Third British Convention

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The UK's Third Convention, also known then simply as London Convention or the third SFA Convention, was held on Sunday 21 May 1939 in the Ancient Order of Druids' Memorial Hall on Lamb's Conduit Street, London. It was sponsored by the Science Fiction Association (SFA).


There doesn't seem to be any mention of the convention in Novae Terrae which ceased publication in January 1939. In the third issue of the successor New Worlds editor Ted Carnell wrote:

While US fans naturally have plenty to rave about with their gigantic task for the Worlds Fair Convention at NY, London will again stage what is a red-letter Convention for British fandom. May 21 will see a far greater galaxy of personalities, fans and readers than even last year produced. A special Gazette will shortly be issued giving full details, in the meantime, make a note of the date and be sure that you will come this time.

The 'special Gazette' may refer to Science Fiction Gazette #3 (new series) of May 1939 which carried a half-page about the convention, noting prominent 'celebrities' who were expected. It gave a start time of 3:30pm and potential attendees were asked:

... if you could let us know in advance that you intend to come, as we are arranging for all delegates to take Supper with us after the convention is over, and we wish to have a fair estimate of the numbers we have to cater for.

The notice was signed G. Ken Chapman as 'council chairman'.


Then convention was again in The Ancient Order of Druids' (AOD) Memorial Hall, venue for the second convention in 1938 and London branch meetings of the SFA. It would be destroyed in a German bombing raid on May 10, 1941


There was again seemingly no charge for attendance. There were about 40 people present[1] of whom Rob Hansen has identified 26:

There are references to 'Charnock Walsby' attending but he was a pen-name of Heald.

A small trivia point is that Carnell, Clarke and Gillings were the only ones who had been present at both the 1937 and 1938 conventions. None of the three attended the next British convention, the Midvention, meaning they were the last people who could at one point claim to have attended every UK convention.

The convention[edit]

In the official meeting, Professor A. M. Low was re-elected president of the SFA.

Arthur C. Clarke arranged a general knowledge competition between a team of Londoners and a team of Provincial members. The latter won.

Speakers included Professor A. M. Low and W. J. Passingham, both seemingly improvising without advance notes. Carnell said in The Satellite:

I've often sighed at the thought of our Los Angeles friends having the privilege of sharing quite famous authors at their gatherings. I'm afraid that I have become so accustomed to the friendliness of our own celebrities that I have almost ceased to look upon them as such. Both Prof. Low and Mr Passingham are genuinely interested in stf, and it was quite evident that they thoroughly enjoyed their evening with us. Professor Low overstaying his time by nearly an hour.

Walter Gillings also spoke, and according to Science Fantasy Review #2:

... he admitted the public had to be weaned on simple stories before we could attempt to approach the high level of 1930. He sincerely hoped we would never deteriorate to the level of present US stories and promised to do his utmost to keep Tales of Wonder on the right path.

C. S. Youd also in The Satellite noted that:

Bill Temple made a successful attempt to prove the old adage about a stomach only holding three pints utterly wrong. To Mr. Tucker I might mention that Temple's capacity for beer is not a sign of adolescence, but one of the Wonders of the World[2].


No publications are known to exist.

Future conventions[edit]

Science Fantasy Review #3 reported that the Liverpool branch of the SFA were interested in hosting the next convention, presumably in 1940. With the outbreak of World War II this never happened and there would be no further UK conventions until Midvention in Leicester in 1943. Nearly half a century was to pass before Liverpool finally hosted the UK national convention in 1988.

See Early Conventions.

Second British Convention Early Conventions last
This is a convention page. Please extend it by adding information about the convention, including dates, GoHs, convention chairman, locale, sponsoring organization, external links to convention pages, awards given, the program, notable events, anecdotes, pictures, scans of publications, pictures of T-shirts, con reports, etc.

  1. Then gives a figure of 48 but presumably this has since been revised downwards.
  2. A reference to remarks about British drinking in Le Zombie #2.