Peter West

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(???? – )

Peter A. West was a fan and photographer from London, and for a time Cardiff and Norfolk, from the 1950s. In the Loncon I report in Hyphen #19, Walt Willis described him as 'a naturalised Czech with the fine old Bohemian name of Peter West', but the editorial of Prolapse #4 (2006) said 'Jim Linwood comments that Peter was an emigre from Nazi Germany[1] who was famous for a day when he beat up the fascist leader, Colin Jordan, during a Trafalgar Square rally'.[2]

West's Loncon snapshot (Jill Adams, Shel Deretchin, Dave Cohen) of truly professional quality

West was taking photos at conventions and fan events from 1954. In Prolapse #4, Peter Weston also describes how Roger Robinson got hold of a photo album that had belonged to John Roles:

It was interesting to see that many prints from 1954 onwards were marked "P. A. West" - Peter West - a fan who was a photographer by trade, which accounts for the clarity of his pictures and the way they were shared around fandom; I guess he'd print lots of copies and send them to all the people involved.
West's Loncon photo: Norman Shorrock with a BBC camera (cover of Beyond Fandom)

West was living in London in 1956 when he attended Cytricon II and some of his photos appeared in Triode #7. He was credited as 'film liaison' for Loncon I, the 1957 Worldcon, and also acted as official photographer, 'here, there and everywhere – and especially in front of your dazzled eyeballs' according to Science Fantasy News #15 (Feb 1958).[3] In Lonconfidential, Chuck Harris complained less obliquely:

The only thing that marred the afternoon for me was the ever-present Peter West and his bloody camera. I thought it was stupid and dangerous to wait, as West did, until the hall was totally darkened, and then to stand up and let loose at the audience with a high-powered electronic flash. If this is the sort of irresponsibility we get from the 'Official Convention Photographer' then I think we'd be a bloody sight better off without him in future.

Science Fantasy News also reported West's CoA to Cardiff in February 1958 for a job in BBC television. He appeared as member #14 on the first BSFA list in 1958. In March 1959 West attended Brumcon (traveling from, or at least via London with other local fans!) and in September, "a young German fan, Juergen vom Scheidt" went to Cardiff via Inchmery "to look [him] up."[4] Next month, West attended the London Symposium,[5] organised largely by the London Circle secretary Sandra Hall.[6] Ron Bennett's directory has West in Norwich by the ends of 1960 and 1961, but by the same source he was definitely back in London by 1966 and possibly earlier.

West married fellow fan Sandra Hall (the Brumcon reports give some hints they were a couple already by then). The ceremony was remembered by Michael Moorcock in LoCs to Prolapse #6 , #11 and #13 but with no details except that Archie Mercer (and he) attended, so presumably other fans too.

They seemingly gafiated later, but West still attended the British 1987 and 1995 Worldcons. From the latter, Vin¢ Clarke reported in Concatenation:[7]

… a box of snapshots which [Greg Pickersgill]'d found tucked away in fanzines he'd bought from Brian Burgess. They were all mid-50s photos, and in two or three I recognised myself. On the backs of some of them was a stamp of Peter West, whom I don't remember as active in other spheres but who did a lot of photography of Conventions in the 50s. I'd seen Peter wandering about – first time I'd met him since the Worldcon in '87. Later I met him again in the Fan Lounge, and told him of this discovery. He frowned and said that he vaguely remembered a batch of samples going astray, but couldn't remember where. I led him to Greg, who produced the snaps, which Peter identified as the missing ones. As they weren't very good examples of photography I suggested that Greg might as well keep them, and Greg followed this up with asking if Peter had any other photos or negatives from the relevant period. Peter said he'd find out – so there's the possibility of further additions to Fan Archives.

Photos of West appeared in Prolapse #4, and #6 and at the website of Rob Hansen (together with Sandra Hall at the fancy dress party).

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  1. Both are compatible, considering that Czechoslovakia got swallowed up by Germany peacemeal, scattering many refugees from all its ethnic groups. "West" is an extremely rare surname in modern Czechia, but not unknown among Germans; of course, he could have anglicised it from something more conspicuous.
  2. Reports from the "British National Socialist Movement" rally on 1 July 1962 do not mention Jordan suffering in the riots that broke out, though he was beaten personally in 1968 canvassing in Birmingham.
  4. See So this would make it more likely for West, or at least his native tongue, to be German.
  6. See Archie Mercer's detailed conrep in Smoke 2, which also mentions "Peter West up on one of his frequent trips from Wales", p. 9.