RONVENTION, the 1962 national British SF convention, was held in Harrogate from Good Friday, 20th April to Easter Monday, 23rd April - the fourth to be run under the auspices of the B.S.F.A. It was split between the West Park and Clarendon hotels in Harrogate. The Fancy Dress, BSFA AGM and film being at the former and everything else at the latter. Guest of Honour was Tom Boardman. According to SKYRACK: "Actual attendance, notwithstanding gatecrashers from the nobility and elsewhere, was 94 out of a 105 membership."

Every Eastercon during this period was officially the '19xx British Science Fiction Association Convention', but they're all known by, and appear in listings under, other names. On the photocopy of the newsletter he sent me, link below, Ron Bennett wrote:

Just proving that it was never known as The Roncon until years later when Keith Freeman listed it as such in a con list he drew up for some BSFA publication.

By 'The Roncon' I assume Ron meant RONVENTION. If so, then his memory was letting him down since it was called that on the intro page of the Programme Book.

Ron Bennett was the Convention Chairman and the Programme Book credits Phil Rogers with planning the programme, but there were more people than just this pair involved in making RONVENTION a success, as Bennett acknowledged in his SKYRACK con report:

The Programme Booklet was a superlative affair and was once again ably produced by Norman Shorrock and Eddie Jones. Many thanks, you Liverpudlians, and thanks too to all who helped make the con a social success - Ken Slater for his handling of professional advertisers and the auctions, Phil Rogers for his programme planning, Eric Jones for his work on the fancy dress party, Brian Jordan and Chris Miller for their fan and photographic displays, Terry Jeeves for his collecting of auction material and especially to Jill Adams for her work on the registration desk and to Jhim Linwood and his willing band of supporters for the work involved in moving chairs and facilitating seating.

Note: The entire run of Ron Bennett's SKYRACK is now available as an ebook and can be downloaded here.

The Clarendon Hotel, Harry Harrison centre of group.

The report below was edited together from those written by Ron Bennett, James White, and TAFF delegate Ron Ellik. Comments by me appear in parentheses and are italicised. Source notes and links to complete, unedited versions of those reports can be found here.

The photos presented herein come from the a variety of collections, though this doesn't mean a particular picture was taken by that person. The collection photos are from is noted in parentheses thus: (ks) Ken Slater, (tj) Terry Jeeves, (ns) Norman Shorrock, (el) Ethel Lindsay, (db) Dave Barber. As always, thanks are due to Peter Weston for identifying many of the people in these photos and for acquiring them in the first place.

Here are links to pages devoted to the individual days covered by this report, and to the convention literature.

Convention badge, scan courtesy of Bill Burns's British Convention Badges.



The convention began for me, Wednesday, 18th April when the first delegation rolled in. At 8.15 an entire block of flats in which I live was roused by the arrival of the German contingent consisting of Tom Schlück, Rolf Gindorf, Wolfgang Thadewald, Thea Grade, Horst Margeit and driver Guntram Ohmacht. We had a whale of a time during those two pre-con days, driving out into the Yorkshire dales and visiting the limestone karst country at Malham, source of the River Aire. We climbed the 200 foot high Gordale Scar and walked mountain roads while Guntram waltzed merrily backward down a one in six gradient trying to take a picture. It was one of those idyllic days in one’s life and a wonderful example of international friendliness. The six Gerfans stayed over in Harrogate until the Tuesday (as did Al Hoch) when Wolfgang celebrated his 24th birthday.

Friday 20th April


The Liverpool crowd and I arrived in their hired minibus at almost exactly noon, and the West Park Hotel was already churning with fans. Having no preconceptions of what a British convention should resemble, I was pleasantly surprised to find myself at home immediately: the Liverpudlians knew everyone and made sure I didn't wander alone.

The Liverpool minibus and assorted fans incl. Norman Shorrock, John Roles, Eric Jones

Before I'd been in the hotel an hour I was into a game of Brag with Dave Barber and Phil Rogers. We half-blocked the entrance to the hotel lobby, and from that vantage point I met everyone who entered at least for the rest of the afternoon. From time to time Rogers (who was working as Ron Bennett's right arm on the convention committee) would be called away, and Dave and I would talk. He was astounded by my waterfall-shuffle, which is something any child in the States can do -- but it made him think he was against some card-sharp. Each time the shuffle fell to me (which isn't often, as the cards remain ordered for a good while in a Brag game) I would riffle them together without thinking, and look up to see Dave staring wild-eyed at my hands. Then, of course, I'd do it two or three more times, telling him how I learned this at the age of twelve while dealing Blackjack on a Mississippi riverboat.

The afternoon had not worn long when the door opened to admit the man who taught me Brag, the chairman of the convention, the editor of SKYRACK, and the 1958 TAFFman, all rolled up in the person of Ron Bennett. We had a soul-stirring re-union ("You've grown taller," he said, with one eyebrow raised, "and you've let your hair grow out from that beastly crew-cut you had in South Gate"), and exchanged information and goods. I had bought him a carton of cigarettes in New York, for which he paid me in sterling, and he owed me 28 cents from our last Brag experience together. He has a long memory, and paid me with a quarter and three pennies -- American.

"What the devil use is this?" I stammered, holding four coins that could do me no earthly good for weeks. "This isn't negotiable -- its play money!"

