After that dire build-up I gave the Supermancon I feel like a bit like a fireworks promoter who promises an enormous bang and finds he has delivered a golden spray. It's pretty, but it's not what you were expecting. There was no bloodbath at Manchester after all. True, a professional editor assaulted a fan who squirted him with a zapgun and was himself threatened with violence by an unpaid author, there were fistfights at the entrances to rooms when armed fans tried to raid parties, two fans who ran amok with soda water syphons had to be forcibly restrained, and there were other evidences of over-enthusiasm for science fiction; but on the whole the most notable thing about the Convention was its sheer good nature.

The fiendish programme of sabotage worked out by the London Circle was not even started, partly because their mascot Bert Campbell did not arrive (his motorbike having broken down at 4am halfway from London) and partly because of the London Circle's own good nature. It was only too obvious that the official programme didn't need any help from them to collapse. In fact when it did they - that is principally Ted Tubb - put on one of their own which was a great deal better.

Ina Shorrock, Terry Jeeves, Pat Doolan, Eric Bentcliffe. Kiss sellers Pat and
Ina are dressed as 'Bergey Girls'

However, a fair number of phenomena were observed which were new to British Conventions - which are as you know very sedate affairs. The editor of the Vargo Statten Magazine took part in a race with another professional along the hotel corridor on hands and knees to borrow an aspirin from Ted Carnell's room, the official starter being Fred Robinson with a zapgun. Ted Carnell himself introduced a new element of refinement into zapgun warfare, having filled his with sherry. Two beautiful girl fans from Liverpool attended the Liverpool Group's all-night party in the hotel lounge in futuristic bathing costumes, sold kisses for the Transatlantic Fan Fund at 5/- a time, and were even courageous enough to take part in a strip poker game. Fortunately they won consistently - if they'd lost it would have been very noticeable - and the unluckiest player seemed to be Terry Jeeves who spent a large part of the evening stripped to the waist, (I shall never forget the porter's face when he came into the room at 3am and saw that scene.)

unknown, Brian Lewis, Brian Varley, John Roles (eb)

Brian Lewis of Gillingham went about with his shirt outside his trousers like an American fan and toting a machine zapgun about two feet long. The ultimate weapon. Several fans sallying out with zapguns to raid another party were thrown back into their own party by the hotel staff. (I think this must be quite new.) The police were in the hotel at 1.15am and again at 7am looking for a member of the Convention Committee who had been reported missing by his wife. The management are understood to have complained bitterly that the police had never had occasion to visit their hotel in the 60 years of its existence, and here they were, twice in one night.

On the last night there was a new and pleasing type of convention ritual, when empty bottles were disposed of by being thrown into the canal far below from the hotel window, to the accompaniment of immortal remarks like "I NAME THIS CITY - MANCHESTER!"

People had started to leave for trains quite early [on Sunday] evening, and the usual post-mortem had started long before the Convention was scheduled to end. Dave Cohen and Eric Needham stood by the door with distraught faces and courageously asked representative fans what they had thought of the Convention. There was a startling unanimity in the replies. Every one that I heard was to the effect that the official programme had been a fiasco, but that they, personally, had enjoyed the Convention.

John Roles with Lensman tie

The long and short of it: Ethel Lindsay, Dave Cohen (ns)

That was what I had thought too, but there seemed to me to be more to it than that. Usually I don't express any opinion about the merits of Conventions because whether one enjoys it or not depends so largely on one's own subjective impressions, but the Supermancon was such an extraordinary affair that I find myself getting all philosophical about it.

For instance, take the situation in British fandom just before it. Bitterness between one group of Northerners and another, hostility between both groups and the Londoners, tension between Hamilton and the London pro-editors, the Londoners full of diabolical plans to sabotage the Convention, the Northerners under a desperate compulsion to justify their contempt for London inefficiency. All this amid the greatest burst of British fanactivity since 1938. It seemed to be an explosive situation, one that would wreck British fandom. All the disenchantment, recriminations and bitterness which normally follow conventions would be magnified to cataclysmic proportions.

But instead the incredible happened. The opposing stresses met, surged briefly and silently....and dissipated themselves in an atmosphere of good humour. The Supermancon seems actually to have strengthened fandom, a thing which no Convention has ever done before.

Jim Rattigan, John Brunner, Ted Tubb, Daphne Buckmaster, Ken Bulmer, Ron Buckmaster (ns)

Apparently the Supermancon Committee wrought this fannish miracle by staging the worst organised Convention fandom has yet seen. You can almost see a mystical symbolism in what happened. It was as if all the sins of British fandom--the smugness of the North, the malice of the South, the snobbery of the Old Guard--as if they were all expiated by the Supermancon Committee as they crucified themselves in the Grosvenor Hotel. The point was that they bore their agony in such a way as to demonstrate the inherent goodness of fan. If they had showed signs of bitterness or pomposity in their ordeal things might have been very different. Instead they met every disaster with such informality and good humour that they won people's sympathy. In face of this sporting attitude the London Circle (though admittedly things might have been different if Bert Campbell had arrived on schedule) dropped their plans for sabotage. Not one of the fiendish plots hatched over the last nine months in Operation Armageddon was put into effect. The official programme was allowed to die peacefully by mutual consent.

