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75 years ago today...

Today - 3rd Jan 2012 - is the 75th anniversary of the first convention, held in Leeds in 1937. Fan historian Rob Hansen writes: "A few months back I was put in touch with Jill Godfrey, daughter of Harold Gottliffe. It was Gottliffe who took photos of the event and not only did Jill have better prints of some of these than had come down the years, she also had several that were unknown to us."

Rob put the photos and other material commemorating the Leeds Conference online in THEN: The Archive. The images include a photo of the young Arthur C. Clarke that has never been seen before. There's also a recently unearthed convention report by Ted Carnell, which he published six years later in his fanzine, Sands of Time #8. Aside from the specific purpose of the Leeds convention, Ted's report strikes a familiar tone:

"On January 3rd 1937 the Leeds Chapter of WONDER's Science Fiction League held Britain's first science fiction Convention. It had been called mainly to decide on a proper fan organisation for this country and many fans and authors all over the country had promised to attend. We met Walt Gillings and Art Clarke at St. Pancras Station late at night and caught the mail train to Leeds. En route we picked up Maurice Hanson at Leicester --- the four of us arriving at Leeds in the dismal small hours around 4.00 a.m."

Kudos and appreciation to Rob Hansen for celebrating the anniversary with this new material! Seventy-five years of conventions. That's not too many.

Appended: the 75th Anniversary page also links to The First Ever Science Fiction Convention discussion of both Philadelphia's and Leed's claims to have been the first science fiction convention. I find Leed's claim for the title far more compelling than Philly's, though I also recognize it is a subject fans and fandom regularly disagree about.


( 7 comments — Leave a comment )
Jan. 3rd, 2012 01:48 pm (UTC)
"Today - 3rd Jan 2012 - is the 75th anniversary of (what Rob Hansen calls) the first convention, held in Leeds in 1937."

Fixed it.

Kidding aside, praise be to Rob for his mighty researches into fan history.
Jan. 3rd, 2012 02:03 pm (UTC)
I was going to reply pointing out that there is a dispute about which event should be called the first con, but you beat me to it.

Well, heck. There's no shame in ambiguity. I'm busy compiling a rather ambiguous history of Minn-stf myself.
Jan. 3rd, 2012 05:23 pm (UTC)
Hey, lots of people call it "the first convention".
Jan. 3rd, 2012 02:32 pm (UTC)
When I read the description of the first Philcon in the 2011 Philcon program book, I wondered just in what sense it was a convention, but I figured maybe the idea of an "SF con" was different in those days. Thanks for the link.
Jan. 3rd, 2012 03:17 pm (UTC)
I see that the Brits started planning their convention (and not just by casually thinking about one) before the Americans did, so they were first in that sense too.

Why was it only wishful thinking to imagine having H.G. Wells attend? That threw me for just a moment, until I remembered that yes, he was still alive then. They could have written him and asked.
Jan. 3rd, 2012 05:35 pm (UTC)
Carnell also mentions fans getting together while attending a British Interplanetary Society meeting in 1936. Was there a general history of fans at non-SF meetings in areas that a lot of fans were interested in getting together informally during the other meeting? (It's clear to me at least that such an informal embedded gathering is not in itself an SF convention.) The general history of SF fandom, in which they started communicating nationally and internationally as soon as they got each other's addresses, and started organizations to get together in cities with sufficient fannish population, and started traveling to other cities to meet each other, would suggest that they'd take such opportunities when they presented.
Jan. 3rd, 2012 08:05 pm (UTC)
Thanks for this. It was fun just seeing the casual reference to "Art Clarke" :->
( 7 comments — Leave a comment )


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