"We played for American coins," he pronounced, "and I owed you 28 cents, not shillings and pence."

Ron then introduced me to several people, among whom were Mr. & Mrs. Tom Boardman, Harry Harrison, and Ajax Hoch -- Americans all, under varying circumstances.

Tom Boardman, of Boardman Books, was Guest of Honour, and was an unusual combination: an American, living in England since the age of six months. He retains his citizenship, and accordingly has served in the U.S. Armed Forces -- he's now an officer in the reserves, having to travel to an Army base in Europe every summer for two weeks active duty for training. He seemed both British and American, and it is probably this peculiar combo which has made Boardman Books so immensely popular in the science fiction market in England. His attractive wife is also American.

Harry Harrison, of course, is the author of 'Stainless Steel Rat' and the Hugo nominee, 'Deathworld'; what I didn't know until we started talking after the Fancy Dress Party the next night was that he also used to be an active fan in the U.S., up to 1951 or '2; his conventioneering stopped just before mine began.

Ajax Hoch is a one-time Philadelphian I had met at the Pittsburgh convention eighteen months earlier. He is employed by R.C.A., and stationed currently at the U.S. base outside Harrogate -- very convenient for the con. Bennett had already mentioned this base to me -- it seems Liz Humbie teaches school to dependents there, and she had tried to get some root beer for me.

At some point in the afternoon, someone -- possibly Pat Kearney of London -- heard me complaining to Bennett about the 28 cents he had burdened me with, and purchased the coins for two-and-six, a tidy profit. Bennett howled at this and demanded them back, shouting that if he'd known the fool things were worth *real* money he'd never have let me have them. I laughed, and at about this time dinner was served.

Ron Ellik meets British food - photo probably not taken at the hotel (tj)

Meals at the West Park (part of the room charge) were pretty poor. Very flat, uninteresting food, often cold by the time it was served; we all sat down in the dining room, and were served the same meal, and of course this meant the tiny kitchen was strained to bursting to get it all cooked and served simultaneously. A very economical situation, I'm sure, but not inspiring, even to a crude meat-and-potatoes man like me. At one meal I was served a bun (or roll or biscuit or something -- I can't remember what the British label is for what I call a bun) with some dried ground meat inside. I ate it with all the inattention it deserved, only to find after the meal that I'd just consumed my first Yorkshire pudding.

Fortunately Valerie Jeeves fixed me a Yorkshire pudding less than a week later. Tasty, if done right and served fresh.

Friday evening was the opening session -- introduction of celebrities including me because I had hitch-hiked around the globe, said chairman Bennett; of course he also did me the favour of introducing nearly everyone else in the room which was in the Clarendon Hotel, a short walk from the West Park; most of the program was there, as it was the slightly more attractive of the two hostelries.

We mingled in the meeting hall after the session, and I made good use of the introductions with a round of hand-shaking and good cheer. I met Sid Birchby, Ken Slater and Archie Mercer, among others that evening. Mercer has a furious brown beard which has gone untrimmed since he began it in June 1961; he seems to be a marvelously hirsute individual, because it is easily longer than Walter Breen's growth, untrimmed since before Mercer's began.

This great brush obscuring half his face, and a large frame for an Englishman, give Archie the appearance of great strength and ferocity -- but to my amazement he turned out a shy, modest individual with (he claimed) such a fear of the spotlight that my suggestion that he stand for TAFF was rejected out of hand. It's a shame, too -- his timidity seems an obstacle, but he is certainly one of the most universally well-liked British fans, and has probably been of more service to American fandom in his quiet way than many more active souls.

Slater was the dickens of a surprise -- since I recall him as Captain Kenneth F. Slater, RAF (actually, Ken was an Army man - Rob), from the letter-columns of Starling and Thrill Wonder, he had assumed in my mind a striking military bearing. But the truth is out: Ken Slater is a ruddy-complexioned, stout, smiling man with a van Dyke, and a twinkle in his eye. Sid Birchby saved me from thinking all Anglofandom a set of contradictions by being an extremely normal fan -- quiet, of moderate height and appearance, obviously soaking up the convention as a memorable experience.

Rear: unknown, Chris Miller. Front: Jill Adams, Jimmy
Groves (db)

Ethel Lindsay, Ken Slater (db)

About ten, the Clarendon quieted down to small conversation and I had had a few words with most everyone; Barber suggested Brag, and we took ourselves back to the lobby of the West Park, where we sat until I lost my limit about midnight. Jill Adams of London was most helpful in telling me how miserable a Brag player I am -- if she hadn't kibitzed, I probably should have stayed on for a few more hours/shillings. I believe I lost a pound that night, at thruppenny Brag.

My room, number 2, was very comfortable despite the cold night, because Ella Parker had brought me an electric blanket. That's a bit of hospitality I've never seen equalled on either side of the Atlantic -- good old Ella had remembered the sun and warmth of California and reasoned that her comfort here had a good chance of being at least matched by my discomfort there. The blanket connected with the light-socket, my head connected with the pillow, and before I knew it Saturday was upon me.


General merry making continued until 3am when the floating card school left the Clarendon where manager Brian Little had tried hard to lose the hotel to Brian Ball and Norman Shorrock.