It was the way it died that was important. Last year in London it lingered on in agony. People sat around, bored and irritated, waiting for life to be pronounced extinct. This year people realised at quite an early stage that the official programme was already part of the pavement of Hell, and it was at this point in time that the British Convention completed the transition that had begun last year in the Bonnington. As I pointed out in 'Initiative Inc' two years ago, American fans have long been accustomed to regarding the official programme as a sort of running buffet. But such was the force of tradition that English fans, as long as an official programme existed, would have felt compelled to sit around and watch it. When the official programme collapsed at Manchester, British fans were forced into the American style of Convention. They took to it like a duck to water, and I don't think we'll ever see the old 'desultory lecture sessions' type of convention in Britain again.

The Supermancon Committee deserve credit for other things than committing suicide. They booked an almost ideal hotel--not too respectable, only slightly too big, and above all with plenty of lounges where people could talk, in a sort of perpetual party. The Liverpool Group also deserve a bouquet for their tour de force in booking a lounge for a late night party - a completely new development in convention techniques. But the very success of the Supermancon as a social event poses, it seems to me, a new problem for British Convention organisers. If everyone is enjoying themselves the way they learned to do at the Mancon, who's going to put on the official programme? The Supermancon will go down in fan history as a success only because all the reports will be written by actifans. What about the neofen who turned up to see the sort of thing that was advertised in the promags and went away disgusted? Either we're going to have two Conventions, one for ourselves and one for the public, or we've got to let the pros take over the official programme, and run it as a commercial proposition.


(Supermancon was officially the end of the NSFC. Thereafter they were to become the Manchester Circle, a wholly social group patterned after the London Circle. However, when Brian Varley visited the city in November he found that things had not worked out quite as well as might have been hoped.)

A few sundays ago I was in Manchester and decided to pay a visit to the old NSFC -- now renamed the Manchester Circle -- at "The Thatched House", their new headquarters.

I arrived at a quarter to eight and found the place empty of fans. Undaunted, I lashed out on a bitter, and waited. The bitter went and nobody aand insidious, doubt crept into my mind. I wondered, had they changed their meeting-place again? With this thought in mind, I ambled off to search the other pubs in the vicinity. Into a dozen different pubs I wandered, into saloon bars, public bars and private bars. NO.

In desperation I sought once more the "Thatched House" and there, in regal solitude, I found Dave Cohen. Together we quaffed a couple of pints, smoked innumerable cigarettes, talked and...waited and waited. Around nine o'clock I was prepared to give up the ghost: but at the crucial moment in walked Frances & Cyril Evans. There we stayed, just the four of us: one visitor and the three visible remains of a once-thriving club. Admittedly I enjoyed myself, but who couldn't with Frances sitting next to them?

Frances Evans and Brian Varley

Why should a club in the third largest city in England be reduced to such pitiful numbers, when in small places like Kettering and Gillingham clubs continue to flourish? The reason appears simple: (1) inability to hold and attract new members, and (2) feuding between senior members.

Both those faults have been terribly evident in the Manchester club; the first one still is.

Take the Sunday that I first joined. Thrust willy-nilly into a room holding a dozen or so people, all nattering madly about the past Loncon and the imminent one-day Mancon, with a few wittily disparaging remarks about Vargo Stetten and King Lang thrown in. Had I been alone, I might have sneaked out after half-an-hour and forgotten all about the NSFC: but fortunately there was Sandy, so I stayed. After a couple of meetings things were much better; I became absorbed in the intimate details of running the club and a convention.

From thence to the 1953,London Con, things ran smoothly. At times I was vaguely aware of new faces appearing, only to dissappear almost immediately. What was there for the *new* member? For the Vargo Statten fan, nothing but derision for his hero: for the serious student of ASF, GALAXY or NEW WORLDS nothing but talk of zap-guns, conventions and luscious femme--fans', hardly the kind of club that one envisaged from ASF.

As for feuding, well, those ashes have been raked over a dozen or wore times -- sufficient to say that it existed. When a feud springs up, you might as well go home and start chicken-breeding on club nights. Eventually the feud springs into open war; a sharp clash, a sudden defeat, and off wanders the beaten portion never to return. In addition, a few of the peace-loving neutrals wall quit in disgust and the victor finds himself left with a club two or three strong, mainly composed of people who can’t think of anything better to do with their time anyway.

This, then, appears to have been the fate of Manchester. The convention give it an artificial life for a few more months, but now it has collapsed; the soul has departed from the body and the carcass has given its last feeble twitches.

I am sorry, terribly sorry, that this has happened. The NSFC introduced me to fandom and gained me several good friends. I only hope this isn't the collapse of fandom in Manchester: maybe some stray Mancunian will read this and feel the urge to go and take a look for himself; I only hope that somebody does, or maybe a benevolent doctor with an immense supply of ) adrenalin....

(Actually, the Manchester Circle struggled along like this for a few more years before fading away. By the end of the decade there was no longer any organised fandom in that city. Frances later left Cyril Evans for Brian Varley who died in 2020, one of the few UK fans known to have been taken from us by COVID.)


Thanks are due to Greg Pickersgill for scanning and OCRing most of the reports used in assembling this composite one. Below is a listing of the original reports used in compiling this composite report along with several others, with links where possible:

**The Triumfanate were Stuart Mackenzie, Ted Tubb, and Vince Clarke
*** aka Sandy Sanderson

There are also several pieces about the con, both before and after, in the 'Inquisitor' columns that ran in VARGO STATTEN MAGAZINE and which were collected by Mark Plummer & Claire Brialey some years ago.

.....Rob Hansen