day stay while en route to the Continent. As he checked into the room right opposite to my own a chance remark about science fiction revealed that he was our own Canadian writer Gene Lees author of "Stranger From Space" in a recent issue of 'Science Fantasy'. Far from being a feminine writer as I announced in that issue, Gene turned out to be a good-looking Canadian-born male of British parents who is a feature writer for the Montreal Star newspaper passing through this country to cover a special feature on the Canadian Army in Europe. He had flown to England and having a day or two to spare had visited Manchester to look up an ex-Canadian musician friend.
The magnitude of coincidence for such a meeting is too infinite to think about, but Conventions seem to work that way.
The most remarkable thing about breakfast the next morning was the number of fans present. Admittedly, some of them no longer like human beings, but after the bacchanalia of the all-night sessions, it was most remarkable that they were even visible. After consuming several gallons of coffee in the company of Tony Thorne and Chuch Harris, I weaved along to the Convention hall with Mal Ashworth. There was a desolate air over this hall at such an hour (it was only half-an-hour after the programme should have commenced) and the only signs of 'life' were Harry Turner and Sandy Sanderson who were tidying up the place. The general atmosphere inspired me and I began to play on the piano, accompanied with Mal Ashworth (Chair Bottom), Brian Lewis (Tin Can) and Ron Bennett (Recorder). Soon after this musical concert began the hall began to fill up; whether the folk had come along to see what the noise was or were genuinely appreciative of the fare offered, I haven't yet discovered.
The official programme began with a fan-eds panel, in which Norman Shorrock, Paul Enever, Mal Ashworth, Fred Smith, Harry Turner, Ethel Lindsay, Tony Thorne, Tom White and myself took part. The idea of this session was that each of us should criticise someone else's zine, and some quite lively discussion (considering the state we were in) ensued. Whilst I was holding forth on the merits of ZENITH, Ron Buckmaster paged me from the back of the hall. I jumped off the stage thinking that the popsie had discovered my whereabouts and was on the phone enquiring just who I was staying with at the Grosvenor, the phone, however, was a 'phoney', and unconnected to any P.O. source. I had literally been 'cut off'.
It was a Good Thing that the parties had been broken up fairly early in the morning, because it meant there was still some fight left in the conventioneers. I came in towards the end of the fmz session to be told by George Charters that someone had objected to reprints of my stuff because it would discourage young fan writers. I made a grateful note of this argument to use against faneds who ask me for original material, but honestly, you young fans, don't let my example discourage you. I was like this even before I started fan writing.
On going to the dining-room we found that the hotel had long since ceased the service of breakfast so we decided to go without. We then went to inspect the battlefields of the previous evening..... a horrible experience which made the immediate consumption of alcohol an absolute necessity. We therefore returned to 123 and found a purposeful crowd of London fen debating whether or not to break in.......
Our appearance was greeted with great enthusiasm and I was kept busy dispensing nourishment until someone came in and told us that the gang as a whole were going to a Chinese Restaurant for lunch. I gave myself my first drink of the day, closed the bar and sallied forth with the rest of the rabble.
Following the fan-eds panel, John Gunn, old-time fan from Nottingham and magician extraordinary, took the stage to present some magic in a light vein. He succeeded in confounding most of the audience with a mind-reading gambit, but had considerable difficulty in reading the mind of Stuart Mackenzie. After the magic, a panel of Authors including Ted Tubb, John Russell Fearn, E.R. James, Syd Bounds, James White and Ken Bulmer dealt with varied questions from the audience. With the exception of Tubb, the panel was never vivacious.
John Russell Vargo Statten Fearn, whom George Charters had referred to as the Jest of Honour. He was interesting mainly because he was so disarmingly frank--but then he has so much to be frank about.
After this Ted Tubb began to take over the Convention. Little more was seen of the Convention Committee, and nothing of 11 of the 22 items listed on the official programme.
Tubb reigned supreme, first ad libbing his way through the remnants of Terry Jeeves' script for the mock trial of Bert Campbell--with good-humoured and often brilliant co-operation from Terry himself, who struck me as one of the nicest people there--and then winding up the Convention with a riotous series of monologues and interviews, including one with Norman Wansborough. Tubb was wonderful. It seems to me it would be worth the while of any Convention Committee to hire Ted Tubb along with the hall.
Among this glorious melange of Tubb-foolery there occurred one of the most extraordinary events I've ever known happen at a Convention. No one, it transpired, had the slightest intention of bidding for the next Convention site and it began to look very much as if the Supermancon would adjourn without anything having been decided. Tubb fixed that. In the space of about thirty seconds he called for nominations, heard none, announced that the next Convention would be held in London, and appointed Shirley Marriott to take subscriptions. All this, apparently, quite on his own initiative. However, the London Circle appeared to accept it as their destiny.
No one seemed to want to decide where the next convention should be held - the Northerners didn't want to be unpatriotic and vote for London and the Southerners, having had a taste of freedom, wanted it anywhere but at home - so a mumbling silence answered the question. It will probably be resolved by having the next do at Easter next year, preferably at a nudist camp so that we won't ruin our clothes by spilt beer and discharging zap guns.
Vince made a blushing appearance on the dais and more loot was collected to send him on his way. [Vince was the first TAFF winner, but in the event never made the trip.] Norman Wansborough made a few well chosen remarks and sat down to riotous applause. Tony Thorne took a bow as did Stu with his Mackenzie report and Francis Evans made us all happy by saying such nice things about all of us. Others spoke, lots of others, but I was either at the bar talking to the Irish Contingent or meeting E.R.James, Alan Barclay, Peter Bailey (Peter may soon be the Northern organiser for the Vargo Statten Club), Dave Gardener, and lots of others which an alcohol fugged mind registered but included in a homogeneous whole.
Stuart Mackenzie presented the results of his recent questionnaire of fandom. It would appear from this survey that all fans are in favour of group marriages. Mackenzie proceeded to go into detail as regards this, and suggested that anyone interested should contact Ted Tubb after the convention. Following this a further auction was held, and this ended the official convention programme. Not yet, however, did fans cease to frolic. After an intermission for leave-takings (to those who were not staying on until Monday) and for supper. The Liverpool Group (Norman Shorrock, John Roles, Dave Gardener, Frank Milnes, Stan Nuttall, Norman Weedall, Les Johnson, Pat Doolan, and Ina Shorrock) accompanied by Brian Varley, Ethel Lindsay, Sandy Sanderson, Terry Jeeves and myself (Ghod! I've only just realised how many people were in that bedroom!) sojourned to someone's bedroom. This party was, if anything, more terrific than the previous night's session and should provide interlineations for the next dozen or so issues of SPACE DIVERSIONS.
Strange to relate, Dave Gardener and myself actually discussed science-fiction for some time at this party, I think that we can claim to be the only fans ever to have discussed s-f at a fannish all-night party…of course we were drinking at the time.
We adjourned to 219 in the fond hope that no resident would knock on the door at some early hour of the morning telling us we were making too much noise. Instead a porter did that. But somebody slipped him a drink and he peeled off. With Chuck Harris acting a bum secretary on the floor, Gene Lees (whom Ted Carnell had thought was a female, and him a most handsome hunk of Canadian manhood!) making a pass or two at Frances Glynn, with both beds covered with a seething mass of humanity and with Ron Buckmaster, Jimmy Rattigan, myself and, at intervals, Pete Taylor and Ted Tubb, indulging in another low joke session, the party was certainly a party. Don't know what time I left but I awoke later to hear them disposing of the empties in the canal below my window in salvos! Must have been about fifty bottles.
I don't think that there has ever been anything quite like that particular Sunday evening in British Fandom.... Everything went (or nearly everything) and, surprisingly enough, although there was a lot of serious, constructive drinking and general helling going on, the party was sufficiently quiet for those of us who were interested enough to be able to listen in on the surprisingly high standard fannish wit which was being bandied about., There was a natural preponderance of Londoners there but there were also sundry Mancunians, Liverpudlians, Irishmen and even one solitary Canadian present. The atmosphere of cameraderie was so much in evidence that some couples appeared to be existing in a symbiotic relationship - you know, drinking each other's bheer and all that!!!
Unfortunately, owing to the chronic shortness of cash and the fact that there were many more people at the party than been catered for, the drink ran out at about 3 am except for a half-bottle of gin which I deliberately kept on one side for the morning. This didn't seem to make much difference to the party, although some people drifted away, presumably to bed. At about five o'clock we decided, by mutual consent, to break up and get some sleep, but first came the knotty problem of how to get rid of the bottles. This was solved by throwing them into the river which lay some four floors below the window.
Forty-seven bottles, no less, we chucked through that window, though I must admit that they hadn't all contained alcoholics. There were ten fruit-cordial bottles among that grand total; of the remainder three were beer bottles and the other thirty-four - contained either wines or spirits.
Nobody could say that we hadn't been trying.......